Good writing is essential to powerful theological education within congregations. By good writing we mean, minimally, writing that is clear, logically coherent, concrete, illuminated by striking examples, driven by a strong narrative structure, and is intimately and evidently connected to the lives of the reading audience for whom it is intended.
Good theological writing for a broad audience should speak to the heart as well as the mind. Adult church goers who are not professional theologians pursue theological education out of a desire to understand more broadly and deeply what the Christian tradition has taught about God and God’s relationship to the world, and in so understanding to order their own lives to God. General readers are frequently motivated to pursue theological knowledge by a passion at once existential and intellectual. Ecclesial literature developed for such readers must address the element of passion that drives these readers to Christian learning.
The Collegeville Institute aims to help congregations again become the kinds of intellectual centers that informed and benefited from writers as varied as Thomas à Kempis, John Milton, John Bunyan, G. K. Chesterton, Georges Bernanos, Graham Greene, Shusako Endo, and Flannery O’Connor, among many others. These writers addressed matters of faith both directly and indirectly, and from perspectives that ranged from skepticism to apologia. Despite their great differences, their work holds this in common: it has appealed to broad audiences and helped general readers attend more carefully to spiritual realities. To learn more about the Institute’s vision for faith and writing, read this interview with Executive Director Don Ottenhoff about the Ecclesial Literature Project.
Here in Faith and Writing we are creating a space for book reviews and recommendations, resources for good writing, blog recommendations, and more. This is a work in progress and we invite pastors, church leaders, and others to join us in putting pen to paper for the life of faith.
Photo: Pen and Paper by Phil Gyford, Creative Commons License.