Big Religious Words! Why?

by: Larry Davies | Sep 5, 2014

There is a seminary joke about a professor explaining the difference between exegesis and eisegesis? “Exegesis is There is a seminary joke about a professor explaining the difference between exegesis and eisegesis? “Exegesis is an analytical study of scripture. Eisegesis is applying the exegesis, as in a sermon.” While the class discussion continued a student mumbled: “I don’t know much about exegesis or eisegesis. I just came to learn about Jesus!”

I asked people to send me examples of “frustrating favorite big words.” Here are a few of their responses:

Modality: I used the word in a sentence once. A lady laughed and said: “You come up with the funniest words sometimes!” She implied that I made it up!

Propitiation: It’s a big word in the King James Bible but what does it mean?

Sanctification: Do the Methodists still use this word a lot?

Millennialism is part of a whole family of words: Premillennialism, Amillennialism, or Postmillenialismall coming before implying, “The end is near!”

But, the all-time “frustrating favorite” big church word mentioned by more than half of our survey belonged to (Drum roll please!) — eschatology. Use this word in a sentence and watch the modality of your listener grow strangely quiet as she mentally questions your sanctification and prays for propitiation that ends further conversations about your postmillennialist musings!

Very funny and weird. So, what does Eschatology mean? Let’s break it down:

Escha — short for escargot, word for snail; eat it and strange things happen.

– Tol – is pronounced “tall” as in telling a “tall tale.”

– Ogy – pronounced: “Oh Gee!” “O gee! Do you take me for an idiot?”

Escha-tol-ogy could be your reaction to eating escargot, which causes you to spin endless millennial tall tales while the poor listener can only reply: “Oh Gee!” It sounds silly but this definition may be closer to the truth than you think. One frustrated survey response asked: “Why can’t people just say, ‘Eschatology means end-times?’”

Seriously. Why do church leaders feel the need to use those big church words?

Actually, the problem is not as much with the big words as with the attitude of those using them. As one survey response astutely pointed out: “It doesn’t hurt to stretch the mind – especially with spiritual vocabulary. All one has to do is define these words for others rather than throwing them out with spiritual arrogance.”

There is the key word — arrogance: Jesus warns: “And how they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the most prominent seats in the synagogue! They enjoy the attention they get on the streets, and they enjoy being called ‘rabbi.’ Don’t ever let anyone call you ‘rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are on the same level as brothers and sisters.” (Matthew 23:6-8)

Then Jesus shouts: “Blind Guides! How terrible it will be for you. Hypocrites!” Why is he so livid? Jesus’ concern is not so much with what we say but with the sincerity of our attitude and humbleness of our spirit. “For I tell you,” Jesus continues, “you will never see me again until you say, ‘Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” (39)

Big church words can be meaningful teaching tools enabling others to deepen their spirituality or those using those very same words can represent arrogant symbols of your sinful pride.

In other words; you become coolly proficient at exegesis but if you lack a humble spirituality, you lack meaningful eisegesis and in the end you say little about Jesus and without Jesus you end up with nothing and fool no one!

As for eschatology? I quote someone who defined the word better than me: “Chances are, we ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

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