Any conversation about a particular topic requires special vocabulary. If you want to talk about cooking, you’ll need to know terms such as “sauté,” “simmer,” “poach” and “blanch.” If you want to talk about baseball you’ll need to be conversant with terms such as “sacrifice,” “balk” and “DH” (and you will need to know that God hates the DH).
If you want to talk about your Christian faith, knowing the language of theology is key. Fortunately for you, Rolf Jacobson and some of his friends have put together two humorous dictionaries of theological terms titled Crazy Talk and Crazy Book. Each entry includes a pithy definition, followed by a longer explanation. Here are two of the short definitions from Crazy Talk, offered as a sample:
Bible, n. A book that Christians believe is so holy and inspired that they almost never read it for fear that it might draw them closer to God and neighbor or change their lives in some other inconvenient way.
Sermon, n. A series of mono-,?bi-, and poly-syllabic sounds that?1) made more sense the night before, 2) can bore to death, and 3) can raise the dead to new life.
Antinomianism, n. The belief—mistakenly held by some Christians—that the rules don’t apply; the mistaken notion that since God loves us God must not expect us to keep God’s law. Antinomian, adj. Someone or something that is characterized by such a belief.
Antinomians believe the law serves no purpose for the followers of Jesus. Even better, Antinomians have theological backing! Antinomian reasoning goes like this: Since God saves us by grace through faith apart from the works of the law, therefore, once we are saved, we don’t have to follow it.
A religion without rules! Where do we sign up?
There’s something almost right about this way of thinking. Antinomians, you see, are confident that Jesus transforms people not with law but with love. Antinomians know that the Holy Spirit inspires believers to things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
You can’t legislate such virtues, and there’s no law against them (as the Apostle Paul points out in Galatians 5:22-23). So, this line of thinking goes, just preach grace and the forgiveness of sins and these things will take care of themselves.
The problem, of course, is that Christians remain sinful even after they are saved, and thus they always need the law to help keep the effects of sin in check. Think of it this way: Yes, you don’t need the law to be saved, but your neighbor still needs you to keep the law so that your neighbor’s life will be better.
Faithfulness, n. God’s way of being in our lives without living our lives for us.
Have you ever heard someone say, “God can do whatever God wants, because God is God.” An interesting idea. If you think God is a bully, that is.
Maybe God can do whatever God wants. But here’s the deal. God has promised to do certain things and not to do certain other things. In other words, God has promised that God won’t do whatever God wants. God has promised that even though God may at times want to do (or not do) some things, God won’t do them (or will do them).
God won’t … abandon you, disown you, drown the world in a flood, refuse to forgive your sins when you repent, live your life for you or turn you into a puppet, and so on.
God will … love you, forgive you, bless you, be with you, stick with you and the entire world to the very end.
Because God is faithful.
Excerpted from Crazy Talk,
pages 13 and 68.
A fellow named Kurt Lewin once wrote: “There is nothing more practical than a good theory.”
Now Lewin wasn’t Lutheran. And the psychologist wasn’t thinking about Lutheran theology when he penned those apt words. But he could have been. Because the thing about theology — especially Lutheran theology — is that it’s where theory and practice meet.
Another way of saying this is that Lutheran theology is for daily life. Lutheran theology is not the province of pointy-headed geeks, thinking incomprehensible thoughts, in some dusty university office.
Lutheran theology, as Martin Luther himself once wrote, “calls a thing what it is.” And the words that Lutheran theology generates work like a good pair of shoes — they fit comfortably and wear well. Normal people can tie them on, walk around and pound the pavement of daily life in them.
There isn’t space here for a comprehensive dictionary of Lutheran words, so we’ll settle for some window shopping — a chance to try on a few to get a feel for them.
Justification, n. The keystone to the arch, the hub to the wheel, the north star by which all theological navigation steers—God’s action of establishing and maintaining a relationship with sinners.
This is the big one. Get this one right and everything else tends to fall into place. Get this one wrong and you’re pretty much trying to sail across desert sand in a rowboat. The concept of justification starts with the assumption that all of creation is estranged from God. That our relationship with our Creator has been disrupted by the condition called sin. We live in a good but broken creation. We are separated from God and from each other.
The question is: What can be done about this situation?
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