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How To Write: A Christian Writer's Guide. 
Miriam Adeney. 1972.

Reprint, Vancouver B.C., 
Canada: Regent Bookstore. 1995. 56pp.

 Review by Dr Ng Peh Cheng

Miriam Adeney, an accomplished writer and editor-at-large for Christianity Today, is an activist in promoting Christian writing.  Her book aims to develop leaders who will write to communicate the tenets of the Christian Faith, to strengthen Christians, and to educate non-Christians to gain knowledge of the Christian worldview using the tool of writing.  Churches tend not to regard the tool of writing as an essential component in their leaders' training manual.  Perhaps, the book may help to remove a common unhealthy attitude toward writing, "Why bother with Christian writing?  Why not just preach, teach, and do personal evangelism?" (p. 5).

 

In the first chapter, the author presents a strong defense that writing is a biblical tradition that must not be neglected.  She cites the example of Daniel who wrote a poem to interact with God in the midst of a crisis, and other biblical writers in the New Testament epistles who addressed problems in the church.  She observes that these writers wrote to "respond to God, to record what God was doing or to meet needs among Christians or non-Christians" (p. 7). Likewise, Christians should follow their examples by reflecting on these questions,

 

Is God doing something that you should respond to or record?

Is there a need that you should speak to? (p. 7).

 

A positive response to the questions may generate uncertainties and questions to mull over,

 

Do I qualify to be a writer?

Who will be my readers?

What to write?

How to write?

How to get my work published?

 

The art and craft of writing can be learned and the structure of the book accommodates to the questions frequently asked about writing.  

 

The book offers more than academic information about writing. Miriam skillfully integrates with Scripture to substantiate her principles of writing. In discussing about the principle of readership, she has this to say, "Just as the apostles knew their audiences, and varied their communication accordingly" (p. 15), the writer must know how to communicate to a selected audience as target for their intended publications. She notes that in teaching the Jews, the apostles' framework was the law of Moses and the prophets, but when preaching to the pagans, they captivated their thinking with the attributes of God who could provide and satisfy their spiritual needs. Audience varied and chapter 3 contains questions to assist in assessing where the readers are and to write to meet their felt needs.

 

Miriam also clarifies that "Christian writing is not necessarily writing about religious subject matter, but it is writing from the perspective of a Christian philosophy of life" (p. 22), that is, a perspective that recognizes Christ is the Lord over such diverse  practical issues as money, sexuality, computer gaming, gambling, health and others confronting Christians to live out the Christian faith.  Believers who are affected must understand these issues from a Christian point of view. Christian writers who can "creatively analyze" each of these issues in such a skilful manner will ignite the "light" and provide the needed "direction" to struggling Christian pilgrims. Christian writing, therefore, requires writers who know the Scripture, the "whole counsel of God" and the "know-how" skills to search the Scripture lest the seekers are led astray!  The stiff requirement may drive away potential writers away but "you cannot depend forever on foreign books.  Who is ready to interpret and apply God's truth to daily life in your country?" (p. 23).  Truly, Christian writers who write with experience and personal observation add credibility to addressing existential issues relevant to their audience and context.

 

If you are wondering what to write, a list of suggested topics one could begin to think about writing can be found in chapter 4 and guidelines are provided for selecting a topic. In chapter 5, more helpful tips are given on the process of writing an article or a story. The chapter on "Where to Write" (chapter 6) highlights the differences between writing news and feature articles. The chapter also includes a directory of publishers in Asia. Though not exhaustive, the information is helpful for writers to explore the possibility of publishing their works in Asia.

 

To clear up a misconception, the author is emphatic that writing is not considered Christian only when the works are printed by Christian publications. Writing that is Christian should include secular publications to reach out to the non-Christian readers with the "truth" of Christianity:

 

The publications in the mass public realm- newspapers and magazines that reach many millions of people every day, or every week, or every month- are to an overwhelming degree filled with evil things; new excesses in fashion, new excesses in morals, new extremes in occultism and false mysticism, and of course, much of the current vogue in disruption, violence, and revolution" (p. 44).

 

Therefore, "the mass media which have daily access to the public consciousness are not something wisely to be left entirely in the hands of unbelievers!" (p. 44). 

 

Those who view the author's challenge to communicate the Christian truth to the secular audience as an impossible task, should consider her challenge seriously (pp. 43-44). For example, a non-Christian event such as Valentine's Day is an opportunity to communicate beliefs about love and marriage from Christian perspective.  Or how about a publication on how Christians view death in conjunction with the "hungry ghost" festival observed by many Chinese during the seventh month in the lunar calendar?

 

Learning to write demands diligence and time commitment, but it can be enjoyable. Writing is not confined to writing news and feature articles but it can include writing songs, scripts for skits, comics and other creative means.

The writing exercises in chapter 7 will be a good start to practice writing.  Perhaps, begin with this exercise, "Draw a picture of your dreams for yourself ten years from now" (p. 52).  If one of the dreams were to be a writer, it would be a delight to Miriam who has a heart and calling to work with Christian writers in Southeast Asia.

CHAPEL NOTES

 

Dr Miriam Adeney was our chapel speaker on 3 August. The topic was "God's world in the context of God's Word." Her message invites followers of Jesus to reflect on our role in the world of the 21st century that is struggling with terrorism, poverty, global warming, nuclear threats, natural disasters, clashes of civilizations and other forms of "darkness." She used the stories of Nehemiah, Esther and Daniel from the Old Testament to encourage that in the "middle of this blackness" in the world, there is "light" and the source is God. In response, followers of Jesus are called to be world Christians. A "world Christian is someone who is so gripped by the glory of God and the glory of his global purpose that he chooses to align himself with God's mission to fill the earth with the knowledge of his glory as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14).

 

Chapel speaker on 24 August will be Pastor Carrie Teh from Amazing Grace Presbyterian Church.

 

Note: Dr Adeney's sermon is on audio CD and available for sale at BGST library.

NEWS BITS

A Blessed Birthday to ...
  1. Erratum. In last week BTW, “SIF loan in BGST Building Fund” should read $3,177,934. We are sorry for the error.

  2. BGST Lunchtime Talk. Dr Quek will be speaking on “Why Study Church History?” on 26 August from 12.45 - 1.30pm at 31 Tanjong Pagar Rd, 2nd floor.

Mr Joseph Heng  22/8

Mr Francis Lim  23/8

Dr Peggy Yeo  25/8

Mr Roland Ho  25/8

Ms Tan Yeow Khuan  25/8

Mr Sim Cher Khee  25/8

Ms Christina Swee  26/8

Mr Derrick Tan  27/8

Mr James Chua  28/8


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