Seven Reasons I Avoid Traditional Christian Language, prt. 1

I have been trying this past week to keep my social media friends updated on my current struggle with multiple sclerosis. Most responses have been affirming and gracious, but some indicate that I apparently do not use enough traditional Christian language. Some readers have been put off by my references to positive points in other religious systems such as Buddhism. Others seem to think I believe psychology alone will save humanity. Others think my posts on Facebook are too self-help oriented. I want to go on record here to give specific reasons why I avoid traditional Christian language.

1. Most traditional Christian language is no longer understood in a post-Christian society. My desire as a writer, speaker, and teacher is to be understood by as many people as possible. If I have to choose between being understood by traditional Christians or being understood by non-Christians, most of the time I would choose the latter. Christians looking for the Christian God in my language will surely find Him (or Her — gotcha!).

2. I don’t care whether some Christians think I speak Christian enough. I know that many non-Christians believe I speak Christ enough that they are drawn to the love they sense and hear. Many Christians, by the way, are very deeply drawn to this too, as it was sorely lacking in the churches where they grew up.  

3. Much (not all) traditional Christian language is a huge drag for Christians like myself who grew up in a very legalistic time in the church. It’s largely an “insider” language, meant to give off clear signals of who belongs and who doesn’t. To that extent I have no use for it.

4. Many people (not all) who use traditional Christian language have still not gone beyond that mid-20th century legalism. Often their references to the blood of Jesus, “God-things”, and “being saved” come early in a conversation that quickly becomes judgmental when they sense that I don’t talk like one of the in crowd. Often there’s a zinger in there somewhere, usually in thinly disguised words about hoping I find truth one day, or that God uses my struggles to humble me.

5. A great deal of traditional Christian language, at least that of the “evangelical” variety, just doesn’t mean anything. It is trendy for evangelicals to talk about “accepting” the “Word of God” as “truth,” but this means something different to every denomination, and nearly every Christian in every church. When a Christian says, “I ‘accept’ the ‘Word of God’ as ‘truth’, you still don’t have the slightest idea what he/she believes until you begin discussing it in deeper detail. If you go there, you can often count on an argument ensuing, which says more about what that person believes than any statements of belief they make.

6. Much of my reticence in using traditional Christian (certainly evangelical) language comes from efforts I made in vain all of my life to match up that language with my own experience of God. I eventually had to ditch most of that language because either it a) wasn’t large enough to say anything meaningful, or b) was so large and meaningful as to be nearly incomprehensible to the person/s I was speaking to.

Next post: The seventh and most important reason I avoid traditional Christian language

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. A request for me to defend some of my comments does not obligate me to do so.

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  • Amanda mattila

    I appreciate your lack of church speak. It rings of authenticity.

    • Thank you. If the God thing is true, there should be a way to communicate it in ways that will resonate with people from different backgrounds. If we can’t do that, we’re talking about something very small, and certainly not God.

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  • I think the most powerful statement here is that if a Christian becomes argumentative it says more about that person’s faith than anything else.
    In dealing with the post-Christian world I just always trust in the basic gospel. The Bible says there is power in the gospel. But in conveying it I don’t point fingers to the person I’m sharing with. I don’t use “Christian-ese” at all. I just share what’s happened to me. My simple story is enough. God has not called me to the pulpit or public speaking. I speak with those I have relationships with, which have grown in trust and love. They know well of my faith and I have been asked the question repeatedly “Aren’t there more ways to God than Jesus Christ? Isn’t Christianity so exclusive? Isn’t is narrow?” My answers stay pretty simple, “It’s what the Bible clearly says. I didn’t write the book but I encourage you to read it yourself and draw your own conclusions (usually they haven’t even read it). Then take it up with God. I only know that Jesus Christ totally changed my life because through Him I was freed from and forgiven of everything I ever did wrong. He has given me new life. Yes, it is a step of faith and you are the one who has to take it. I can only tell you what happened to me. But I can tell you that if you take that step of faith, something magical happens. The words of the Bible come alive and it all makes sense. It’s like a mystery, and it even says so. You have been given the key. And only you can open it. It’s like a big dinner table. There is a seat there with your name on it waiting for you to come. And take your seat. But no one can do that for you. You can try to logically figure it all out before you come but you can never know by logic alone. You have to have faith. I’m here to point the way, tell you what happened to me, but I cannot do faith for you.”
    And that’s it. I love them and leave it up to them to explore further.

    • Thanks for reading, Alexandria, and for the time you put into this comment.

  • Ruth

    Makes my heart sad that this blog post is even needed. I don’t care what words you use to describe your journey. Journey on brother.