In an age of disenchantment, a world in which people are starved by superficiality, we need writers and pastors and artists who can feed us with the wonder of existence.
The writers I most enjoy reading are those who lead us in the way of wonder: poets and artists who tell the truth by “telling it slant,” as Emily Dickinson said. I’m referring to the gift of recognizing and describing truth in such a way that our imaginations are seized by wonder and we stand in awe of the reality we see.
We do not need thinkers who reduce the wonders of this world to facts. We need seers who open our eyes to just how wonder-full the facts are.
We need theologians and pastors who combine their desire for theological accuracy with the desire to showcase biblical beauty, until we stand in awe—of this world in all of its haunted goodness and of the gospel in all of its long-awaited surprise.
The best writers and artists are driven not by the need to show you themselves, as if to invite you into the prison of their minds, but by the desire to open windows so that you get a glimpse of glorious realities that stand outside and above us, enduring truths that do not depend on intellectual fads. They are not content to merely amuse us as we pass our time in a wonder-less era of cultural fatigue. They startle us with truth and goodness and beauty.
We don’t need writers with new ideas; we need writers with new eyes for old truths.
We need people who lead us in the way of wonder. We need to be awakened—to be refilled with childlike wonder at both the world and the gospel.
Many of today’s preachers and writers have found inspiration in the imaginative apologetics of C. S. Lewis. John Piper writes:
Lewis’s keen, penetrating sense of his own heart’s aching for Joy, combined with his utter amazement at the sheer, objective realness of things other than himself, has over and over awakened me from the slumbers of self-absorption to see and savor the world and through the world, the Maker of the world. And this sense of wonder at what is—really is—has carried over into doctrine, and the gospel in particular.
Lewis gave me, and continues to give me, an intense sense of the astonishing “realness” of things. He had the ability to see and feel what most of us see and do not see. He had what Alan Jacobs called “omnivorous attentiveness.” I love that phrase. What this has done for me is hard to communicate. To wake up in the morning and to be aware of the firmness of the mattress, the warmth of the sun’s rays, the sound of the clock ticking, the coldness of the wooden floor, the wetness of the water in the sink, the sheer being of things (“quiddity” as he called it). And not just to be aware but to wonder. To be amazed that the water is wet. It did not have to be wet. If there were no such thing as water, and one day someone showed it to you, you would simply be astonished.
He helped me become alive to life. To look at the sunrise and say with an amazed smile, “God did it again!” He helped me to see what is there in the world—things which if we didn’t have them, we would pay a million dollars to have, but having them, ignore. He convicts me of my callous inability to enjoy God’s daily gifts. He helps me to awaken my dazed soul so that the realities of life and of God and heaven and hell are seen and felt.
The way of wonder may start with the world, but for Christians, it must move us toward the God of the gospel.
I’m heartened by the resurgence of expository preaching in our day, an approach that starts with the biblical text and explains its meaning. But exposition falls short if it never appeals to the imagination. We are called to do more than just rehearse the basic facts of the gospel; we are to exult in these truths, to immerse our imaginations in this story, and to adore the God who has saved us.
Jared Wilson is right:
We need prose that sings. We need writers who aren’t merely authorities in their areas and can relay information to us in competent ways. Or we need readers who will not settle for that kind of writer. We need writers who receive on literary frequencies, writers who feel what they write, who convey poetry or beauty or some ecstatic sense in their writing. We need writers whose work emanates off the page the hum and buzz of adoration.
Lord, deliver us from an attitude that says, “Of course Jesus has saved us!” Lord, help us when we no longer stand amazed at the precious truths we are called to proclaim!
We need the way of wonder, so that we see, truly see, both the world and our King.
So, let’s pray for the Spirit to enable to pastors to make what is unfamiliar understandable and what is familiar strangely fresh.
Let’s pray for pastors who want their people to understand the truth of the gospel, and also to feel its power and beauty.
Let’s pray for a generation of writers and artists and poets who can awaken us to the glory of this world and the goodness of the gospel, so that we will be astounded once again by God’s grace and glory and motivated to share this Story wherever we go.