A Defense of Christian Creative Writing

Sharing is nice

For the greater purposes of our community here, I offer this short bit adapted from “A Defence of Poesy” by Sir Philip Sidney, 1595. I’m hoping to offer more as time allows, and if you find it helpful (you can find the original text here, and an excellent introduction to Sir Sidney’s defense in Don Williams’ essay, "Christian Poetics, Past and Present" in The Christian Imagination). May it encourage you to remember just how foundational your work is to the purposes of the Maker:

 

“In ancient Greek, the word for a creative writer, or “poet,” shared its root with the verb “to make.” When we consider the Maker who used the originating Word to speak all things into existence, it is easy to understand from where this idea of a creative writer’s high call originated….

 

“This is why it is not going too far to say that the highest point of man’s capacity is seen in the creative act of writing and joins there with the highest value of nature, to bring honor and glory to God. We must not fail to give the Maker the highest honor for the gift of the creative writer, or “maker,” who following the example set forth, makes man in his own likeness and whose work sets its importance above all other workers observing in the fields of science and philosophy, and man above all nature through which he receives the heavenly transmission of the creative impulse… With the force of a divine breath God brought all things forth and erected our own minds to understand what perfection is. [And this is what creative writers do.] This is why the Greeks gave creative writers the name above all names of learning.

“Creative writing, therefore, is the art of imitation of the original creation. Aristotle termed it mimesis which is a representing, counterfeiting, or figuring to speak metaphorically. A “speaking picture” with its aim to teach and delight (from which we derive the principal aim of education: to enlighten the mind while entertaining it). Of this art, there have been three general kinds, the chief of them being that which imitates the inconceivable excellence of God, as David in his Psalms, or Solomon in his Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, and Proverbs, Moses and Debora in their hymns, and the writer of Job, all of which make up the poetic part of Scripture. Against these origins, none can speak who hold the Bible in due reverence.”

P.S. And after you're done soaking up all those good vibes, go see Ratatouille. Jeffrey Overstreet says it's scrumptuous Summer fare.

Sharing is nice

6 thoughts on “A Defense of Christian Creative Writing”

  1. “First and foremost, it’s a story about claiming your passion, and pursuing it with excellence, whether you make big bucks or not.” from Jeffrey Overstreet’s review Of Ratatouille.
    Thanks for the link to Jeffrey’s review. What he says about the movie resonates about the craft of writing.

  2. Mick reminded us that:
    “Creative writing, therefore, is the art of imitation of the original creation. Aristotle termed it mimesis which is a representing, counterfeiting, or figuring to speak metaphorically. A ‘speaking picture’ with its aim to teach and delight (from which we derive the principal aim of education: to enlighten the mind while entertaining it).”
    Now, if “creation pours forth speech” and “the heavens declare the glory of God,” that means that the beauty itself does the “speaking” and “declaring.”
    So why is it that when I go to a Christian bookstore, the “Art” section is full of cheesy sunset photographs that have scripture verses scrawled across them?
    Shouldn’t Christians, more than anyone, believe that the sunset speaks for itself… and that it speaks much more powerfully on its own than it does with some cherry-picked scripture verse stamped over the picture?
    Sorry. Can you tell I feel strongly about this?
    Here’s the great thing about realizing that artistic reflections of creation also reflect God’s glory: We can apprehend God’s glory even in art designed by people who don’t believe in Him.
    If those artists capture some glimmer of beauty, some reflection of truth, they are contributing to God’s work whether they know it or not.
    Of course, just as unbelieving artists can convey the glory of God without knowing it, so Christian artists can muck up the matter by getting in the way of art’s power. If we are shoddy in our own work, or if we pre-package and deliver a “message” in our pictures, lyrics, or stories, we are robbing the audience of the opportunity to explore and discover it for themselves.
    At least, that’s what is running through my head after a triple-shot latte. Forgive me.

  3. We should all be drinking triple-shot lattes, then. And toasting our lovely readers who definitely shouldn’t be robbed of anything. Why, that’s just plain rude. Nice comments, Jeffrey. And Mick, it’s always cool to lurk around YWG.

  4. Great post.
    I would add one word to the phrase: “Creative writing is art in imitation of the original act of creation.”
    All of Creation is God expressing himself metaphorically. Creative writing is the human creation, made in God’s image, acting in the image of the Creator. We are simply acting on the creative nature that the Creator instilled within us when He made us like Him. We express ourselves through metaphor. In this case, we express ourselves in the line and symbol of letters and words. We continue in the nature of Logos, through whom everything was made.

  5. Practice using Christian inspiration. Once you have Christian inspiration, you must practice using it. Just like any skill we might learn, Christian inspiration is most effectively used long-term when we daily accept it. When you use the Christian inspiration you are given, you likely place yourself in an ideal position to receive future inspiration.

Discuss...