Sunday, July 31, 2011

"Christianeze" and Worldview Illiteracy

There's a good article on CNN's Belief Blog called "Do You Speak Christian?" There's a lot of "Christianeze" being spoken out there, with most of the speakers not knowing what they are talking about.

Take the word "Rapture." it's not in the Bible. No one used this word until a 19th century British evangelist named John Allen Darby coined it. "Rapture" theory is not a true biblical concept - see N.T. Wright here and Ben Witherington here, for examples of two brilliant New Testament scholars who know that no one in biblical times was thinking in terms of a "left behind" theology.

A lot of the "Christian" phrases and sayings we use, like the "prosperity dialect," are not grounded in the Christian Scriptures.

The essay says: "Even some of the most basic religious words are in jeopardy because of overuse. Calling yourself a Christian, for example, is no longer cool among evangelicals on college campuses, says Robert Crosby, a theology professor at Southeastern University in Florida. “Fewer believers are referring to themselves these days as ‘Christian,’ ” Crosby says. “More are using terms such as ‘Christ follower.’ This is due to the fact that the more generic term, Christian, has come to be used within religious and even political ways to refer to a voting bloc.”"

I think that's correct. I'm referring to myself as a Jesus-follower, and not as a "Christian" or even as an "Evangelical," since these words now carry so much negative, non-Jesus freight with them.

I think it's helpful to note that most people, when it comes to their worldview, don't have much of a clue as to the meaning of what they are saying. For example, most of the atheists I meet don't have a clue as to what they are talking about by the words and phrases they use. Mostly, they just tweet, with no real understanding of what they've tweeted. I conclude, unsurprisingly, that there is a tremendous worldview-illiteracy out there.

For me this serves as yet another historical wakeup call to leaders for Christ. In our context we're raising the biblical literacy by:
  • Preaching through the biblical texts, as opposed to preaching "thematically"
  • Doing extensive background studies (socio-cultural, socio-rhetorical) as we prepare our sermons
  • Bringing these studies to bear on the preached Word, hopefully at a level that captures most of the people while retaining scholarly integrity
  • And, in all of this, finding the words of Jesus brilliant and stunning and creative and life-giving