I argued in the previous post that big words are often necessary to communicate particular concepts. I also argued that language, being created by God, is the primary way that he has designed for communication. Big words are not necessarily long or hard to pronounce, but they are words that are technical and precise in communicating ideas, and words that most people have not ever heard of. I encouraged people to use them strategically.

However, there have been some objections that I feel warrant another post.

Some people feel as if I am promoting an elite communication style that does not take into account the “common man.” Some believe that what I have said promotes a form of accuracy that leaves little room for understanding.

Nothing I have said mitigates against understanding. In fact, the whole post is just the opposite. To teach people in any situation assumes the audience has some degree of ignorance of the subject. Whether it is ignorance in concepts or ignorance in words, the case is the same. The point is that if the word usage is limited, the comprehension of the concepts will be limited accordingly. Therefore, we use words to increase understanding. We assess where our audience is so that we can determine the degree to which we define ourselves.

Look to Paul as an example. He used words and concepts that were very foreign to most people, often bridging them with concepts that were already understood. In fact, when a word did not exist to fit his concept, he would make up a word in order to better communicate and articulate this concept to his audience! Now those are words that NO ONE knew!!! Yet Paul valued the use of words precisely because he valued the concepts he communicated.

This process is a gradual progression. I don’t suggest using too many words that people don’t understand in each lesson. In fact, one should limit themselves quite a bit. This is a standard pedegogical (teaching method) approach to every discipline. Just think if the fields of medicine, law, or agriculture were limited in such a way. There would be so low a bar set that all of these industries would be simplistic and/or corrupted. No advancement could be made.

Now you might argue that no one teaches in this fields except to those who are going to become professionals of the same. This is true, but aren’t all Christians called to be such in our understanding and seeking of God? Of course we are not with agriculture! But our call is to be a “kingdom of priests”!

Let us value truth enough so as not to set the bar so low under the assumption of apathy or ignorance. What I have found in my ten years of teaching theology to lay-people is that they are neither apathetic nor ignorant. To assume otherwise is not in line with the way things really are and, more importantly, demeans the imago dei which is present in every “common man.” Have more confidence in your audience.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

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