By the Book
by MW Cook
A Muslim man will generally tell you that both the Bible and the Quran are revelations from God. He may think that the Bible has been corrupted a bit, but generally he’ll say that it’s still a holy book. Until he reads it.
When he reads it he expects to find things that he doesn’t agree with. He’s prepared for that. What he’s not prepared for is the fact that it’s not a monologue. The Quran is a dictation from God to Mohammad. The Muslim assumes that the Bible is the same. When he sees that it’s really a collection of poems, songs, histories, stories, personal letters and wild visions, it just doesn’t compute for him. He can’t understand how Paul is writing even though God is speaking. And so often, God doesn’t speak through simple prose.
The Bible is literature. Ancient, beautiful, complex, imagery-filled literature. God uses poems and songs and stories to get his ideas across. Why? Why doesn’t he just do things instruction-book style like the Quran?
Poems, songs and stories have an ability that prose does not. They can contain great depth in small spaces. They can transmit ideas in minutes that would take a theologian hours to unpack. Which is why we spend hours and hours unpacking small passages.
Which is why poems, songs and stories are powerful tools that we need to be using. We tend to use prose because it’s simple, though a little awkward. But there is hardly a theologian who can capture the depth of the Christian experience that Bunyan caught in Pilgrim’s Progress. Or the battle between good and evil in Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet. Or the picture of the transiency of evil in Star Wars.
So ye who are creative and have something to say, pick up your pens and paper and say it. Say it skillfully. Say it creatively. Say it with words that make pictures and pictures that come alive. On we go.