Writing as Soulcraft

16, November, 2016

Christopher J Wiles

pastor | writer | speaker

Our stories are precious things.  They flow through us—and out of us—in rivulets of nouns and verbs and all the other fragments of human speech that give life its form.  Language is how we enter the world—both literally as well as figuratively.  The Christian Bible tells us that “by the word of the Lord” creation was given shape and purpose.

As bearers of the Creator’s image, human beings share this capacity for speech.  So much so that evolutionary biology admits that “speech is so essential to our concept of intelligence that its possession is virtually equated with being human.”

But why?

We can never fathom this question so long as we insist on seeing life through only a material lens.  We have to look deeper, with eyes attuned to the subtle contours of the human soul.  For indeed there is a soulishness about us, a quality that takes shape in our physical world even as it transcends the boundaries of earth and bone and skin.

Language, therefore, is a fundamental part of what makes us human.  We rightly equate silence with isolation.  Both are enemies of God’s grand design.

16 November 2016

Christopher J Wiles

pastor | writer | speaker

Chris is a writer and speaker. He currently serves as teaching pastor at Tri-State Fellowship and as a research writer for Docent Research Group.

“We rightly equate silence with isolation. Both are enemies of God’s grand design.”

Human beings, as we’ve just noted, bear God’s image.  We “take after” God, so to speak—much as we might say that a child “takes after” his earthly father.  It means that we share with God some aspect of his character, his nature, even his gifts.  In the immediate context of Genesis, this means two things.  Because man bears the image of a Creator, we share in his capacity for creativity.  And because we bear the image of God’s divine community (Father, Son, and Spirit), we share in his capacity for relationship.

Or perhaps “capacity” is too clinical a term for such elemental gifts.  For these qualities are indeed divine gifts, just as human language likewise has its origin in God himself.  In his recent work on the clarity of Scripture, Mark Thompson notes that “God is himself the source of human language.  He is the first speaker and invests language with a deep significance for generation and nourishing personal relationships.”

If language is a divine gift, writing becomes a liturgical practice.  It is through language that the human needs for creativity and relationship are brought together. Surely writing is not the only means of human communication, but there is a uniqueness to the craft that cannot be so easily snuffed out by a so-called “post-literate” world.  When we write, we write to engage the world—or at least our small corner of it.  We write in order to hone our God-given skills of creativity and make a meaningful contribution to humanity’s collective imagination.  We write because it’s in our blood, in our hands, in our soul.

“If language is a divine gift, writing becomes a liturgical practice.”

Christianity says that God’s Word shaped God’s original creation, but God’s Word likewise takes prominence in God’s new creation.  “In the beginning was the Word,” John tells us—cribbing lines from the opening pages of Genesis.  The Word of God, once confined to the page now takes on human flesh in the person of Jesus.  Christianity calls this the incarnation, meaning that in Jesus God literally became a human being to walk among us, to share life with us, and to give his life that we might live.

Writing is part of the way we engage and share the gospel narrative.  Writing is therefore an incarnational practice, a means by which the story of God is translated into the various languages of human culture.

Living the gospel narrative means not only “take and read” but also “write and give.”  Every voice is different.  Every voice matters.

“Living the gospel narrative means not only ‘take and read’ but also ‘write and give.'”

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