Category Archives: Douglas Wilson

“Read, reread, and reread again” by Douglas Wilson

“As a general pattern, read quality literature, and go ‘slumming’ occasionally to remind yourself what quality is and why quality matters. And when you go slumming, enjoy yourself.

Don’t act like you just came down to check out the rubes and cornpones. In the writer’s restaurant, you should know what first rate cordon bleu is and, at the same time, not be above enjoying an elephant ear or a funnel cake at the state fair.

‘Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend’ (Prov. 27:17). In a similar way that conversation sharpens a man’s countenance, conversation with men throughout history sharpens a man’s mind.

You don’t want to hang out all the time with lazy friends—bad companions corrupt good morals. If this is the case, and it is, then a point should be made to seek out profitable companions in a disciplined fashion throughout your life with books.

Set a lifetime pattern of reading books. Set a course of reading, and adopt general criteria which will guide your reading. I would recommend one to two books a week.

If you began this when you were thirty and joined the choir invisible when you were seventy, you would have read, over this course of time, between 2,080 books and 4,160 books. It is quite true that you run the risk of learning something, but these are the risks a writer must take.

Read attentively and with your eyes open, but not as though you are cramming for a test. The reason you should not read as though studying for a test is that, as we have already noted, the vast majority of what you learn (with great profit) you will not be able to recall. Read with a pen, pencil, or highlighter so that you can mark things of interest in a way that will help you find them again, and keep your reading intelligent and interactive.

Generally speaking, read canonical literature. The amount of books in the world is vast, and your reading should be filled with purpose and intent. You are not wandering around aimlessly in circles, which would be easy to do if the books you read were to be selected at random. Canonical reading provides you with the protections of a collective wisdom.

Anyone who wants to write in the English language needs to focus on the canon of Scripture. Read, reread, and reread again. This is of course something that all Christians should do, but it is also something every writer should do. For shaping the cadences of your mind, there is nothing like the Authorized Version.”

–Douglas Wilson, Wordsmithy (Moscow, ID: Canon, 2012), 42-43.

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“Eternal life is the ultimate story” by Douglas Wilson

“All the best stories which have been told or lived out before this are like dreams compared to the real story that we will all eventually wake up into. That story is one that never ends, ‘in which every chapter is better than the one before.’

In other words, heaven is like a story, but one that is better than the best book you have ever read. The hints that Lucy got in the magician’s book, or the hints that you get when you read a really great book or have an especially good dream—those all point to the final book.

All earthly stories end, even when they are so good that you wish they would go on and on for thousands of pages more. But this final story will not end. Every chapter is richer, fuller, and more thrilling than the last. Eternal life is the ultimate story.

Every good story foretells this last one in some way. Every good story that is told here on earth has a kind of shadowy reality, but it always taps into a deeper reality and truth.

J. R. R. Tolkien was once asked if he thought that The Lord of the Rings had actually happened somewhere, at some time. He replied, ‘One hopes.’ Lewis and Tolkien believed that storytelling was much more than just making something up. It was about human writers, as bearers of God’s image, imitating God’s work of creation.

Even though they cannot create physical things in reality, they can still create worlds that resonate with the truth of God’s reality. This is why Lewis said that a good adventure story is truer than a dull history.

The events in the story might not have happened, but it more closely resembles the type of world that God made than a soulless retelling of true events. And when we finally enter heaven we will realize in full how all the best stories were prefiguring that last, greatest story of all…

It is so important for you to devote yourself to reading good stories. Life is too short for bad ones. Learn to read good stories and learn to write good stories too. Practice writing good stories by writing really bad ones, and by showing them to your teachers and parents and friends so they can help you make better stories.

The Christian world needs far more good storytellers than it has. Some of us might be tempted to think that the Christian world needs more theology books instead, but I think that is fundamentally against the spirit of the Bible. The Bible is not a book full of theology and doctrine.

It is a book full of stories, poetry, prophecies, and songs, along with a few doctrinal books. Of course, I am not saying theology and doctrine are unimportant; they are essential. But most of God’s word comes to us in the form of story.

Whether they are the parables of Jesus or the great stories of the Old Testament, like David defeating Goliath, Jehoshaphat conquering with the choir in front of the army, the walls of Jericho falling down, the escape from Egypt and the dividing of the Red Sea—they all remind us to think about the Christian life and our relationship to God as a story. We are supposed to live like we are in one of God’s stories.

