A Pastor’s Reflections: Why I Write, part 2
October 31, 2017
In last week's post I gave the first four reasons why I write: to be a good steward, to improve my communication skills, to improve my teaching, and to make helpful contributions to the church's ongoing discussion of doctrine. In this week's post, I conclude with the final three reasons.
Fifth, I write for the sake of transparency. When I went to seminary I had a number of professors who would say all sorts of provocative and even heterodox things in class. They would never publish such things because they knew they would get into trouble for it. These same professors would thunder away against other published theologians, but I found it odd that they never published their criticisms. The more I studied I realized that they didn’t publish their criticisms because they were actually half-baked and would have been easily dismissed as such. I want my students and the church to know that I have nothing to hide. By writing and presenting my findings for public consumption, people can see what I believe. Transparency, I believe, is vital to a healthy teaching ministry.
Sixth, I write for my own personal edification and then for the church’s benefit. Many of my writing projects begin as my own effort to understand a theological topic. I might read thousands of pages of research and I know that I will all too easily forget what I have read unless I take notes. So my thought process goes: I might as well take clear notes, and I might as well footnote these notes so I know where the information originates, and I might as well ensure that my notes make sense. Lo and behold, a book or essay is born. When I crystalize and organize my thought on a subject, I can think and teach clearly on a topic. All of the information isn’t a jumble of facts in my mind. The next step in my thought process is, “Well, if I personally benefited from these ‘notes,’ perhaps others in the church can also benefit from them.”
Seventh, I write because I want to serve the church for generations to come. In my own research and study, I read scores of theologians who lived hundreds or even more than a thousand years ago. I often wonder whether St. Augustine, for example, ever imagined that people would be reading his works hundreds of years later? Charles Hodge is long gone and enrolled in the church triumphant, but how many Christians still pick up his books and read them to great blessing? I believe some authors did not think much beyond their own life, but I know that many others wanted to leave a written testimony for future generations. They wanted to serve the living and those still yet born. Now, I don’t want you to think that I have delusions of grandeur. I know that the chances are high that my books will end up in a recycling bin or at the bottom of a bird cage. There are, after all, thousands of theology books published each year. But at a minimum, I hope and pray that after I’m dead and gone that at least my family will benefit from my work. My children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren can benefit from my work. And if in God’s providence he chooses to use my work to bless people outside my family, then praise God.