Last week I suggested working toward a book of essays, Toward a Theology of Fiction. In a similar vein as that book idea, being a non-fiction writer myself, I’d like a more general theology of writing book: Toward a Theology of Writing.
That is, not inventing theology where others haven’t seen it. Quite the contrary! Rather, apply our theology to see how it shapes and colors the life and service of our vocations—in this particular case, writing, in whichever vocations we hold.
I may or may not be a little obsessed with the power of words. As Lutherans, receiving God’s gifts of faith through them, shouldn’t we be? So, I would start off with an essay addressing that. (Ok, I may have slipped that in the other one, too, but two such essays can easily coexist with different emphases/ application.)
How does a revealed God, holy writings, and the efficacy of God’s Word affect believing writers and their texts? What do the teachings of Jesus reveal about potential for clarity in writing? Or the extent to which human words can shape limited human understanding?
Theologically, I think we could explore two kingdom implications, theology of the cross in that we cannot make people listen, with a nice touch of theology of education because, after all, human understanding is an easy idol, especially now, yet education in Scripture plays an ongoing, very positive role.
As part of that, we can consider:
- The role, benefits, and limitations of written (and writing) apologetics (which crosses genre more than many realize)
- Pastor Pundits (like Hans Fiene, Senior Contributor to The Federalist & Lutheran Satirist)
- What is the extent to which pastors can have public voices outside the Office, particularly in cultural and political matters?
- On the other hand, what is the effect of multiple multimedia pastors upon pastoral care? Can one’s writing undermine local pastors?
- For that matter, what about sermons which never are intended for a specific audience, only general? What is the theological grounding?
Then there are practical concerns like
- Reviving Forgotten Scriptural Concepts, and
- Supplementing Scriptural Language and Metaphors: Uses and Limitations.
I can imagine all sorts of things fitting within the parameters:
- Academic Writing in Fields of Skeptics
- Writing within Vocation Generally
- Vulgar Language: It’s Uses and Abuses
- Media, Tedium, and Writing to Serve
- Letting God have the Last Word
Honestly, I think there may be more interest in the fiction version, but I think both would benefit from being planned at the same time in a complementary way. This second one could have a lot of application. Media is multiplying, but not necessarily with Lutheran representation. Current and future generations would benefit from some theological thinking about the matter. For instance, why should Lutherans participate in academic writing? Journalism? Cultural discussion? Political analysis? What are the strengthens (rather than weaknesses) that Lutheran perspective brings to non-fiction in any and all fields? Who constitutes the voice of Lutheranism outside the pulpit and confessional documents of old?
And, while writers aren’t prophets—although comparing truth-telling vocations could be another excellent essay, I don’t think I go too far to suggest there is a spiritual burden to finding words of truth for fallen souls. I am disheartened that CPH no longer offers a writing workshop. There is theology with immediate, practical effect for writing, fiction and non-fiction! And, if the church doesn’t treat all theology, even theology of writing, who will?