This is why I believe that one of the most important things C. S. Lewis did for the Christian world was to bring back the centrality of storytelling. We do not need to feel guilty about loving these stories. We do not need to think, ‘If I were a real Christian I would be reading something more serious instead of these stories.’

Rather, we are supposed to love stories. We are supposed to think in these categories and try out these thought experiments. If you were with King Tirian in The Last Battle, what would you do? If you were sailing on the Dawn Treader, what kind of character would you be?

How would you react in this or that situation? We are continually telling ourselves stories all day long. We convince ourselves that we are a certain kind of character and that our friends and family and other people we meet are other kinds of characters. What kind of story are you telling? Is it true?”

–Douglas Wilson, What I Learned in Narnia (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2010), 125-127.

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“Two kinds of black” by Douglas Wilson

“As we celebrate the coming of the Christ, we must never forget the kind of world He was born into. The blackness that the star of Bethlehem shone brightly from was a creational blackness, the kind of blackness that was visible on the first day of our world–when it was evening and it was morning, the first day, and it was all very good.

But the child Himself was the morning star, and the blackness that He shone brightly from was a Herodian blackness, a moral darkness, an ethical night of pitch black sin. The slaughter of the innocents is an integral part of the Christmas story, and not some unfortunate event that happened around the same time.

It was the kind of thing that illustrated the reason why Christ had to come in the first place. But strikingly, I don’t think it is possible to buy a nativity set that has any of Herod’s soldiers in it. We don’t want to tell ourselves the whole story, whether past or present.

Then, as now, the choice was stark. Either we will receive Christ to rule over us, and we will welcome Him gladly, or we will turn our backs on Him, and welcome the ways of coercion and blood. Ultimately, there will be blood one way or the other, and so the choice will be between the blood of the willing sacrifice, or countless unwilling sacrifices.

It is either Christ on the cross, and the salvation of the world, or it will be all the possible permutations of Molech worship, and the maw of death that is never satisfied. It will either be the death that arrived when Christ cried out, ‘It is finished,’ or it will be the way of death that is never finished and never satisfied.

And so, celebrate this Advent with gospel satisfaction. Rest in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, that was a once for all completion. Tell the story of the turmoil and unrest in the world that Christ came into, and teach your children how that unrest cannot be given rest apart from receiving the yoke of Jesus Christ.

In that manger we see the warrior who was born to slay the dragon, and we see that the dragon instinctively knew the nature of the threat and tried to do what dragons always do. The dragon raged all through the streets of Bethlehem because his time was short.

We sing in the streets of Bethlehem because the dragon has been slain, and we say of the one who did this great thing that of the increase of His government there will be no end.”

–Douglas Wilson, “Two Kinds of Black” as cited on http://www.dougwils.com/index.asp?Action=Anchor&CategoryID=1&BlogID=7185 (accessed December 7, 2009).

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“This is music out loud” by Douglas Wilson

“In Ephesians 5, the apostle Paul requires musical instrumentation in worship. He says there that we are to be ‘speaking to [one another] in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in [our] heart to the Lord’ (Eph. 5:19). The translation in the heart would better be rendered as with the heart. We would say ‘singing and making melody with all our hearts.’

This is not an arbitrary choice; we can tell this contextually. The short phrase ‘making melody’ is a rendition of a word that means to pluck a string–psallo. Going over a song in our hearts is something we have all done. Singing silently can be done–even though it is frustrating, and is always looking for an outlet.

But very few of us have played the oboe in our hearts, or played a trumpet or piano there. Doing that kind of thing is way too close to playing air guitar. Telling the Ephesians to play the violin in their hearts would be a little bit odd. So Paul tells the Ephesians to sing and play stringed instruments–just the kind of thing that the psalmist would exhort Israel and all the nations to do.

This is music out loud. But the driving force of the exhortation reveals the motive for instruments, and the motive for robust singing. We are told to sing with all our hearts. This kind of heart attitude looks around for ways to make it better, richer, louder. The same kind of thing comes out in Colossians.

As the word dwells in us richly, the music should come out richly. A rich interior life cannot result in a poverty-stricken musical expression. We are here to worship God. We have music before us that is designed to help us with this. We should stand on the balls of our feet, eager to express in song what we believe God has done for us. After all, He is worthy.”

–Douglas Wilson, “Instruments in Worship,” (accessed on 9/17/2009).

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