Whispers, murmurs, and a few pauses from wiser ones waiting for the surprise ending, had spread amongst dozens of class attendees — to wit, Ladies of the Church™ (a very powerful special interest lobby).
I was there also, enjoying my second attendance of an American Christian Fiction Writers’ conference (2007). And John Olson, co-author of Oxygen, had just said something heretical.
Yes, he said, “God can’t spell and has bad grammar.”
Then of course he went on to explain the context. As best I recall (it was a crazy weekend) he said that as a writer (also of Oxygen’s sequel The Fifth Man and thriller novels Shade and Powers), he’s met many people who show him their manuscripts. They’re in varying genres, though with conferences dominated by the LotC™ you can guess which genres predominate. Will you look at this? they ask him. And many will also exult: God laid this on my heart. It’s such an amazing story. God told me to write this!
Well in that case, Olson confessed to thinking … you guessed it …
God can’t spell and has bad grammar.
And yet many writers seeking publication and wider writing Ministry seem unwilling to consider that their very spiritual-seeming sense of divine guidance could use some “earthly” grounding. That could include honing one’s craft, being humble and patient, and seeking to glorify Jesus Christ, not merely touching Him as if He’s “base” when tagged with criticism.
Is it God’s secret will for someone write and even be published?
The answer to that, I’ll suggest, is by definition secret. Theologians often point to the fact that throughout Scripture God shows He has “two wills”: a secret or hidden will, and a revealed will or will of command. Here’s how one theologian shows the difference:
Surely, a distinction between aspects of God’s will is evident in many passages of Scripture. According to Moses, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God; but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deut. 29:29). Those things that God has revealed are given to us for the purpose of obeying God’s will: “that we may do all the words of this law.” There were many other aspects of his plan, however, that he had not revealed to them: many details about future events, specific details of hardship or of blessing in their lives, and so forth. With regard to these matters, they were simply to trust him.
— from Bible Doctrine, Wayne Grudem (edited by Jeff Purswell), Zondervan, 1999, page 96
Christians who aren’t certain about a difference, or who think His will simply works in one way, may fall all over themselves trying to figure out God’s secret will before doing anything.
Perhaps more dangerous, we could ignore God’s revealed will while trying to find His secret will for assurance. As Jared Moore cautions, that’s tantamount to practicing divination. Thus, even Christians who are concerned (maybe understandably!) about the occult, real and perceived, may be doing more witchcraft-like secret-knowledge seeking than they know. After all, does God ever promise in Scripture that His Spirit will give a sense of peace, or some kind of a sign of miracle or even coincidence, before we make a big decision — such as a career field, marriage pursuit, or reading or writing a particular book?
Despite some secondary disputes over spiritual gifts and miracles, most Christians agree that the canon of Scripture in two testaments, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is closed. God could tell someone something new, but is that thinking consistent with His already revealed Word?
And if we don’t hear Him directly or have “a peace,” should that prevent us taking a risk?
Recent posts — among them Sally Apokedak’s Divine Calling, Mike Duran’s Where Do Writers Fit in the Church? and Fred Warren’s Call Writing right here on Speculative Faith — discuss from varying angles the question of whether Christians are indeed called to write novels. Is that within God’s will? If so, how can we know — or can we know at all?
My encouragement is this:
- If any deed comes from faith in Christ (whatever doesn’t is sin — Romans 14:23);
- And if this task or calling does not violate God’s revealed will in Scripture;
- Then there’s no way to know if a thing lies within God’s secret will until we’ve already done it. We may fail, and still God is working; or succeed — also by God working!
And if while writing, preaching, or doing anything else I violate God’s revealed will — well, that was according to God’s secret will, because it happened; however, what I did was still outside His will of command, which if I love Him I should want to follow (John 14: 15, 21). Ignoring my own pride, arrogance and greed, while refusing attempts to help me grow — those are sins, no matter how much I claim It’s Ministry or God Told Me.
Hey, that sounds familiar:
If you think you’ve been called to write, but, like Mr. Bear up there, you see writing as the fast track to fame and fortune, don’t care about learning how to write well, and are impervious to the feedback and advice of people trying to help you, I think it’s safe to say you might not be in the center of God’s will.
— from Call Writing, Fred Warren on SpeculativeFaith.com, March 29
So how have you thought about God’s will(s) before? How might exploring some theology on the topic not just help us feel happy because we know more stuff, but help in our lives?
For readers and writers: how might learning to trust God to keep His secret will to Himself, even as we obey His revealed will and even take some risks, help us in our life callings? Have you ever assumed that if you didn’t get some sign or inner peace like you’ve heard about, you’re not within God’s will?