Thinking Out Loud

May 28, 2016

Theology in Story

Clear Winter NightsRather unexpectedly yesterday, I found myself devouring all 160 pages of a 2013 novel by Trevin Wax Clear Winter Nights: A Journey Into Truth, Doubt and What Comes After (Multnomah). What attracted me to the book, besides some familiarity with the author’s many years of blogging, was the concept of using a story to teach.

As a huge fan of three novels by David Gregory which use this format — Dinner with a Perfect Stranger, Day with a Perfect Stranger and Night With a Perfect Stranger — I see the value in a genre for people who would never pick up a more commonplace ‘Christian Living’ title, let alone a book on basic theology. This is a book which has a storyline, but at the same time is using the plot at the front door to allow a lot of truth to enter through the back door.

Two words come to mind here, the first is didactic. The storyteller is truly the teacher. But the second, better word is the very similar dialectic, using a conversational style to impart knowledge, as did writers like Plato. This can also be called Socratic dialog or the Socratic method.

The banter is between two central characters, Chris Walker a disillusioned church planter whose job promise and engagement have both been broken; and Gil his grandfather, a retired pastor. You could call this Weekend with a Perfect… oh, never mind; that doesn’t work here; it’s a different dynamic.

Without giving away too much, I couldn’t get over how many of the topics Chris and Gil cover resonated with me. The book isn’t afraid to tackle some tough issues facing the church collectively and individual Christians, yet does so with tact, humor and grace. The key characters being male also makes this an ideal gift for men, something that is rarity in the world of Christian fiction, though I still prefer the dialectic label to override the fictional nature of the story.

While Trevin Wax and I are from vastly different tribes — he writes for The Gospel Coalition and works for LifeWay — I didn’t allow that to influence my reading and it doesn’t stop me from giving this book my full recommendation. In fact, a couple of times my eyes watered as the conversation unfolded. Clear Winter Nights works on many different levels.


Another author who writes in this genre is Andy Andrews. We reviewed The Traveler’s Gift and The Noticer.

Another fiction title that used the dialectic method was Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron.

My review of Dinner With A Perfect Stranger by David Gregory was more of an explanation of the DVD series which came from the first two books. He did the first two books with Waterbrook, part of the same publishing group as the title by Trevin Wax we’re reviewing today; but the third was published by EMI Worthy, who wouldn’t send a review copy, so I did the write up of Night With a Perfect Stranger in bullet points.

Apologies to UK, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand readers for spelling dialogue the American way. I know. What are we going to do?

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January 27, 2011

The Burdens We Carry

Yesterday in the link list, I noted a sermon preached by Ron Edmondson at Grace Community Church in Kenwood and Rossview (Clarksville), Tennessee.  In it, he asked his congregation to complete an index card indicating the particular “weights” and burdens they were carrying. Though the cards were anonymous, they collected over 1,000 of them and compiled them statistically showing the areas in which people are struggling.

Here are the results:

I would have guessed that health concerns was high on the list, but presumably included in the section of general anxieties (the green section at 20%) and combined with doubt, which I would think is a whole different matter altogether, this area of concern did not rate #1.

The third largest area, dealing with disappointments from the past, is something I’m dealing with right now. I think a lot of people fall into this category. The sale they didn’t make. The girl that turned down the date. The offer on the house that didn’t go through. I wrote about this a year ago in a review of a Steve Arterburn book I called Regrets, I Have a Few.

But the number one area, as you can see clearly in the pink section, has to do with four areas that I’ll list in bullet points so that together, we can read them slowly and consider each one:

  • Jealousy
  • Pride
  • Grudges
  • Anger

Let’s re-list those differently

  • Wishing we had the possessions or status that others have
  • Consumed with the image others have of us
  • Wanting to ‘play God’ and thereby ‘level the playing field’ of perceived inequities
  • Thinking that individual inequities mean that God is unfair, and boiling over with resentment toward Him and/or others

If the stats at Ron’s church are right, this will strike a response with many people reading this, as will other areas included in the chart. God wants to bring healing change into our lives to deal with these issues. In the sermon attached to the link with the graphic — if you have problems switch over to his church site and simply listen to the audio — he tells stories of people whose life journey has involved intense pain. It can be so hard to move on. It can be so difficult not to “be defined by” the circumstances of personal life history.

While Ron’s focus is on the burdens we carry, I think it’s fair to also mention that we need to be sensitive to the needs of others around us who are carrying their burdens.

Ron asks his congregation these questions:

  • What do you need to leave behind?
  • What changes do you need to make in your life in order to live fully for Christ?
  • What failures do you need to forget.
  • What disciplines do you need to take on?
  • Whom do you need to forgive?
  • What grudge do you need to release?
  • What burden do you need to give back to God?
  • Do you need to trust God more?
  • Do you need to serve others more?

Ron concludes, “One of the roadblocks to your future may be the past that you refuse to let go of.”

To listen to the entire sermon as a podcast, click here and select 1/2/2011


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