Some people think that Christian writing has to be nonfiction to be true, but that’s not true! In any genre, our writings cannot make a decision to follow Christ. Therefore, “Christian writing” is a misnomer, but, as Christian writers, we can make that choice and do. Then we have as many styles, literary genres, and ways of writing as anyone else.
So the big difference in our work in particular and in the Christian writing life in general comes as we gain and give a godly perspective. How?
Start with the Bible. To get a sweeping view of how God interacts with all peoples and creation, read the Bible cover to cover.
Pray for God to guide your reading. Consider what other students of the Bible say and what you think, too, but stay open to a fresh view as the Holy Spirit aids comprehension and deepens your insight into spiritual matters.
Compare translations. Many old and new versions of the Bible can be found in full on the Internet, but you might not find them all in one location. For instance, a translation approved by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops can be found in full (with excellent footnotes) on the USCCB website, while most Protestant versions are posted on Bible Gateway and other sites. Also, a commercial website (the ChristianBooksBibles online store) with which I have no tie, offers a comprehensive list of translations available for Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish readers.
Look up place names. Use a Bible dictionary and Bible atlas, and compare maps showing ancient and contemporary geographical boundaries.
Research your main topic with the key word and also peripheral wording. After using a concordance or searching various translations on the Internet to see what the Bible says about your subject, look up related words or topics in church documents and statements of faith, which can be found on most denominational websites.
Read footnotes and fine print. Allegedly, study Bible were once used to promote a particular perspective or denominational interpretation, whereas new study editions are more likely to bring together information and insights from diverse scholars who have devoted their whole lives to Bible study. In general, newer study editions clarify information, define unusual words or colloquial phrases, and put factual data into cultural context. Some editions include numbers in a tiny font to show cross-referencing as a topic threads through one book of the Bible to another.
Study the Bible as literature. This excerpt from a new study edition discusses literary aspects of the Bible that can broaden our understanding of genres and also increase our awareness of our unique work and individual calling as a Christian poet, editor, or writer.
Practice each genre. Experiment! Find out which type of writing comes to you most readily. Remove preconceived thoughts of “Christian writing,” too, and begin to see yourself as a Christian who writes in all genres, knowing the biblical writers did too.
(c) 2011, Mary Harwell Sayler