A few days ago, I received a letter from a friend who had just finished reading the manuscript for my latest book, LifeWork: A Biblical Theology for What You Do Every Day. He commented that the book was filled with good content, but questioned if it was readable for the average person in the market place.
While I hope it will be, I can understand that many people today read less and at a different level than their parents or grandparents, and thus my friend’s concern may be valid. His letter made me reflect on who I am writing to and why I write the way I do. While a variety of people have found my books useful, I am primarily writing for people who are working among the poor or for people who consciously have a heart to help their nations develop.
Today, the West is moving from a word-based culture to an image-based culture, from the “head” to the “heart,” from ideas to emotions, from reason to feelings. Much of the developing world is locked into “heart” and “feelings” with very little emphasis on mind and reason. This is certainly not a reflection on ability (or lack of ability), but on perspective, habits, and education; it is a reflection of cultural and historic precedence.
I strongly believe that it is word-based culture that has allowed for the greatest cultivation of the mind and thus the larger development of societies. Do not get me wrong, God made us with both hearts and minds, with feelings and intellect. We have been made to both emote and think, to create (art) and to reason (science). We have been made this way, because God Himself is both the Divine Artist and the First Mathematician. In fact, art/music and science/math find their perfect harmony in the life of God Himself.
The ancients spoke of this Divine Harmony in the created order calling it the “music of the spheres” – the manifestation of God’s nature in creation through both beauty and scientific order. Someone has said that math is the language of creation. Thus, we live in a beautifully ordered universe that both inspires and can be studied.
All this means that we need to seek to use both emotions and intellect as we approach life.
God created by speaking words (Genesis 1). C.S. Lewis captures the moment of God’s creation in his wonderful children’s story The Magicians Nephew. In this book Aslan, the Lion (the figure of Christ), created the universe by “singing” – bringing words together with music to form Creation. Christ Himself is known as the living Word of God. The Bible is the written WORD of God.
In His book, God uses words to create stories which are connected together into the metanarrative that provides us with a look at a metaphysical, moral, and aesthetic universe. It allows us to answer such questions as who we are, how we got here, why we are here, and what is good and what is beautiful. This, along with the created order, form the whole of the Divine Revelation. And we as the imago Dei can both appreciate and explore this beautiful creation.
Why am I saying all this? Because it takes both words and spirit to make a whole person and a whole society. Each individual human being is called by God to function wholly and to build whole and healthy nations. If we relegate the poor only to their feelings and images, they will not deploy their God-given ability to reason and problem solve in order to cultivate their souls or their nations.
In the West, we have largely abandoned reason for emotions (in large part by the impulse of the visual technologies of TV and movies) and developed artistic expressions that are free from truth, goodness, and beauty. The results are a culture of death and the construction of lives and societies that break down into immorality, vulgarity, lawlessness, incivility, and chaos. In the west we see the growth of these vices before our very eyes.
Likewise, many in the West find the current atheistic-materialist culture spiritually dead and unfulfilling. Some use drugs and alcohol to escape this living death. When they do read, instead of reading thoughtful books to help them answer life’s persistent questions, they read to escape life and reality. They tend to read books that entertain rather than inform.
So, why do I write the way I do? While in today’s terms my books may be “long” rather than “short,” “thick” rather than “thin,” in the historic frame, what I write would probably be regarded as rather “thin.” Many of our forefathers wrote profound truths with great beauty of expression and in lengthy detail that would lose most modern readers quickly. This is not an indictment of their “long windedness,” but rather a critique of where we are as largely non-thinkers in the present day.
My heart is to contribute to reversing the modern trend of abandoning words and reason, to call my friends in the developing world to the power of intelligent reflection, and to call my friends in the West to a modern re-formation of our nations.
My heart is in seeing people love the poor and understand that we have all been placed on earth to build godly cultures. I want to give them enough to chew on; to help them see that ideas have consequence in order to translate, contextualize, and simplify these concepts into tools that will help to lift the poor out of poverty and build healthy nations.
-Darrow L. Miller