One of my high schoolers is currently enrolled in an AP english language course. Recently they were discussing how over time, words acquire new meanings. An example of this is ‘gay’ which used to be a synonym for ‘happy’ but now describes same-sex attraction among men. It got me thinking about the evolution of language in general, and Evangelicalism specifically.
Because the professing church has allowed so much of the worldly culture to infiltrate and influence the culture within the church, there has been over time a gradual change in terms. Unlike the example above, however, it isn’t always the definition of the words themselves, but rather the perception of those words, which is due to an ignorance of what they actually mean; what their definitions are. Today I would like to bring to your attention some of these ‘dirty little words’ in Evangelicalism, spell out their actual meaning, and show you how they have been successfully maligned in the minds of professing believers, due to the influence of the surrounding culture.
I have two words in mind: theology and doctrine. When ever I see these terms refered to lately, it is almost always in a negative context. Let’s begin with the actual definition of the words themselves:
- Theology: the study of God
- Doctrine: a set of belief’s that are taught
You can see why it’s puzzling to anyone familiar with the definition of these terms that they have attached to them a nebulous, negative connotation. Theology and doctrine are not only not negative terms, but are essential to the life of a Christian! Here is an example that I came across recently in social media of relaying the concepts of theology and doctrine in a negative light:
No Christian would disagree that Jesus’ disciples are to be recognizable by their love for one another. Scripture commands it and states it as fact, therefore we agree. But the implication of this meme is that ‘theology’ among other things listed, is somehow a negative attribute of a disciple. I take issue with this because of the following: how would one know that a disciple of Jesus was supposed to be identifiable by their love for the brethren without knowing about God (theology)? Furthermore, how would a believer come to a right understanding about which trait should characterize their observable behavior, without doctrine (a set of belief’s that are taught….you know, like disciples of Jesus should be identified by their love for one another)? You see how nonsensical this is. And yet there is a persistent attitude among professing believers of distancing themselves from descriptors like theology and doctrine, because they believe them to be negative things. Dirty little words.
Church, it is time to take these words back, boot out the influence of the surrounding culture, and embrace the historical vernacular of the faith. Theology and doctrine are not bad or undesirable things. That would be absurd, as there is no Christianity without them. Let’s quit worrying about what the world thinks, and place our focus on Jesus and His truth, without which there is no life.
I hope this has been helpful for you. I encourage us all to be critical thinkers, examining everything in the light of God’s truth and Word: the Bible, rather than feelings, fads, and the worldly culture that surrounds us.
Soli Deo Gloria!