Wesleyan Jargon Translation

blah-blahHoliness Theology like any other type of theology is filled with jargon. There are insider words that you have to take a course, read a book, write a paper, and then read the corrections on that paper to fully understand. There are words that no one uses any where else besides Wesleyan insider conversations (consecration, sanctification), words that mean something different anywhere else (perfect, perfection, blameless), and words that we should simply stop using altogether (e.g. uttermost).

So here’s the discussion I would love for us to do one of two things in the comments section below. You choose which one you would like to do:

1. Translate a Wesleyan holiness jargon term with another term or short phrase that makes sense to the average high school graduate.

2. List a word that you hear Wesleyan preachers use, that we should really just stop using completely.

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7 thoughts on “Wesleyan Jargon Translation

  1. The issue is not with the words that we use, the issue is assuming that people know what we mean when we use these words. Words like, consecration, sanctification, etc. are sacred words to the church. To stop using them altogether, (as you suggest), is to take away words that are distinctively Christian.

    “Dumbing down,” the Bible results in a “dumbing down” the faith. Here is an idea: How about we try to “elevate” our faith by challenging believers to dig deeper in to God’s word, instead of offering quasi “people magazine” quotes that requires little or no effort to understand.

    Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Prov 8:10-11

    I fully understand the challenges of reaching out to a generation that lives on I-phones and I-pads. But we must remain true to God and God’s word even if that doesn’t produce the kinds of numbers we all like seeing.

    I believe the reason the Church struggles with it’s appeal to society, is because we have been unconsciously watering down the Church, to make more appealing to society. Society needs the Church to be the Church, if people are going to be truly changed and transformed. It is through our sacred words that people come to know the difference between what the world has to offer vs. the Church.

  2. Thanks Greg for chiming in. I agree with you on not dumbing down doctrine. The problem is words change meaning over time and to continue to use words whose use has shifted is actually to mis-educate the church. Rather than dumb down, we then are misleading, teaching things we don’t believe, and doing so accidentally. To speak of Christian perfection without translating and explaining it would be to point people toward perfectionism, legalistic self righteousness etc. I think we would be better served by speaking of Christian maturity in our current environment and occasionally saying things like “in the early stages of the Wesleyan movement we called this Christian Perfection. But we never meant flawless performance, we always meant a heart mature and complete in that it is motivated by love.” Something like that. That may not be the best phrase but it is connected to the Greek meaning of the words we often translate as perfect. Does that give a better idea of what I mean? I also don’t mean eliminating “consecration” from our language, but asking what could translate and explain that word better. There are some words that don’t hold much theological freight though, and they do need to be eliminated. Churchy words that make us sound pious, but don’t say anything significant.

    • Dave you speak to my original point. I think shepherds need to dust off their old theology books and bring back the true meaning of these sacred words. They say, a good number of Christians struggle with knowing how to apply their faith to everyday living. I can’t think of two better words in the Bible that speak to the very heart of daily living, than, consecration and sanctification. Yet we tend to shy away from these words because we ourselves don’t have a clear understanding of their meaning or we are just not clever enough to fit them nice and neatly into a story.

      Nevertheless, this generation seems not to understand what it means to be set apart unto a holy God in every day living and we don’t understand that it takes a healthy dose of daily Christian discipline in the means of graces to experience the true transforming power of the Holy Spirit.

      If we would take the time to explain and lead God’s people in living out these sacred words, we could expect to see God pour out His Spirit upon the church. The Church needs a fresh wind and fire today, and that is not likely to happen by eliminating or changing words, but rather, living up to the ones that we already have.

      God Bless,

  3. Dave, I just now saw this. As you know, this is exactly what I’m working on in my doctorate program. Or maybe, it was Dave Drury that I spoke to about this so much specifically. Everything in my brain is running together these days! Anyways, I don’t have time for a lengthy post right now, I’m running out the door for a meeting with my advisory committee. Suffice it to say, I haven’t come across a short and simple phrase that describes Christian perfection/entire sanctification. I’ve heard some imagery that describes it but not a simple phrase. Off the top of my head the closest phrase I can think of “fully devoted follower”, I think that’s a Bill Hybels one. But still, that doesn’t quite do it for me. Hopefully tonight I’ll post some further thoughts.
    As far as phrases or words to lose, I’d say Christian perfection and entire sanctification should be retired. Not the doctrine, NEVER the doctrine, I still believe this is a Godly and biblical truth, but as you said in your reply to Greg, words change over time. And those words gave Wesley fits right from the very beginning. I never knew just how much trouble they were for him until I got deeply into his writing this past year. I’m going to post a link to this on the Wesleyan Pastors Facebook page too. I ask this same question there about a month and half ago. Maybe we can get some of those folks to chime in here.

    • Mark I agree the as a Church we need to reshape Wesleyan “specific” words and phrases. When I was at IWU, some of the professors, where choosing to replace “prevenient grace” with “leading grace.” Today when you try to talk about “entire sanctification” Wesleyans look at you like your speaking “martian.” And those who do, have so watered down the actually meaning to render it useless. And phrases like Christian perfection also no longer resonates. So yes, as Wesleyans, we need to find better terminology that accurate express our doctrine without diminishing it. But I could never imagine replacing any biblically based words, simply because we don’t think they translate well.

  4. Christian maturity. I find this works very well on the “immediately understood” litmus test, but also is nuanced enough to be able to handle initial, progressive and entire language while leaving room for continued growth and missteps.

  5. Do we still speak with our young people about:
    (1) “Are you considering for the Work?”
    (2) “Have you heard that ________ has offered for the Work?”
    (3) “Bless __________ who is now in the WorK.”
    (4) “Did you know that ________ has been in the Work for ____ years?”
    (5) “Remember to encourage _________ who is going forth in the Work.”
    or otherwise,
    (6) “We need to pray for ________ who has left the Work.”