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« The horse isn't dead | Main | Learning to dream »
Friday
Feb222019

The difference between a great and an average writer

I'm working on a review of the book Who Shall Ascend to the Mountain of the Lord? by Michael Morales. It is, quite simply, one of the most powerful books I have read as a Christian. Yes, it is a biblical theology of Leviticus, and to many that may seem dry and boring, but this has been one of the most fantastic reads of the past couple of years.

As I review the book, summarizing the content prior to critiquing it, I'm drawn again and again to the reality that the purpose for Israel, and for Christians, is to be drawn into the presence of God. The Fall put Adam and Eve into exile; Cain was exiled; Babel caused exile; the flood caused exile; Israel was in exile in Egypt. What the exodus did was begin the process of taking Israel back toward the presence of God. The sacrificial system established that way to God's presence. The burning of sacrifice transformed flesh into a pleasing aroma, ascending to God. Today, as Christians, we are also being brought back into the presence of God, but now through the perfect sacrifice; the final sacrifice.

These are truths that are so rich and so complex that they astound me. The beauty of this process, established in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New is completely mind-blowing. This is earth-shattering truth. It's truth meant to change me.

Most women I have mentioned this book to have wrinkled their noses at the subject matter. The ones who haven't are not in the majority. It is perceived as too difficult. Any woman who graduated from high school would have the ability to read this book. No, it might not be as easy as other topics, but it is accessible.

There is a way to write about complex matter in a way that is accessible. This is what I think separates the really good writers from the ones who are average. I have likely mentioned this before, but when I was in high school, I could not understand why my teacher subjected us to Northrop Frye: boring, I thought. I survived having to write an essay on his The Educated Imagination, but it wasn't until I read it again a few years ago that I realized how brilliant a writer Frye was. The really brilliant writer knows how to distill complex matter into something even a silly high school student could understand.

Being able to write about theology necessiates a bit of learning; ideally, a lot of learning. Learning to write well takes practice and sometimes, it takes actually learning about how to write. I have no patience for the writers who say that learning the mechanics of grammar and usage is a wasted time. 

I keep thinking there must be a way to better teach women how to study and interpret Scripture, and how to communicate with clarity, eliminating that awful tendency to dumb things down or dress it up in a "girl talk" kind of tone. Why are there two poles? The fluffly "pink" kind of writing, and writing that the female author must apologize for because other women find it unaccessible? I'm thankful for the women I blog with at Out of the Ordinary. They know how to write about complex matters in an accessible manner.

As I consider my summer reading plans, I'm really hoping to continue to learn more about hermeneutics and also about how people learn in general. I am tired of hearing that women learn and communicate differently in Bible study simply because the mysterious "they" say so. I'd like to find some actual studies and resources. 

In the meantime, I really need to get this book review done. A more condensed review of the book will likely appear at Out of the Ordinary soon.

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