…they shall call his name Immanuel which means, God with us. Matthew 1:23
It is ironic that some of Christendom’s greatest efforts to proclaim and exhibit God’s presence on earth have frequently caused exactly the opposite. God is usually obscured, rather than revealed, to the very degree that our religious attire, architecture, titles, music and language become strange and otherworldly. We then portray him not as “with us” but as distant, elusive and incomprehensible.
Our habit of speaking “Christianese” is a prime example. Like medieval ecclesiastical Latin, many of the terms that Christians use in everyday language is completely incomprehensible to people outside the church. Sadly, due to the fact that a number of Biblical Greek words were not translated into English but transliterated (the transcription of a word in one language into corresponding letters of another language without regard to the original meaning), Christians possess a distinct vocabulary that is gobbledygook to outsiders.
Consider the sentence: “A bishop and an apostle went to the church to speak to a pastor and a few deacons.” This sentence is not only unintelligible to a person untrained in religious language, but is also interpreted completely differently by people from different denominations. It is noteworthy that these terms had no religious connotation in the original Greek, but were everyday terms used to convey obvious meanings. And so a Greek simpleton in the first century would have understood the above sentence as “The supervisor and the delegate (or “sent one”) went to the gathering to speak to a herdsman and a few servants.”
The difference in meaning between the two sentences is astounding. The former is ambiguous whilst the latter portrays Christianity as a practical, functional, down-to-earth faith that calls for personal involvement.
God does not speak Christianese. He speaks in a way that we can all understand.
(Bloemnews 18 February 2011)