Like a Merchant Seeking Pearls

Noble and well-educated souls have no such high opinion of riches, beauty, strength, and other such like advantages, as to value themselves for them, or despise those that want them: and as for inward worth and real goodness, the sense they have of the divine perfections makes them think very meanly of any thing they have hitherto attained, and be still endeavouring to surmount themselves, and make nearer approaches to those infinite excellencies which they admire.
The Life of God in the Soul of Man,
Henry Scougal

I came to this particular passage rather providentially in my reading of The Life of God in the Soul of Man. Henry Scougal puts it as eloquently as Paul puts it bluntly: that all our temporal achievements, whether physical or intellectual, are passing, shallow, thin, and unworthy of praise when compared to the solid perfection of God. I think any one of us would readily, and heartily, admit to that, and I think any one of us would also admit to the infrequency with which we acknowledge the inferiority of our conquests.

Because I am published, and plan to be published again, I will occasionally look around publishing house websites to get an idea of who the authors are out there, what is going in the market, etc. Not that I have been much in the habit of catering to crowds, but I like to know, you know. But as I was perusing a site the other day, a site geared exclusively to publishing works under the heading of "Christian," I discovered something rather appalling and sadly common. As I read the author biography blurbs, who they are, where they came from, what they do, I realized that only one mentioned God. Only one mentioned God in a capacity of singular devotion. Only one author's blurb addressed his purpose as unveiling the Word of God. All the others were full of credentials (he studied here, he has preached to so many people, she runs this organization, she is a founder of this group). Each one so full of man-oriented, inferior conquests.

I could understand, and I would readily forgive, this if it were found on a secular website, or a publishing house that went both ways, "secular" as well as "Christian." But for a site that so ardently sketches itself out as catering to the Christian public, my poor little gullible mind could scarcely believe it. The characters on the screen spelled out the marketing mantras of this world. The credentials of these authors were all about their worldly aspirations and achievements.

Let's not down-play the good of some of these achievements. It's a good thing to have gone through the structure of seminary training, or to have the rigors of fostering a congregation under one's belt. But when it comes to speaking and writing the truth (which is, I assume, what writers who adhere to Christ mean to do) do these credentials hold a candle to a knowledge of the inward worth and real goodness of the divine perfections? Tell me, what really matters in the Kingdom of Heaven? Wealth? Eloquence? The best training seminaries have to offer? When you are called to give an account for the deeds done in the flesh, will you find that you hung out your shingle on the basis of your worldly triumphs ("Lord! Lord! we did all these things in your name!"), or will you find that your credentials were in accordance with the pursuit of holiness?

My father tells the story of his sojourn, like Dante in The Inferno, into a Christian bookstore. In his perusal of the shelves he heard two gentlemen speaking behind him. The first asked how he would know a good book, and the second replied, "Look for this symbol." As my father tells the story he says, "Of course at that point I had to turn around." It was the colophon of the publishing house Banner of Truth, an image of the preacher George Whitfield. In such a simple image, stalwart and be-robed, the publishing house conveys a grim, joyful adherence not to large congregations or stellar education, but to men through the ages who have clung to the truth of God's word above all else. Those are their credentials. That is their eloquence. That is their wealth. Not any station this world has to offer, but the lasting knowledge and growth in knowledge of a truth which outlasts all.

When I am asked "What makes you think that you can write?" I hope my credentials are simply that:

"I know what is valuable in the Kingdom of Heaven."

5 ripostes:

  1. I've noticed this as well, Jenny, and been saddened by it. I hope we never lose sight of the true reason behind our goals, and our true credentials in the eyes of our King. :)

  2. The most potent credential one can offer is that of a heart stripped bare, revealing the naked roots of faith that bind together all the works of our hands. It is that reckoning, that solid foundation, that our effectiveness depends upon.

    Better to have a hovel on a rock, indeed. Thank you, Jenny. ^.^

  3. This is certainly something to keep in mind while writing! This November with my NaNo novel, I am trying harder than ever before to keep that ultimate purpose in mind. To keep in mind that my ultimate goal and the ultimate goal of my novel should be to glorify the Lord! Thanks for sobering, but exciting reminder!

  4. Sober! Sober-minded. Among a generation that sings "reality is a lovely place, but I wouldn't want to live there," I wonder if sober-mindedness is not a bit freakish. (I am sure the older generation hides from the same reality, but I doubt they sing Owl City while doing it.) I am not gifted with an excessive amount of logic. I am quite intuitive, which is like being logical and mute at the same time, but while I can be thoroughly eccentric and not always very wise, sound, sober, Christ-mindedness has long been paramount in my life. I hope these delvings into my thoughts are never tedious, I sincerely hope they are true, and I am glad if they can impress even a little upon others the seriousness of cultivating a sound Christian mind.

  5. Yes, your words have impressed upon me "the seriousness of cultivating a sound Christian mind," one that is awake and aware to the truth that we live for Him and everything else is nothing. How kind He is to wait so long for us. I pray I'm getting this, really. Thank you.