Writing for the “Spiritually Interested”

I wasn’t going to link to it or even reference the source of these thoughts, but I want to copy a chart, and therefore have to give due credit.

Recently editor Mick Silva has been blogging about writing for seekers, those operating with a postmodern perspective. In one post entitled “Why Is The Shack Still Selling?” he asks

How do these “pioneers” differ from the more traditional Christian book market?

By “pioneers” I believe he means authors who are engaging the “spiritually interested” within the Christian framework (in another post, though, he includes authors such as Rhonda Byrne, author of The Secret, and Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now, so I may be assuming too much).

Anyway, here is the chart I found interesting.

    Pioneers value / Traditionalists value
    Mystery over certainty/ Certainty over mystery
    Experiential faith/ Propositional truth
    Freedom from structure/ Structure to their freedom
    Personal authority/ Authority figures
    Love at the expense of truth/ Truth at the expense of love
    Authenticity over status/ Status over authenticity
    Relationship over rules/ Rules over relationship
    Maleable [malleable], interpretive/ Concrete, quantifiable
    A story over principles/ Principles over a story
    Seeking over knowing Knowing over seeking

In many ways, this list is nothing more than a description of a person influenced primarily by postmodernism versus a person influenced primarily by modernism, and to be honest, I don’t see the Christians I know on either side of the chart.

A few years ago, I asked my pastor, Dale Burke, what he thought of postmodernism, and his answer was insightful: it’s just a philosophical approach to life, no more right or wrong than other approaches. We can glean good things from any number of philosophies, but the key is to square what we believe with the Bible.

Well, that puts my pastor, my church, and me decidedly on the side of propositional truth, doesn’t it? Yes, and the first proposition is to love God with all of my being and the second, to love my brother as myself.

So does that mean we are part of the “Pioneers,” putting love over truth?

Yes, except another proposition we believe says we can know the truth and the truth will set you free. And that statement is supplemented by Jesus’s declaration that He is the way, the truth, and the life, that no one comes to the Father except via the Son. Which again shifts us back to the camp of the “Pioneers” because we value relationship over rules.

Sort of. Because Jesus also said, If you love me, you will obey my commandments. So now it seems we’re back on the “Traditionalists” side.

I could go on, but I want to make two salient points.

First, if someone values seeking over knowing, will they ever find? Jesus says, Seek and you will find, ask and it will be given you, knock and the door will be opened. Is someone genuinely—authentically, to use the term ascribed to the “Pioneers”—seeking if he has no intention of finding?

And secondly, the apostle Paul, when he preached in Athens started where the Athenians were—as idol worshipers who loved a good debate and to learn something new.

Granted, authors aren’t preachers, but we have the same mandate as the “professionals”: to go and make disciples. So if there are, as it seems, a host of spiritually interested who have broken free of the humanism and rationalism espoused by modern philosophy, shouldn’t we meet them where they are?

Even so, I think we need to keep Paul as our model. He was committed to preaching Christ, and Him crucified. What he excelled at was showing the Athenians that their “Unknown God” they worshiped was in fact known.

It seems to me, the challenge before Christians is to show seekers that what they’re looking for is the very thing we looked for too. And found.

7 Comments

  1. Well said!

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  2. Becky, I think this chart serves to illustrate the “traditional Christian book market,” not so much illustrate modern v. postmodern / Christian v. secular distinctives. As such, I think it pretty accurately reflects the values that have shaped (or stilted) CBA lit.

    But by asking “if someone values seeking over knowing, will they ever find?” you are imposing your own set of existing values (knowing over seeking), which, I believe, is one of the points Mick is making. The pioneer market, as un-traditional as it may seem, is connecting with folks whom the traditional market has somehow missed. The question that comes up then is: Have our values become a box that insulates us from real-world needs? Like it or not, we are dealing with morphing spirituality and Christian authors and publishers would do well to think non-traditionally.

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  3. I think sometimes those who are seeking do find… and don’t like what they find. Its hard to admit one is a sinner and that one can’t do anything about it, that one has to humble oneself before God and ask his forgiveness. So they try to find another way…

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  4. Thanks, Rachel.

