Them’s fightin’ words

Don’t know how many people keep up w/ current issues in the evangelical world. It should go without saying that some “issues” are weightier than others. Recently two flashpoints developed around the “Jesus>Religion” spoken word video and T.D. Jakes participation in (James MacDonald’s) Elephant Room despite his reported heterodox views on the Trinity. In both cases language and word choice was a significant source of angst.

Not going to make any comments on either kerfuffle. However, I do find myself a little perplexed (and sometimes troubled) over the sentiment voiced by some which asserts that Christians shouldn’t get too worked up over words & doctrine. On the importance of words and doctrinal formulations I (coincidentally) found this extremely relevant passage as I was reading yesterday:

Last and most important, it is exactly this which explains what is so inexplicable to all the modern critics of the history of Christianity. I mean the monstrous wars about small points of theology, the earthquakes of emotion about a gesture or a word.

 

It was only a matter of an inch; but an inch is everything when you are balancing. The Church could not afford to swerve a hair’s breadth on some things if she was to continue her great and daring experiment of the irregular equilibrium. Once let one idea become less powerful and some other idea would become too powerful. It was not flock of sheep the Christian shepherd was leading, but a herd of bulls and tigers, of terrible ideals and devouring doctrines, each one of them strong enough to turn to a false religion and lay waste the world.

 

Remember that the Church went in specifically for dangerous ideas; she was a lion tamer. The idea of birth through a Holy Spirit, of the death of a divine being, of the forgiveness of sins, or the fulfilment of prophecies, are ideas which, anyone can see, need but a touch to turn them into something blasphemous or ferocious.

 

…Of these theological equalisations I have to speak afterwards. Here it is enough to notice that if some small mistake were made in doctrine, huge blunders might be made in human happiness. A sentence phrased wrong about the nature of symbolism would lave broken all the best statues in Europe.

 

A slip in the definitions might stop all the dances; might wither all the Christmas trees or break all the Easter eggs. Doctrines had to be defined with strict limits, even in order that man might enjoy general human liberties. The Church had to be careful, if only that the world might be careless.

–G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

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Author: Jonathan P. Merritt

Happily married father of six. Associate pastor for education at Edgewood Baptist Church (Columbus, GA). Good-natured contrarian and theological Luddite. A student of one book.

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