We are moving in the West further along this path as a post-Christian culture. No longer are Christian terms and biblical concepts commonplace. Things have changed; meanings that once were common in the culture have become rare in the minds of many people.
The terms that are distinctly religious but don’t seem to communicate any longer are a distinct category that causes me concern. These words are repeated in Christian songs and discourse regularly. Many times I stop and ask myself what the term really means. I ask students what they mean when they say, for example, “It’s for God’s glory.” I reply: “What do you mean by glory?” They don’t have a clue. They really mean that that the event or decision in question somehow serves God’s purposes. If so, then let’s just say that.
My concern is that we have settled for using Christian terminology because it seems rightly religious, not because we understand or intend the actual meanings these terms stand for. Feel free to consider them for yourself and wonder about their continuing when most non-Christians have no idea what we’re talking about. Many Christians are foggy on the meaning as well. This is an appeal for clarity in our communication.
Here is my list of seven troublesome words and brief explanations, with suggested alternatives!
1. Exalt, exalted
I had an idea of this, but I had to confirm it with the dictionary. Why? Because people don’t use “exalt” in conversation about anything unless they are talking about a biblical passage or some topic close to a Christian activity. The word is a strong verb, but the coincidence of using it only for religious talk makes it seem like a religious term. Use of terms in a religious way drives a separation between “normal life” and our thoughts and actions as Christians. Instead of using “exalt” in our songs just because the Bible translations use it, we may do better to say “lift up” or “honor” because these are commonly understandable terms for the same idea “exalt” functions today.
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