    Morgan, you’ve made a great point.

    Becky

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  5. Mike, I know what the chart was intended to show. I’m saying I disagree with it and think instead it shows on the left, tenants of postmodernism and on the right, tenants of modernism. I said nothing about Christian vs. secular distinctives.

    That “CBA lit” has been shaped by modernism may be true. We are a product of our culture unless we intentionally examine our beliefs and determine to think Biblically instead. Hence, CBA has experienced an abundance of “self-help books,” probably an outgrowth of the pragmatism, rationalism, and humanism of the last century. However, I will say again, the list of what “traditionalists value” dos not reflect the Christians I know nor the books I’ve read. Erwin Lutzer, Ravi Zacharias, Karen Main, Liz Curtis Higgs, Josh McDowell, J.I. Packer, Chuck Swindoll, and on and on. It’s ludicrous, and an insult to them, to say they opt for truth at the expense of love or value status over authenticity.

    Mike, I’m not imposing my values when I say if someone values seeking over knowing, will they ever find? I’m being faithful to the definition of the word “seek.” From the Oxford American Dictionaries:

    seek |sēk| verb ( past sought |sôt|) [ trans. ] attempt to find (something) : they came here to seek shelter from biting winter winds.
    • attempt or desire to obtain or achieve (something) : the new regime sought his extradition | [ intrans. ] her parents had never sought to interfere with her freedom.
    • ask for (something) from someone : he sought help from the police.
    • ( seek someone/something out) search for and find someone or something : it’s his job to seek out new customers.

    Even more important, however, is what the Bible says. As I said in the post, the Bible says the seeker will find. Where does that leave the person who just wants to seek? It’s either disingenuous to claim seeking with no finding, or by implication, a statement that God is a liar.

    When the Bible talks about “mystery” it declares things like Col. 1:26 – “the mystery which has been hidden from the ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints.” Or Eph. 1:9 – “He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him.” Or Rom. 16:25 – “Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past.” (Emphasis in these verses is mine).

    Beyond these, Christ makes it clear He came to reveal the Father. John 14:8, 9

    Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”

    Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and {yet} you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how {can} you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

    And in I John, seven times in chapter 3, the writer says “we know.” I could go on and on.

    The point is, Truth can be known because Jesus is Truth. He wants to be known. It’s a joke for Christians to act as if we are stumbling around in the dark when we have the Light of the world living in us. When we know the truth and have his promise that it will set us free.

    Why, why, why would we want to set aside the precious knowledge of God so we can elbow the guy next to us and say, Yeah, I don’t get it either. Is fitting in so important to us that we would rather be understood by the rest of our culture at the expense of denying Christ?

    May it never be! Rather, the Biblical Christian has the mandate from God and the example of Paul to reach our culture where they are at. This does not mean we abandon the truth, but rather we find a way to relate truth to the culture.

    If we say, on the other hand, that we too are only seekers and the truth is not obtainable, then we go to our culture empty-handed. Jesus offered Living Water and the Bread of Life to those who longed to be filled. Can we do less than point true seekers to that which will satisfy their souls?

    Becky

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  6. I fully agree with your perspective on Truth and Knowing, Becky. My point is that postmodern man doesn’t see it that way. Thus, reaching them requires another approach, which the “pioneer” market seems to be attempting. Whether or not “pioneers” compromise Truth along the way — and if it’s possible not to — is another story.

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  7. reaching them requires another approach I thought that’s what I said, Mike. From the post: So if there are, as it seems, a host of spiritually interested who have broken free of the humanism and rationalism espoused by modern philosophy, shouldn’t we meet them where they are? And from the second post, also known as The Long Comment 🙄 : the Biblical Christian has the mandate from God and the example of Paul to reach our culture where they are at. This does not mean we abandon the truth, but rather we find a way to relate truth to the culture. (emphasis added here)

    I personally think Story is our greatest ally.

    Becky

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