Answers to the real questions

Some twenty years ago I wrote the manuscript for a book that I gave the working title “The Challenge of Change.”  It dealt with the need for some substantial changes in the Adventist Church and outlined some areas where I felt those changes would be most needed. At the time it was tentatively accepted by one of the American Adventist publishers, but the plan was abandoned due to serious criticism from “above”.  I had almost forgotten about it, but when the topic of “change” emerged in a conversation I recently had with some church leaders in the domain of communications, I was encouraged to take another look at the manuscript, and update and revise it where necessary.

I am not very good in solving computer problems and when, after I had excavated the document from the recesses of the hard disk of my laptop, it took me a lot of effort to change the ancient Word Perfect format into something I could work with in the Word program that my Apple MacBook Air is able to handle, with footnotes and page number etc. in the right shape.  But, somehow, I succeeded and during the last month or so I spent a significant amount of time in updating, revising and (hopefully) improving what I wrote two decades ago. Last week ago I submitted the revised document to a publisher. At that point the customary waiting period begins: Will it be accepted for publication? If so, is the publisher happy with the text as it stands, or will there be a request for some changes or even for the rewriting of some sections?

However, during such a process of waiting I usually start on a new writing project. For some time I have toyed with the idea of writing a book on the theme of death and resurrection. I have been in dialogue with one of our Adventist publishers and have in principle been given the green light. I have provided a tentative outline and I have begun to work on some of the chapters that I have in mind.  Yet, there is one fundamental question that still needs to be clarified: Who are the intended readers?  Is it meant to be a book for Adventists mainly, or primarily for non-Adventists? That makes quite a difference.

Another important aspect is:  What are the topics and sub-topics I should deal with and in what order? As an Adventist pastor it is not difficult for me to opt for the traditional approach and determine what I feelthe readers need to know. But a person who had read the book proposal sent me a list with questions today’s people might have with regard to death and the hereafter, but that we seldom touch upon in Adventist publications on the topic.

Yesterday I was reading the draft of a chapter a PhD candidate in the USA had asked me to review. He wanted me to be one of his readers as he plows along. His subject has to do with the presence and witness of the church in an urban setting.  In the chapter that I read yesterday he emphasizes the need for the church to respond to actual questions, rather than give answers to questions we thinkthe people have or should have. And that will be my challenge also as I write my book about death and resurrection: What real questions do real people—religious and non-religious—have about this topic that affects all of us in such an existential way? Of course, it remains to be seen whether or not I have satisfying answers. The only thing I can promise is: I will do my level best.

PS. Of course, whenever we talk about our faith, the real questions of others (and not the questions we think they have, or should have), should be the starting point.