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More Piper

A John Piper sermon that I listened to at work today started with a great point:

"There is a sad irony to the seeming successes of many Christian churches and schools. And the irony is this: the more you adjust or obscure biblical doctrine in order to make Christian reality acceptable to unbelievers, the less Christian reality there is when they arrive...If you alter or obscure the biblical portrait of God in order to attract converts, you do not get converts to God, you get converts to an illusion. That is not evangelism; that is deception."

And no, I'm not a Disciple of Piper. I just happen to think he's one of the most insightful writers/preachers on the scene today.


And then there is the flipside irony to that: we often subsist in a Christian sub-culture in which we isolate ourselves from the larger culture with our flowery vocabulary and actions only understood and affirmed by other Christians. Often spiritual (not social) arrogance goes undetected even by those who have it and we ourselves become untranslatable to those with whom we are trying to communicate the gospel to.

I meant to ask this earlier, but never got around to it. What forms of "churchspeak" do you particularly find problematic?

It's my contention that certain words have a necessary place in the church because they best (or at least most concisely) express our meaning. For example, the terms "justification" and "sanctification" are very "churchy," yet IMO are vital words for concisely communicating these ideas within the church.

I'm not suggesting that we can't replace these with different words if our language changes enough to require it. But currently, I can't think of any less "churchy" words that communicate what we mean by "justification" as clearly and concisely as the word itself.

Arguably, we might have to modify our speech when evangelizing outside the church ("become all things to all people"), but I don't think it's unreasonable to use certain "churchspeak" in communicating with each other, provided we're all clear on what we mean by these words.

I think you’re right in saying that words like “justification” are essential in communicating the tenets of Christianity, and I have no problem with those. Many concepts of Christianity, including vocabulary, can’t simply be changed—and I’m the last person to endorse something like “The Bible For Truckers, Scripture Easily Understood For Those On The Road” in the name of coherence to culture.

Where my irritation and frustration lies is more subtle. The best way I can explain it is to give direct examples of things I have heard in the past:

“Does anyone have any prayer requests?”
“Yes, well, I have two unspokens.”

“Our pastoral staff is being revamped—everyone is supposed to find their passion and then serve in those passionate areas.”

“I hear that guy from Bible study asked you out to coffee. Are you going to go?”
“Well, I just don’t know if he has a heart for the world. And I definitely can’t be with someone who doesn’t have the same heart that I do.”

“For our Ladies Luncheon, we will be making bead bracelets—one for you and one for an unsaved friend. The cost is $5, but there are bead scholarships available for those who cannot afford it.”

I know that all sounds a bit ridiculous, but I’ve heard all of that in various places (its not just that I go to a Christian university) and it is all pretty much verbatim. It is these sorts of phrases that make me cringe with the fluffy talk and often spiritual superiority that I cannot stand. It’s the worship choruses that were earlier discussed, and what made us all wince when watching “Saved!” that troubles me.

Thanks for the clarification, and I'm in full agreement. I think a lot of times we (and I'm definately including myself) use words or phrases that we don't really understand in order to just sort of cover our misunderstanding, or as a result of being too lazy to think through and articulate what we really mean.

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