A couple of years ago in an article entitled, To The Praise of his Glory” in the Review and Expositor the author wrote, “Paul mentions ‘redemption,’ the great metaphor of emancipation taken from the slave market in Ephesians 1. The costliness of this act is spelled out in the term "through his (Jesus') blood," a reference to his life poured out. In a culture in which a significant proportion of the population was enslaved, this metaphor spoke dynamically about the significance of the salvific act accomplished in the death of Christ.
For modern man the metaphor's significance is not readily apparent. For him slavery is a historical phenomenon from the remote past, while redemption is that which is done to green stamps and store coupons. Thus, for him the biblical metaphor has lost its significance. Ironically, however, redemption is one of the terms used most often by the church, usually without explanation, in its proclamation of the Christ-event. Whereas Paul used metaphors from everyday experience to describe the meaning of the Christ-event, we tend to proclaim the metaphors themselves (which modern man has no experiential basis for understanding) as the reality. Instead of proclaiming what is unknown in terms of what is known, we tend to proclaim the unknown in terms unknown, insisting that our hearers first learn our language. In the use of language we have much to learn from Paul.”
I find myself both agreeing and disagreeing with the author. He is certainly right that we use terms that people don’t know or understand and basically tell them to learn our language. If we are seeking to be churches that reach out into our communities, if we believe that week by week people are going to be at worship who aren’t familiar with biblical language, if we believe that we are going to encounter people as we get outside the walls of our church and into our neighborhoods who don’t know all these words, then we need to work harder at telling people what we mean when we talk about biblical and theological terms.
At the same time, I believe that we can take these biblical concepts and make them live powerfully. For instance, the idea that slavery is, “…a historical phenomenon from the remote past, while redemption is that which is done to green stamps and store coupons.” (what are green stamps, by the way—how quickly what is a relevant picture changes), simply is not true. We have a powerful picture of modern slavery which pulls at the heart of those who long for justice and can help people understand redemption in the 21st century context.
A few questions, 1. For pastors, when you write you messages do you assume people are not going to know Biblical terms and so you take that into account? 2. For all of us, What are a couple of creative ways you have spoken Biblical terms that translate those terms into the 21st century? 3. Are there differences between Canadian Churches and U.S. Churches in needing to do this kind of interpretation so people can understand Biblical language and terms?