I am studying Theology on a part time basis with Salt & Light ministries and I am in my final year.
Is it just me that struggles with theological jargon? Or are there others out there?
Having had a comprehensive school and technical college educational background, and not reading a book all the way through until I was in my late twenties, is it any wonder? Or is all this jargon just unnecessary word snobbery?
Does theological jargon promote exclusiveness, like an exclusive club (‘if you do not use jargon you are not in the club’?). Or is it useful and important? Equally importantly, if we are studying theology for the sake of it and not using what we have learnt to benefit others what is the point?
Being a simple person, I like to use simple language. But would I be limiting myself by not subjecting myself to the vast array of theological words out there?
To give you a flavour, some of the words I have encountered are:
- Exegesis. Means – Interpretation of text’s in scripture.
- Hermeneutics. Means – Applying the text of scripture to todays world.
- Christology. Means – Study of the person of Christ.
- Soteriology. Means – The doctrine of salvation through Jesus.
- Synoptic. Means – Seen together, or similar.
- Ecclesiology. Means – The study of the Christian Church.
- Eschatology. Means – The understanding of the end times.
- Pneumatology. Means – The study of the Holy Spirit.
Of course this list is not exhaustible, but hopefully you get the point of what I am saying? Why use theological jargon when we could simplify words as shown above?
A good dictionary has been a lifeline to me through my studies, and I recommend one for those of the same mindset as me. I have lost count of the hours I have spent looking up the meaning of words when doing assignments and reading books.
Progress, three years later.
Having started studying theology nearly three years ago, I am due to finish in June this year (2014). It has been a long journey but a beneficial one.
I can remember our very first session and discovering words such as Exegesis and Hermeneutics, thinking “what am I doing here?” and “have I made a mistake doing this course?” I now think back to my first assignment and learning about referencing and plagiarism, basically learning how to write an assignment.
Study and learning does stretch the mind and rightly so. As a Christian I believe God wants to challenge, shape and stretch us for his plans and purposes. I do not want to stagnate and be comfortable. I want to grow into the fullness of what God wants for me.
Now I can see the finish line and the growth in me is encouraging. From not knowing a lot about theology I am now confident that I’m achieving what I set out to accomplish: to have a good grounding of theology.
So to come full circle: “is it necessary to use theological jargon?” My answer would be yes and no.
Yes in the respect of using theological jargon to be precise, a concise way of saying what we mean (just like a gardener will use technical language to describe plants and techniques) and in reaching the educational standards required of me.
No in the broader context of everyday life, talking with ordinary Joe from the corner shop. Would I use words such as ‘ecclesiology’ in a sermon (unless an explanation was given), or when talking to Joe? “No way!”
I think we have to meet people where they are, and adapt our conversation to our audience. I work with the less fortunate in society, and if I don’t speak an appropriate language I will lose them, so I aim to keep it simple.
Studying theology has been a life changing experience. What I have learnt will resonate with me for as long as I live, and I would recommend studying theology to anyone who wants to know God more, and to gain an understanding of scripture. Irrespective of your academic background and words that you do not understand to begin with, you will gain so much more. It is hard work, but as the saying goes “no pain no gain”.