Sacramental Writing

Consider the expression, “sacramental writing.” What do you think that could include?

Have you had time to read the First Things article, “Why Protestants Can’t Write, I” yet? It brings up such juicy concepts as 1) the relationship between symbol and reality, and 2) the impact sacramental theology has upon writing. Much more could be said about these, so that’s two more things you could write about.

What is the impact of theology on literature? Of an understanding of sacraments or the means of grace? How closely related are divine symbols and reality, and how can Christian writers understand the dimmer reflection of human symbolism in their own works? How intentional do we even need to be to let our Lutheran perspectives shine?

Writing-wise, there is a great section describing Flannery O’Conner’s sacramental emphases and portrayals—a fine example of sacramental writing in itself. In particular, this paragraph:

Baptism has been domesticated, and modern readers are incapable of seeing within a shower of water what the New Testament says is there—a blood-drenched cross, a corpse and a grave, a deluge that renews creation, the drowning of Pharaoh, the bursting of a spiced tomb. If a baptism is going to have the proper impact on modern readers, O’Connor must make it a drowning, as she does in “The River.”

I think the discussion of O’Connor’s approach is well worth reading the article.

The article also challenges Lutherans to create “great feats of fictional prowess.” Under-acknowledged by the article, we’ve already got a start, so  let’s keep up the good work and press onward!

For a drastically different point of view, consider this, “The Novel as Protestant Art,” written by Roman Catholic Joseph Bottum.

We would also do well to consider where the good Doctor Luther might stand on such an aggressive title. Of course, theology makes a difference and affects writings. On the other hand, he had a higher regard for the ancients than some may realize, wanting a classical education for both boys and girls as preparation for callings in life. To assert that Protestants can’t write begs the question about unbelievers as well, and were the Romans and Greeks lacking in fine literature? No.

By the way, Martin’s favorite fiction was Aesop’s Fables. Check out this book, if you’re so inclined:


Filed under As Christian Writers, Shared Writing Ideas, Style

2 Responses to Sacramental Writing

  1. I enjoyed both Parts 1 and 2! I printed them to save and read again in the future. I agree with the premise of the articles, but with the caveat that most Catholics don’t realize that there is such a thing as a sacramental Lutheran these days. :). Along the same lines as those articles, I also enjoyed Andrew Greeley’s, The Catholic Imagination.

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