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Monday, March 26, 2007

ECM and Language--Does it REALLY Matter?

[My caveats had caveats, and it was making me naseous. So if you want to read that I'm not mean, actually like people and just want to honor God, you can read those caveats here.]

ECM and Language--Does it REALLY Matter?

Some will claim we just can't know what the Bible is saying. Others will claim the Bible may speak with authority, but we should not. Still others may just find criticizing offensive.

But occasionally you'll run into a people who doesn't mind critique. They welcome a dialogue about Scripture, for they do believe you can find truth within it. But as you begin to discuss specific words, they think you've crossed a line. It's one thing to evaluate the entirety of the message, it's quite another to start breaking down exact words. We should be concerned with the message, not the words used to convey the message. But can the two actually be separated?

You may be thinking, "Who claims the words don't matter? That's ridiculous." But if you examine the amount of coarse language, overstatement and redefinition of words, it is clear that some communicators are not concerned with the integrity of words. But teaching should not be done loosely:
Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.--James 3:1
A couple of points:
    Prevent it!
Become (ginesthe) is in the present middle imperitive plural. James is discouraging the church as a whole from having many teachers. It should not be an easy thing to teach in the church. A man should consider it carefully, but should also have a church there to protect him from the office if they see he is unqualified. James is so serious he does not merely tell the church to watch teachers carefully, he tells them to guard the position carefully.
    Strict Judgment
James says that the teacher will face a stricter judgment. James does not say the teaching will face scrutiny, but that the teacher will be judged. This must be understood as life and doctrine.

Specifically, there are three areas that concern me:
    1. Coarse Language
This is not an attack of Mark Driscoll, and I wouldn't even mention his name except I know some would immediately assume him. Though I have been offended by words Mark has said, I have found he is typically repentant about these words and has a church body that calls him to accountability. What is scary though, is that at times, I have heard people viligantly defend that Mark said nothing inappropriate even when he admits that he did. (Of course, there have been times he has been accused of being inappropriate when he has simply said what the Bible says. Thankfully, I have not heard him apologize for these situations.) However, some seem to think that unless a pastor uses a word you can't say on TV, then his speech has been fine. This just isn't our standard. The words that come out of our mouth matter, for they reveal the condition of the heart. If define relevant as not being any different than the world, then I guess this could be one way.
    2. Overstatement
Our soundbyte culture appears obsessed with shock value. It generates the maximum amount of effect for the minimal amount of time and effort. People (preacher included) are just too impatient to allow accurate statements to have their effect. Certainly, God's Word is so counter cultural that at times it will shock us to our senses. An example in more "fundamental" circles of the past would be to condemn all drinking instead of just drunkeness. However, today it typically swings the other way. A preacher is likely to proclaim as liberty those things which actually are not (like language: see above). Doctrines may even be amplified (or diminished) beyond their scope, just to "make a point." The teacher responds that he is simply trying to see the people come to action, but couldn't the same argument be made for Ananias' slight exaggeration?
    Fuzzy Teaching
True to our postmodern era, words are easily redefined. A preacher may use the same words, but they don't necessarily mean the same thing by them. Many of these words are terms to dictate doctrine. A preacher may claim to adhere to a doctrine, but he is choosing to redefine it. Also, a teacher may present a "new concept." He does not either confirm or deny the concept, he simply presents it. When questioned, he has the ability to release himself, telling the critic he didn't really support the position. He's just doing his part to keep the listener fully informed. But our call is not simply to let them know what doctrines are out there. Our call is to teach them how to obey Christ's commands. This must be done through direct, passionate, clear teaching.

We should be careful with teachers and they should be careful with their teaching. In the next three posts we'll carefully at some specific topics.

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