Sunday, July 15, 2007

Jesus and Vocabulary

Words you won't find among those spoken by Jesus in scripture:

Ecclesiology. Ecumenicism. Trinitarianism. Apostolic succession. Eschatology. Dispensationalism. Preterism. Futurism. Millennialism. Soteriology. Salvific. Calvinism. Arminianism. Universalism. Anabaptist. Eucharist. Transsubstantiation. Sacrament. Orthodox. Conservative. Liberal. Denomination. Liturgy. Extra-canonical. Antinomianism.

Words you will find among those spoken by Jesus in scripture:

Go. Do. Sell. Give. Forgive. Teach. Baptize. Remember. Love. Serve. One.

Do we complicate things too much?

- I'm just asking.

7 comments:

Matt said...

We systematize and rationalize and we end up clouding the waters far more than was intended.

jettybetty said...

I was thinking the same thing recently--we mostly differ over stuff not even in the NT--and mostly agree on Jesus!

BTW, I've given you a little award over on my blog!!
=-)

David U said...

Dead on........as usual!

DU

Ray Fleming said...

Yes. I think things can become overcomplicated by using complex words with multiple meanings. Not to mention, many words have acquired emotional connotations (liberal and conservative come to mind) so that they become more like weapons than descriptors. Whenever possible, we should avoid using words (any words) in that fashion. (This is easier said than done. I must profess that I have and do and will again fall into the old habit of using words lazily, or worse, with malice.)

That said, I don't think any of the words in your first list had any meaning in the first century, so, naturally, they were not used. That does not mean that they are not now useful. I'll toss out an example: How is Calvinism different from Arminianism and should I care? This is a conversation worth having as long as we understand that we're talking about the ideas of two men plus all the accretions their ideas have taken on since they were first proposed. We should not ignore that conversation because it is complicated. We are all theologians to some extent. We must interpret the scriptures. We must hold some opinions or theories about "what" and "why" and "who" and "how." Our theology is not formed in a vacuum. Should we avoid those who came before because they used a complex word? And, if we do avoid that conversation, what is to prevent us from making the same mistakes they made?

Of course we should be mindful about where and when and with whom we use these words. If you and I were sitting at the table together we might use one vocabulary. If a new Christian or a non-Christian were at the table with us, we might use another vocabulary. If the new or non-Christian asks, "Why does the shedding of Jesus' blood work?" well, that's soteriological in its scope, though we probably wouldn't use that word. I might stumble around before saying, "You know, I'm not really sure, but here's what I think." I may, at that point, borrow what I understand from Jesus or Paul or John or Peter or Calvin or Aquinas or C. S. Lewis or N. T. Wright or use something I thought up myself. In the end, though, it's my theory about why blood “works” and what I think has a basis in what came before. I may even argue this theory adequately well. I may, just as easily, argue it abysmally. Ultimately, though, the conversation is geared towards persuading that person to follow Jesus, not Calvin or Arminius or, even, me or you. Whether we use simple words or complex words depends on the person with whom we’re speaking.

I think, in the end, all these words enter our lexicon because people ask simple questions that require complex answers. They simply wanted to know why this or that or the next thing. But, in the explaining, we discovered that it wasn’t really as simple as we’d like to think. Make no mistake about it; the gospel is simple and complex both at the same time. Jesus is both straight-forward and enigmatic. I think the vocabulary we use to explain things reflects that fact.

Alan Gable said...

Um. I'm not sure we're the ones doing the complicating. ...the mystery of godliness is great...oh, the depths of the riches of the wisdom of God...

Maybe some of our 2 dollar words are a pathetic attempt to circumvent faith.....but what do I know.

larry said...

We just look a whole lot smarter using the big words!

It also provides a unique aura of divorcement between the professional religionist who pietistically expound their Soteriological, Eschatological, and Salvific proclamations, and us old country boys.

Lee Hodges said...

Yes!