Listening In … with Philip Yancey and Steven Curtis Chapman
- Monday, February 02, 2004
This is an interesting example because the book ["Rumors"] changed as I was writing it. I started out writing a book on how the daily Christian life works: How does prayer work, how does guidance work? The year before I started writing, we took four trips; and they were all to Europe. They were to places like Denmark and the Czech Republic, both of which have about a 2 percent church attendance rate. And when I would start to write “How Does Prayer Work,” I would think of my conversations with people in those countries. And their questions are: “What if there’s not even a God?”
Steven: Wow, OK, we’re going way back to “square one”!
Philip: So I kept backing up, backing up, backing up and then, in the process, the book changed. When I finished the book, I went back, read it and realized, “You didn’t write for those people.” I ended up cutting out 25,000 words between January and May, when I turned it in. And I keep thinking, “Man, if I could just figure out those words in advance, I’d save a lot of time!” But it was that whole thing of having to get it out of my head. Then I step out into the readers’ shoes and realize: “They’re not going to take all of this religious talk. I’ve got to use their language, their concepts and work from there — rumors, not facts.”
Steven: I have to admit, I started reading [the book], got into the first part, and I thought, “Well, this is probably going to be one of those great books that is written to the seeker person.” And here I am currently wrestling with thinking, “God what do You want me to communicate; what would You give me to say?” I’ve found myself saying to God as I started reading "Rumors": “What do You want to say to Your church? Obviously that’s the voice You’ve given me. Those are the people who I speak to most, so I’m going to see where this takes me.” What is so powerful about the truth is that when it’s communicated and expressed in a creative and artistic way — a way that God has gifted you to do — truth speaks to the heart. It’s amazing, though, that you ended up cutting out 25,000 words. I want to hear those other 25,000 words!
Philip: I’ve got them in a computer file called “junk”!
Steven: You have to do the extended versions…
Philip: Like these DVDs...
Steven: Exactly — the bonus features!
Philip: One of the things I’m trying to do in this book is reclaim the world. Somehow Christians “shrank” down. We only deal with what’s “spiritual” or what’s “supernatural.” Everything else in the world we’ll leave to the artists, or we’ll leave it to whomever. And that’s such a small view of the world, and it’s not God’s view of the world.
Read the Bible. When God appeared to Job, Job had a theological question: “Why do bad things happen to me?” And what did God do? He said, “Let Me take you on a tour of nature,” and He talked about snowstorms, mountain goats, the ostrich, crocodile, wild horses, etc. And at the end Job said, “OK, I give up!”
God was pointing to the rumors around him, just saying, “Look Job, look around you. If I can create these things, if I can create a world that works like this, don’t you think I’m smart enough to know what I’m doing with your life even when it doesn’t look like it?” When Job understood that he said, “Well yeah, You’re God; I’m not. I can’t even create one snowflake, much less a blizzard.” So God uses the world as His artistic deal.
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