Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Still Denmark’s Literary Giant, at 85

He’s now 85 and one of Denmark’s most recognized literary voices, an outspoken conservative Christian who was, in his college days, just as much of an outspoken atheist. He’s the author of nearly 50 books, mainly Biblically based fiction and faith-based romances, as well as countless articles and opinion pieces. And he’s not about to stop writing about the God he loves.

Poul Hoffmann at his typewriter (photo: Ole Mortensen)
Yet up to now Poul Hoffmann has shied away from writing an autobiography. So his historian son, Helge, recently produced his own version of Poul’s life story, Vinden blæser hvorhen den vil (The Wind Blows Wherever It Pleases). 

The title echoes a conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, recorded in John 3:8. (“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”) And as Magnus explained in his book’s forward, the stories he records are simply a result of casual conversations between father and son. 

As you might guess, the younger Hoffmann is in a unique position of understanding his father better than any journalist, so the book reflects that insight. It’s also an opportunity for the elder Hoffmann to offer up a variety of opinions, as he has for the past 60 years as a writer and public figure.

Poul has something to say about fame, for instance. In an interview with Kristeligt Dagblad, Denmark’s Christian news daily, he explains the potential pitfalls.

“I always have to watch out that I don’t indulge in taking all the glory,” he says, “the way Moses did when he had the fortune to draw water from a rock.”

Or on relationships. Without hesitation, he says the biggest thing that ever happened to him was meeting his wife Kirsten, who would herself become a skilled editor and writing partner. The couple met in 1950, at a time when Poul described himself as “aggressively antichristian.” During a train ride to visit Kirsten, however, he says he experienced a revelation. In an instant, it became clear to him that everything in the Bible was true. Since then he’s been known for his vigorous defense of Biblical inerrancy.

“It wasn’t something I chose,” he says. “It was something that chose me. And ever since then, I’ve been categorically committed to it.”

Most recently, Poul and Kirsten have been the subject of headlines in Denmark for disenrolling from the state Lutheran church over its decision to sanction homosexual weddings.

So Poul has been called a “modern dinosaur,” an expression C.S. Lewis also used of himself to describe an old-school writing philosophy, perhaps also a way of describing the contrast between his conservative faith and the surrounding popular culture. The nickname seems to fit the Dane as well as it once did the Englishman.

Still Poul continues to hammer out novels on his manual Olympia typewriter. Not every day, and yet…

“It’s slow now,” he tells the Dagblad. “Sometimes extremely s-l-o-w. And that’s probably what bothers me a little about getting old: That there’s not as much juice in the batteries.” But, he adds, “You never run dry when you’re writing about biblical stories.”

And like the wind Jesus once mentioned, who knows where the creative journey for Poul and Kirsten will lead next? 

PRAY for Poul and Kirsten Hoffman, for their influence on Danish culture, and for their continuing ministry through literature. 

PRAY that God would reach hearts through Poul’s books and through other Christian literature, now and in months to come. 

PRAY for a new generation of Christian writers in Denmark who will follow Poul’s path as they reach Denmark for Christ… through story and through God’s truth. 

PRAY that God would raise up even more stories and books by Danish Christians to spark revival in the lives of many Danes during their long, dark winter. After all, it’s a good time to read!

Sunday, December 08, 2013

A Christmas Challenge

For years, special Christmas magazines have been a popular tradition in Denmark. Often they have included quaint short stories, articles, recipes, or a variety of lighthearted features on holiday cheer. They’re almost as much a part of the holiday tradition in Denmark as a favorite Christmas television special.

So this year Udfordringen (The Challenge), a Christian news and outreach publication, is once again producing its own 32-page holiday outreach issue, called Julens Udfordring (The Challenge of Christmas). Priced at 5 Danish kroner apiece (less than a dollar), it’s designed to be passed along to friends, neighbors, and co-workers.

But… a printed magazine? In an age of online communications, the old-school format seems like a bit of a throwback. But Julens Udfordring will feature plenty of pop culture references and articles, from The Hobbit motion picture to TV personalities. Hillsong’s Copenhagen fellowship (a recent church plant aimed at Internationals that promotes lively, contemporary worship) is also included. And according to the publishers, every article in this issue is designed to focus on the true meaning of Christmas.

That’s a challenge in a country where Christmas is the highlight of a long winter, where Christmas traditions are taken very seriously and held very dearly. Danes are specialists in this holiday. It’s also a time of year when many Danes who would otherwise never attend church, do. So Julens Udfordring goes to the heart of the Danish Christmas with an even deeper, more potent message.

After all, the message of the God who put on flesh is infinitely more powerful than heartwarming carols and julenisser (Christmas elves), roast goose or gift-giving. Even in the pages of a simple Christmas magazine, the Creator of the universe is reaching down to enter a dark, chilly northern land where Christmas candles may burn brightly in every window, but where the genuine Light of the world still needs to find its way into the hearts of all its people.

PRAY that the Light of the world, Jesus, will burst out of quaint Danish Christmas customs this year, that many Danes will read and understand the message of peace through Julens Udfordring.

PRAY that Julens Udfordring magazines will find their way into unexpected places, that copies will be passed along to those who need to read it, and that many who are far from faith will have their hearts softened to hear about the real Jesus this Christmas season.

PRAY for the believers behind Julens Udfordring, for their protection and health, that they may continue to reach out with the daring message of salvation -- in print, online, or through whatever means God opens up.

And while you’re at it, please PRAY that God will use this Christmas season to bring salvation and revival to many more Danes. Julens Udfordring is just one open door of many.