Enticed by the Essay

In my search for a genre…

Wait a minute, who starts a post, “In my search for a genre?” / The son of a son of a writer.

In my search for a genre, I’ve lately been enticed by the essay.

When I was a kid, essays and short stories were my favorite genre to read. Nearly as rewarding as reading a novel (and sometimes just as enveloping), a well-crafted essay gives us the ability to see the world in a grain of sand. It’s a compact genre, like poetry. Yet essays can appear to be meandering, following the contours of the mind and paying off in terms of the journey, even if the destination is different for various readers. The essay seems to fit my innate need to analyze, to reflect, to meditate.

Just today, I found myself nosing through the history of the essay, realizing some of my favorite literary figures–from Arthur Miller to Flannery O’Connor–have been essayists. I guess I read more short stories (both Miller and O’Connor have composed some great ones), but I seem to recall getting lost in some Orwell piece as a teenager, or maybe it was an O. Henry story. I dunno. Obviously, some education is needed before a betrothal is made.

Flirting with the essay, though, I have been doing for decades. This admission may be too much: I loved college essays! From the literary analysis questions on the SAT test to the three-hour festschrifts of graduate school, essays have treated me well and been an enduring object of my affection. But now, I feel like I should get serious. It’s time to get to know the genre I’ve used, but never really settled with.

So, anybody have suggestions for great literary essays to read? Where should I start?




I really like this poem:


It has, in its muted skepticism, a ring of truth, the kind of truth the preacher in Ecclesiastes would have acknowledged. Skepticism can be the back door into a true faith. Then again, it may be an avenue to suicide. What we can’t know doesn’t have to imprison us, but in my view, we need a glimpse above the sun. Skepticism is sometimes a dull mirror catching transcendent rays.

I’m not sure Weldon Kees ever traced those rays to their source.

The Christ of Christmas

Like Ricky Bobby, many people prefer the Jesus of Christmas to other, more mature versions of the incarnate Son of God revealed in the Scriptures. But the “8 pound, 6 ounce newborn infant Jesus” of Christmas grew up. So, when we think of Christmas, we should remember the Jesus who:

  • LIVED a sinless life, a life that was free of not only impurity, but also false piety and Phariseeism;
  • DIED at the hands of a corrupt government and religious institution, willingly, for us, as our substitute;
  • ROSE from death on the third day, reversing the fall and its curse, granting us eternal life with him;
  • REIGNS over heaven and earth, establishing his kingdom both now and in the consummate future.

This Jesus, now resurrected, reigning and returning to finally redeem and judge the world, is the Christ of Christmas. Please don’t separate the person of Christ from the work of Christ, either in your thinking or your worship. The point of the incarnation is death and resurrection, and the point of resurrection is redemption for a lost and sinful world, for all who follow him as Lord by faith.

Hebrews 7:26 – He is the kind of high priest we need because he is holy and blameless, unstained by sin.
 Matthew 16:6 – “Watch out!” Jesus warned them. “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
John 10:18 – No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily.
Romans 5:6 – When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.
2 Corinthians 5:21 – For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
Romans 8:11 – Just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies
1 Corinthians 15:45 – The Scriptures tell us, “The first man, Adam, became a living person.” But the last Adam—that is, Christ—is a life-giving Spirit.
Colossians 1:13 – For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son
2 Timothy 4:1 – Christ Jesus, who will someday judge the living and the dead when he appears to set up his Kingdom

Alvin Plantinga’s New Book on God and Science – NYTimes.com

Alvin Plantinga’s New Book on God and Science – NYTimes.com.  If you can still get to this link (NYT is pretty proprietary), this is definitely worth the read. Plantinga has taken off the gloves in his sparring with the New Atheists. And he thinks science not only is compatible with faith, but actually fits a theistic worldview better than a naturalistic one. This debate–or the long running debate at this level–is just heating up!