Monday, February 25, 2008

Interpreters required!

I sometimes find myself unconsciously having to translate when talking to people who have lived most of their lives in the church. I suspect that if I'm having trouble understanding what someone in the church is saying, it must be nearly impossible for someone with a non-church background! Church-speak (of which Salvo-speak is a unique dialect) has a peculiar vocabulary which is tied to some rather unusual concepts from the point of view of those outside the church. This, of course, presents some significant challenges to the way that we engage in evangelism in the community.

One of the difficulties is that because the language is so closely tied to the concepts, it is difficult just to change the words without subtly shifting the meaning behind them. Before we get too worried about this, we need to remember that this process has already been happening for thousands of years. Each time a word is translated into another language or is interpreted in a different culture, something of the original is in danger of being corrupted.

Happily, the cause is far from lost. We have almost two thousand years of Christian tradition to look back upon and to help us to judge whether our own understandings are consistent with those who have gone before us. The task of translating the gospel for today's ears is not a simple one, but it is vital if we are to effectively communicate the good news to our neighbours.

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