Thursday, November 08, 2007

Word Sculpting

"Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written."
~The Apostle John
John 21:25

Containment. That is the universal challenge of the writer. Mountainous masses of information must be sculpted, the pen wielded as a chisel to structure and shape the words into beautiful proportions.

If the Apostle John had to practice large- scale editing, how much more will be required of writers who live in the era of information-glut?

Biologist Lewis Thomas calls the random bits of information which envelope us "plankton". It's an accurate simile, because we are swimming in the midst of an ocean of information and are able to digest and utilize only a tiny portion of it. Good writers manage to scale down the serving size, avoiding the temptation to dish out an overwhelming array of ideas and words.

The New Testament gospel of John is an excellent model of good writing because it has been sculpted into beautiful form:

*Clear purpose~ "...but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name." John 20:31

*Strong declarative sentences~~In his book
Writing to Learn, William Zinsser says, "Writing is the handmaiden of leadership. Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill rode to glory on the back of the strong declarative sentence."

The book of John has these in abundance. Here is a sampling:
~"the Word was God"
~ "He was in the beginning with God"
~"All things were made through Him"

John could have chosen to portray Christ from any number of angles, but he chose one perspective to zero in on: Christ as Deity
The streamlining of perspective eliminates clutter and confusion, and helps to weed out unnecessary information.

Though John asserts that the whole world couldn't contain the books that could be written about Christ's life, he pares down the subject matter to include only 7 stand-out miracles and 7 of Jesus' fabulous "I AM" statements. These hand-picked examples all serve to reinforce his purpose in writing the book. There is a pleasing symmetry in the structure of the book as a result of these choices.

I love that the God of the Universe chose to communicate to me via the written word, and that He took the great care and patience to arrange those words in the most beautiful way. Although I'm sure His primary intention was not to provide me with a writing textbook, still His Word has been refined seven times and is perfect. There is no other book that can make that claim! I hope that as I remain immersed in it, I will be able to use my own pen to express clearly the wonders I encounter on my life journey.


Anonymous said...

I can do all things through Christ who strenghtens me and gives wisdom.

ichthys said...

Augustine is quoted as saying 'the gospel of John is deep enough for an elephant to swim and shallow enough for a child not to drown'

Either way it contains three key scriptures for me in John 3:7(the key to being a Christian) John 20:21(the indivual commission) & the great pastoral commission to the church John 21:15 thru 21:17