Tuesday, July 08, 2008

How to be a Popular "Evangelical" Writer (expanded)

1. Write on a controversial topic with little understanding of it.
2. Be autobiographical.
3. Luxuriate in metaphors you don't understand.
4. Take potshots at "foundationalism," "propositional truth," and "modernism," without defining, explaining, or actually arguing against them.
5. Chose a clever title for your book like, "Plastic Jesus" or "Velour Bono," or "Red like Rock."
6. Make the book short, with plenty of graphics.
7. Make a video to go with the book. No, make a series of them.
8. Write in incomplete sentences. Like this.
9. Use plenty of one sentence paragraphs, like this:


10. Advocate something historically rejected by Christians in the name of "tolerance" or "freedom" or "postmodernism" or "authenticity."
11. Be sure to "reinvent," "deconstruct," "reimagine," "reconceive," and "emerge."
12. Pose in on your yoga mat for the back cover, smirking.
13. Celebrate mysteries, embrace enigmas, go apoplectic over paradoxes. In so doing, attack apologetics as "arrogant," "imperialistic," and "uncool."
14. Give a plethora of references to popular culture, but ignore theological classics.


Brian said...

I just finished reading "The Irresistible Revolution" by Shane Claiborne. (My friend was reading it, so I needed to get up to speed).

Doug, I feel you pain. It was like eating a fish bite after bite with all the bones in it - only to have to pick out my teeth with every mouthful. I can't stand these books.

Give me some scholars and theologians who can rightly divide the Word of Truth!

Jerry said...

The antidote:

Read the Puritans.

As I read William Bridge's "A Lifting Up for the Downcast" I see that he doesn't do any of the "popular" things that you list.

pgepps said...

Actually, Puritans did #1 all the time, if you don't cherry-pick; re-invigorated confessional writing (#2); were generally the leaders in a Whiggish modernizing of knowledge, including a very strong anti-metaphorical emphasis (glibly dropped when it came time to spiritualize Israel's promises in support of an established Church in an earthly "Kingdom on a Hill"); preferred the then-fashionable grandiose title (though there were the various polemics about the Hive and Foxes); were not prone to numbers 6, 7, 8, or 9 (but then, the English language hadn't normalized grammar, spelling, or punctuation yet--Milton famously remarked that English was better for gen-ed than Latin because "it has no grammar"); were by definition doing #10 under the auspices of all the above except "postmodernism" (they were modernizers, remember); probably used few of the catch-phrases in #11; never heard of yoga mats.

mutatis mutandis & plus ca change...

Only by cherry-picking do we manage to create Golden Ages of the imagination in which we may pretend to stand in judgment over the current scene. The Puritans had their hand in creating this mess, as surely as the Reformed and Lutheran churches, as surely as the Dissenters and Noncomformists, as surely as their equivalents today in a ferment of ideas which does not even begin to equal that of the English seventeenth century, or the third century in the Mediterranean.

Anonymous said...

Great idea, read the Puritans. That's who these guys are writing for, those who would otherwise be reading the Puritans.

Talk about smirking.

Michael Deal said...

Make sure your picture on the back cover makes you look a bit pensive, not grinning like a loon, but wearing those trendy narrow glasses (my apologies if any reader wears them - it is just an observation!). And have a bit of Russell Crowe stubble to give you a bit of attitude.

Great post Doug, deliciously witty. Always love you posts and actually still have your three New Age books in my study bookshelf.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...


Good, but go out and buy the rest of my books! The first three New Age books were very early in my intellectual career.

Rick said...

Also for the list: make sure you write in fluffy, feel good "I'm your pal" kind of language.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...

Right--"I'm your pal," instead of "I'm your teacher."

James Manuel said...

Begin sentences with, "I know I may sound like a heretic in saying this, but..." and then say whatever you want, no matter how heretical or controversial.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...


Good point. People are reckless with the treasures of orthodoxy.

Darrell said...

15. Let everyone know that you're a deep thinker and nobody's fool by shilling for the Democratic party.

Ryan Beaty said...

So you mean, if I follow those steps, I too can make enough money to pay off school loans??? Sign me up!

Title: Bloody Sunday

Topic: Exploring the mystery of the Eucharist and how its true meaning has been hidden and can only be found through an authentic journey and post-modern view of Hebrew history within the Roman and Aramaic contexts.

Back Cover Shot: Me sitting on a park bench next to a homeless guy