The Writer’s Responsibility

By Elizabeth Prata

Christian books, pamphlets, blogs, letters, reviews, essays…it’s all so much. It is so easy nowadays to start a blog and begin writing. I’ve mentioned before about authorial skill, ministerial calling, and tone. But now let’s speak of the responsibility writers have.

What is the responsibility of a writer, his or her ethics, so to speak? All people are accountable in their work, career, or hobby. Writers write with their audience in mind. They write to persuade, inform, or entertain. This three-fold purpose is universal. EB White eloquently opined on a writer’s responsibility from the secular side, in his piece from 1969. I recommend it. Here is one quote:

A writer must reflect and interpret his society, his world; he must also provide inspiration and guidance and challenge. Much writing today strikes me as deprecating, destructive, and angry. There are good reasons for anger, and I have nothing against anger. But I think some writers have lost their sense of proportion, their sense of humor, and their sense of appreciation

Add to that, Christian writers write for the glory of God and to share edifying content to the transforming mind. Christian writers have a responsibility to be clear, straightforward, and to keep God’s glory in front at all times.We know that teachers of the Word have a responsibility, one that is so weighty that the Bible advises that “not many” should be a teacher. (James 3:1). Writers teach, especially if they have a public platform. By default, unless you’re writing in a lockable diary, your writing is public and someone will be learning from it. If not the words, the example you (I) set. Christian writers are by default, teachers.

Derek J. Brown, a graduate of The Master’s Seminary and now a pastor, wrote in 2012’s essay “Clarity: The Responsibility of Every Christian Writer,

I am also convinced that Christians have the responsibility—if we are going to write about Biblical truth and important theological issues—to cherish clarity above all other literary qualities.

As I look back over past entries, some of what I have written causes me to grimace. In several posts, clarity was sacrificed for cleverness; precise statements gave way to long, cumbersome sentences; and healthy content was smothered under a thick layer of syrupy rhetoric.

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I hope that what I have written does not cause anyone to grimace for the reasons stated above. I know that my theology has improved since I started this blog ten years ago, and I’d grimace over older essays that I wrote in zeal without knowledge. But I hope that I have not written cleverly for the sake of being clever. I hope I have not covered up any pointing to the Lord for the sake of syrupy rhetoric.

Derek Brown goes on in convicting manner,

What this does mean is that we should labor, every time we write, to make sure that what we write is clear, and that our communication has not been hindered by silly word games. Practically, this will mean carefully choosing words that enable learning instead of words that only show off our extensive vocabulary. It will mean spending more time over fewer entries to ensure that what we post falls under the category of quality rather than mere quantity. And it will even mean that we are willing to risk being regarded as unsophisticated and unscholarly by some of our readers because we desire their spiritual good far more than we covet their admiration.

The reader’s understanding of an important point should be the first motive of the writer. I hope I never set clarity adrift for the sake of words that display the authors’ skill.

It’s easy to use big words and make much of your vocabulary. It’s hard to use fewer words, and clearer words, because that means one is squashing one’s pride and removing ego from the piece, on behalf of the more important sake of the reader’s understanding and ultimately, God’s glory.

When you choose to spend your limited time reading any material, but especially blog posts, think about if the writer has carried through his first responsibility: clarity. See if you can intuit what should be his/her motivation; glorifying God. In sum: ask yourself, Does this piece clearly make a point that helps my understanding of Jesus, and does it glorify God- or does it glorify the author?

Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

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2 thoughts on “The Writer’s Responsibility

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