While this is not an all-inclusive list, these categories roughly outline the parameters of the types of writing that we’re interested in publishing.
Book Reviews & Symposia
Books are at the center of academic life, and Sapientia is dedicated to producing high-quality book reviews. We are not interested in technical and academic book reviews of the sort that one finds in academic journals, unless the implications of that book can be clearly connected with the life of the church. Overall, the review of books is bound up with the presentation of new ideas and authors as well as the reclamation of those that are old and forgotten, but no less relevant to a broadly evangelical audience committed to the “renewing of the mind” in the midst of our modern ecclesial context.
- Book Review: Aim for 1,500–2,000 words. Critical engagement with the book. The review can include some of the traditional elements of a standard, journal book review—summarizing the basic content, situating it within its wider intellectual and cultural context and to its intended readership, several points of affirmation and criticism—we prefer reviews that creatively and constructively focus on one or two aspects of the book. See, for example, Todd Billings’ “Modern Medicine and Human Dignity,” or Hans Madueme’s “A Proposal to End all Wars.” Your own voice should also be apparent in the review.
- Book Notes: Aim for c.750–1,250 words. More summation than a review and perhaps a concluding statement about its broader contribution. Should situate the book in its intellectual and cultural context, make clear the intended (or most benefited) readership, and give some guidance on who will or will not benefit from reading this book. Here, the key is as much keeping readership up to date with important publications. Doug Sweeney and the Edwards Center have mastered this form. Cf., “Sweeney’s Booknotes.”
- Old Books: Aim for 1,250–2,000 words (depending on size, significance, and complexity of argument). Summation of important books (modern or ancient classics), briefly reviewing the subject and stating something of its continuing or renewed significance. Partially a commendation to tolle lege, possibly also an appropriation of an old book in a new way.
- Book Symposium: This would be a multi-post series, each post c.1,500–2,000 words, including an introductory post that summarizes the book, followed by 3-5 critical reflections on the book, ideally representative of a spectrum of positions. We would also then try to recruit the author to respond. The industry standard for this kind of book discussion is syndicatetheology.com. Check out Sapientia’s first crack at a Book Symposium, reviewing McKnight and Venema’s recent Adam and the Genome.
Digital publishing, and particularly the “blogosphere,” is increasingly well known for its eternal projection of opinions that no one should care about. Seeking to neither single-handedly rescue the veritable tradition of Op-eds nor confine it to the dustbins of history, Sapientia aims to cultivate thoughtful reflection on the current issues of our day.
- Opinion (current events, digital conversations, trending): Engage with something either said, an event, an interpretation of an event, lack of coverage of an event, intellectual trends, etc. These are opinion pieces. Some of these will also overlap with “Church and Culture” (see below). Word count: 750–1,500.
- Aphorism: This form is less connected with everyday life and events. An aphorism will play with a cultural idea in a more abstract way. It tends to be more poetic in nature—less argumentative and more perspective changing. Word count: 300–750.
- Reflection: Reflections are more open-ended than opinion pieces. Whereas opinions are presenting and defending a position, a reflection is more ‘along the way.’ The difference is more one of degree than kind (opinion pieces, after all, can acknowledge openness and uncertainty, but it also needs to be more definitive on at least something). See Jack Collins’ reflection piece “Breaking News: Science Disproves the Bible” for an excellent example of this form done well.
- Areopagite: A certain controversial question is posed—“Do infants go to heaven?” “Should we have theological reservations about multi-site churches ecclesial models?”, etc.—then a handful of respected and representative contributors respond to the question. Word count c. 1,250–2,000 words; some variance depending on the question.
The idea of this meta-category is to bring to public “attention” some event, person, or institution of importance. The attention itself is indicative of importance and part of the way that we are able to shape an agenda. An important part of newsworthiness is not only timeliness (News & Events, Obituary, etc.), but also bringing from obscurity that which you believe is worthy of greater attention and potentially capable of changing the way that we think about a host of other issues. Who are Emerging Adults, for example? Where are they present in our churches? Bob Priest’s project on Witchcraft Accusations in Africa is trying to change a conversation by shifting the focus (attention) from the reality of witchcraft and the supposed witches to the accusations themselves. Profiles have thus been an important part of their message thus far.
