Many Christians try very hard to be relevant to the culture around them that they avoid using Bible words for fear of being considered out of step with the latest trends. Their vocabulary is very limited to phrases like “blessings of God, unconditional love, inner peace, enjoying God’s best, happiness, getting over with something, and moving on.” They systematically reject heavy (read: religious) words like providence, atonement, substitutionary death, repentance, forgiveness, and justification. The mere mention of the word theology makes their ears bleed.
As far as I know, their reasons are simple: keep the gospel easy to understand for new believers; don’t burden them with theology; talk to them at their level and keep to the cool stuff so you won’t scare them away with too much religion.
I agree with speaking in understandable language. I agree with keeping things simple. It’s the dumbed down version of the Christian message that unsettles me. By avoiding Biblical words, we are raising a generation of biblically illiterate Christians who don’t know that words like propitiation and expiation exist. And by not knowing theologically rich terminologies, younger believers are missing out a lot on the revelation of God that could actually boost their spiritual lives. Yes you will hear them talk about God but you will be appalled at the conclusions they arrive at.
This has always puzzled me. Many church leaders snob proper theology because it’s supposedly difficult for ordinary people to swallow; yet these same people could understand a complex medical diagnosis when their lives are at stake. Even my mother who only finished elementary education understands agrarian law and could process our annual property tax better than I could for the sheer reason that these complex ideas are important to her.
I believe that the reason why we are lazy about learning theology is because we don’t see why it is necessary for life and godliness. We bought the lie that we could understand God and His ways by intuition. We think that as long as we feel good on Sunday mornings, we’re living our best lives now. We think that Christianity is all about being good and doing good and not hurting others. We think of God as our great pal in the high heavens with whom we could do a high five. We don’t tremble at the sound of the name of Jesus because we are ignorant of who He is. We don’t stand in awe in the presence of God because we don’t even understand the cost of how we got there. Like a cat wandering on a stage where a great piano master is playing, we have no idea whose presence we are in. We are flippant in our worship because of our ignorance of theology. Just as we make small talk with strangers, we mumble tired words and phrases in our prayers because we don’t really know what to say. No real relationship is going on there, just polite pleasantries and empty words to cover the awkward silence between God and us.
CS Lewis once said that if you don’t teach people theology, it doesn’t mean that they will have no ideas about God. It means that they will have wrong ideas about God. By avoiding theology, we teach people that knowing God is an enterprise not worth our time. By avoiding biblical words, we promote biblical illiteracy. And where would our people turn to when they need wisdom and comfort? To songs and slogans and the back of Christian themed t-shirts.
Hardly the place where solid spirituality is nurtured. And we wonder why the spiritual landscape of our churches are five miles wide and half inch deep.