Monday, August 27, 2007
The Grammarian, VII
I think we need to adopt a new rule: After seven prominent uses, any shortcut you use to speak theologically must give way to another way of saying the same. Clichés are the cheap way out.
To be sure, sometimes slogans can be helpful, in other contexts. But in theology, clichés gloss over the word of the Living God. This is bad, and it must stop.
I might put up with your talk about law and Gospel once or twice. That's it. Now find a different way to say it, will you? And not like some less inventive minds who have already found a different way: they have even shortened the shortcut to law/gospel, which when spoken aloud sounds like they've developed a new word: lawgospel. They'll speak of lawgospel preaching, and lawgospel sermons. Uggh . . .
Or justification by faith. Oh, do you like that one? Fine, I believe in it too. Now go find another way to say it, if you please. Luther did, you know. Just where in the small catechism does he ever say justification by faith, even once?
Or word and sacrament. Or Bible and Confessions. Or Scripture alone.
Or incarnational (often badly misused).
Or priesthood of all believers.
Or confessional (this ought to be a reference to a room where confessions are heard).
Or how about this one, by no means a shortcut, but used as often: "by the power of God working through the Gospel." I have a particular distaste for this. It's as though some canon lawyer went through the lines of your sermon looking for places to plant that phrase, thinking it would keep the devil away.
Imagine what life would have been like had Jesus used clichés. Oh wait, don't imagine that, it'd be sacrilege. Speaking of Jesus' preaching, if you're a preacher who finds preaching a difficult chore, I recommend you spend more time immersed in the kind of speach He uses, and the language of the Psalter, and of all the Sacred Scriptures. And then go and read some of the Fathers. No clichés there either.
Just stop with them. The Bible has no use for clichés, and neither should your hearers.