Evolving our language carefully

When members of a faith are unable to express their ideas except in a language that is primarily associated with a rival religious system—can use only the words and intellectual categories of another creed—that minority religion is en route to oblivion.

-Philip Jenkins, The Lost History of Christianity, p.222

There is a tricky push-pull with how much we as Christians should use the old rich language of our faith and scripture, and the modern secularist language of science and political correctness. If we withdraw from the public discourse, then we isolate ourselves from our neighbors. That is not taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. Preaching on the street corner in Ye Olde King James English or even contemporary Christian idioms (“God laid it on my heart”) is going to be just noise to the passerby. On the other hand, if we rephrase our doctrine in terms of secular psychology and “ethics”, it’s very easy to shoot ourselves in the foot. To use another foot metaphor – preaching (or even just talking about) the gospel in terms of the latest Malcolm Gladwell book, the season finale of Lost, and Twitter might get our foot in the door, but then we may find that our luggage on wheels is permanently trapped in the hallway.

Language is always evolving. Conquest can make it change quickly. In a way, that’s almost easier. The slow movement will keep you on your toes. The Word is timeless, but we are in the timeline right now and must proclaim the Word (Jesus Christ, and him crucified and alive). We have the creative energy to do this, if we will lift a finger.