Sunday, April 26, 2009

Theology of Big Words

C. Michael Patton had a good article up this week entitled A Theology of Big Words.

Every discipline or industry has its own vocabulary of technical terms that participants know. The tech terms are useful because they are packed with meeting through education or participation in the activities of that group, and thus become short hand for easier communication. Musicians have their terms that they use among themselves with total understanding. Computer geeks talk about bytes and bandwidths, sometimes confusing the rest of us in the process. In my professional life as a CPA we talk about debits, credits, GAAP and accruals among ourselves, and the terms are packed with meaning through our educations and common usage.

So why are so many preachers afraid of teaching their congregations Bible terminology and theological technical terms and then using the terms in teachings and sermons?

Preachers and Bible teachers should not be afraid of using "big words"- especially Bible terms like propitiation, atonement, predestination, justification or sanctification. We just have to be careful to pack the words with Biblical meaning, to fully explain them, and not assume our listeners already know the terms. They must be explained so that they can then be used for cogent effective communication. We need more theological teaching, not less. But it must be more teaching that is well done by leaders with both right knowledge and good communication skills.