A theologian has warned that the way believers use some popular Christian jargon today — including "broken," "authentic" and "surrender" — is not very biblical but taken from secular culture.
Dan Doriani, who is vice president of strategic academic projects and professor of theology and ethics at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, said in The Gospel Coalition that some terms that many Christians use today either take on meanings that aren't really biblical or are more tied with secular concepts.
"'Broken' is an interesting case. In my circles (perhaps not yours), certain pastors and teachers often tell their people they are broken or need to face their brokenness. Without completing a study of Hebrew and Greek terms, it may be enough to say that 'broken' typically appears between 100 and 200 times in standard English translations and that the sense is almost always negative, often sharply negative," he pointed out.
Doriani noted that there are several issues with the modern use of the word in a church setting, however.
"We sometimes hear a person glorying in his brokenness: 'I feel so broken.' They seem to mean they grieve their sin, but it's an odd way to say it and can have a prideful ring, as if one is glorying in his humility. Second, 'broken' drives out other, more biblical terms like 'sin.' A disciple once told me, 'My campus minister never told me I was a sinner or committed sins. I was simply broken,'" he wrote.
"So 'broken,' which sounds like a disability, not a moral problem, displaces sin and rebellion. I don't want to banish 'broken.' The term can label problems; for example, a broken political system. But a statement like 'God comforts his broken children' is ambiguous. Is sin in view? Third, this shows that overusing 'broken' can supplant clearer biblical language."
He continued by arguing that the terms "surrender," "transparency" and "authenticity" don't have any biblical basis at all.
"The Bible never uses 'surrender' in the jargon-laden sense of making peace with God through faith. And 'transparency' and 'authenticity' never appear in Scripture. Still, Christians often command believers to surrender to God and be more authentic. When we adopt opaque concepts, we may baptize secular concepts that sound quasi-Christian," he warned.
Doriani, who is also a council member of The Gospel Coalition, argued that it is important to get language right when it comes to theological and ethical discussions.
"Someone once said men will fight about important things and that a religion that utters pious phrases but shrinks from controversy will never stand. So let us strive to use the right words in the right way, for the sake of Christ and his church," he said.
"I don't ask that everyone guard their every word, but I do propose that leaders draw our language — words and meanings — from Scripture as much as possible, seeking to take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5)."
Meanwhile, Greg Morse of desiringGod.org earlier stressed the importance of using clear language when communicating the Gospel rather than obscuring it with "Christanese."
"Telling the world about Christ in foggy terms is the bane of our evangelism," he wrote.