- Ministry Focus/Spotlight: There are great things happening all over throughout the global church. Yet, in our media saturated culture, we tend only to consider the urgent and the catastrophic “news.” Here, the idea is to bring to light the good things being done in the name of Christ. Approximately 500–1,500 words. These are brief, journalistic highlights.
- News & Events: You can use this category either in anticipation of an important event or in response to one. For example, Bruce Fields wrote a reflective piece on the 50th anniversary of Malcom X’s assassination. Mary Lewis’s piece in the WSJ, “At the Threshold between Art and Nature,” is another example—perhaps the perfect example of what Sapientia is aiming for—which introduces an art exhibit by providing some art history/commentary. The scale and audience are different in these various pieces, but they’re all calling attention to a particularly newsworthy (at least for some) event. Approximately 750-1,500 words, depending on the level of reflection given to the event.
- Eulogy: Opportunity to recognize and commemorate important (and sometimes unknown) people and their lives and influence. These should be published within a month of the person’s death. For an example, see Kevin Vanhoozer, “John Webster: A Testimonial.” Approximately 750–1,500 words, depending on the level of reflection and importance of the person.
- Profiles: Like “Ministry Focus,” the idea is to call attention to a person who is doing important work. It recognizes the person, but also provides an opportunity to demonstrate unique ways of addressing current problems. This also overlaps with “Interview,” and the two could easily work in sequence with one another. This should not be written in the first person.Approximately 1,000–1,500 words.
- Interview: There are great minds and thoughtful and engaging persons all over the world, some taking up “residence” in the digital “world” and others not. We at Sapientia have no pretense of being the voice, but only an active voice, writing from an orthodox, broadly evangelical perspective. “Interview” is thus a reflection of our commitment to building relationships and connections. Like a few of categories above, the key here is to present important people and/or ideas. Interviews can be responses to recently published books, spotlighting someone of importance, or perhaps even an expert on a topic of some recent event. With interviews, a short intro should stipulate who this person is and why they’re important to a given subject. This can be written in the first person. Aim for 5-8 questions and about 750–1,250 words. See Geoff Fulkerson’s interview with Jack Collins.
Biblical, Historical, & Theological Engagement
These relate to the heart of theological and academic life and tie more tightly to constructive theological engagement. These categories are usually used in multi-post format, such as our “Reading Genesis with the Church” series.
- Exegesis: Exegesis posts simply move from more detailed textual engagement towards varying degrees of contemporary issues. For example, in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling on Obergefell v. Hodges, we are currently reviewing a piece on “rights” discourse in biblical and theological perspective. The piece is not directly related to the current event, but looking at Scripture from a commonly neglected angle. See Josh Jipp’s series on Paul and Justification. Word count: 1,000–1,500 words.
- Church & Culture: These are posts that are presenting a cultural trend or issue and how it manifests itself in daily ecclesial life. Stimulating cross pollination between cultural analysis and theological engagement is crucial. For a wonderful little series, see David Setran’s “Spiritual Attentiveness in Emerging Adulthood.” Word count: 1,000–2,000 words.
- Semantics: Definitions are important. Words are powerful. Calling attention either to disputes in various definitions or to the history and contemporary usage (and sometimes obliviousness) of words is thus highly valuable. This is especially true for people of the book. Approximately 1,000–1,500 words, possibly as high as 2,000.
- Rooting the Faith: Drawing attention to our roots is a nod to tradition—an area evangelicals haven’t often given proper regard. “Rooting the faith” may consist in three different kinds of posts: (i) a brief reflection based on the calendar date, either something in the liturgy itself (e.g. Ascension Thursday) or a significant person/event in church history (e.g. birth of Karl Barth). (ii) a rapprochement of a forgotten but still important idea, or (iii) the historical illumination and background description of current issues in the church (e.g. the rise of young earth creationism). Examples of (ii) can be found in the “Reading Genesis with the Church” series, and Gavin Ortlund’s “Confessing Creation with St Augustine.”
- Theological loci (theology): Like exegesis, this idea is rather straight-forward. Here, the idea is simply to attend to a particular theological issue, either timely or forgotten, e.g., a seven-part series on the seven deadly sins; an examination of the extra calvinisticum, and so forth. Approximately 1,000–1,500 words.