Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Christain Education: Learning the new language of Christianity

"Discipleship is a kind of immigration, from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God's beloved Son (Col. 1:13). In Christ we are given a heavenly passport; in his body we learn how to live like "locals" of his kingdom. Such an immigration to a new kingdom isn't just a matter of being teleported to a different realm; we need to be acclimated to a new way of life, learn a new language, acquire new habits--and unlearn the habits of that rival dominion." - James K.A Smith

We all are immigrats. As immigrates learning is a necessary task, if we are to be a part of God's kingdom. This is why education is one way of the church disciples it's members. In Smith's quote he speaks of learning a new language. Such a phrase could be helpful in describing the process of Christain education. But first let us look at how we should understand what is meant by "language".

Language is more than words
Language is more than how human's communicate. It includes conveying information about the weather and other subjects. Yet language also has a social function. It is a means of establishing and maintaning relationships with other people. We share information about a person like what sort of job someone does or what social status they have. Without this information social interaction brakes down.

Beneath the social, language has a much deeper, more primal function. From a subjective stance, language is how we understand the world. The way we speak, the words we use, the syntax and grammar, metaphors and symbols, all coalesce to form how we describe and define the world. In short, language names reality (Gen 2:19-20a).

At this primal level is where language and Christianity intersect. Christain language is the way christain's label the world. It is the outworking of a Christain worldview in everyday descriptions and definitions. Thus learning the language of Christianity, particularly it's theological definitions is a very important enterprise. Such theological definitions form the way we see life by giving context, shape and definition to our lives. Life still has it's ineffable mysteries and perplexing enigmas yet even such darkness is set within a context of God's reign.

Learn a new language is Christian education.
Christain education is like learning a new language. A person's goal is to learn a language so that it becomes second nature. If we are to be really proficient at, say, German, we need to learn to think in German, maybe even dream in German. We reach the point where we can slip easily from one language to another without effort. We learn the idioms of speech of that language; its rules are embedded in our minds so that we do not need to pause to reach for the right mode of expression. It becomes part of us. Christain education is unlearning the world's system (a way of seeing and acting), by learning to define life by God's terms.

Not Christianese
Learning the language of Christianity is not like learning christianese. Christianese is form of Christians jargon. In which one learns to speak as a Christain without understanding much of what is meant. Christianese is a simple way of speaking that lacks substance, clearity, nuances and is generally akin to a first year language student. One uses (and misuses) certain words, theological terms, and catchphrases in everyday conversation often only comprehensible by those in the same group. It is the "pig Latin" of christainity, a novelty, or better a parody of the soul grammar imbedded in Christain truth. The language of Christianity is not how christain's talk but the core content of the faith that frames how we describe and define the world. It is less a way of speaking to the world and more a way of seeing and acting in the world.

Theology as Grammar
As a 'grammar,' theology provides structure to our thinking. It describes how the Christian faith is a special way of speaking and acting which makes sense of human life by giving it meaning, practical definitions, a particular style of life and hope. Learning how to see life by the new language of the kingdom is crucial to learning how to be a Christian.

Our context is community and aim is fluency.
Being fluent in Christianity means that, for the most part, we define life by God's terms. It must be noted at this point, such learning does not happen in a vacuum. The church is the language school and the Scriptures its textbook. Pastors and elders even Sunday school teachers perhaps should be regarded as language instructors and terminology tutors. They all in varying degrees, train us all in the "lingua franca" of Christain thought. More than any the common tongue of the community shapes our vision through the immersion of daily integration.

Example of prayer:
For example; in the context of the church community helping inform our reading. We learn the language of praise by reading and rereading the Psalms, we gain a God given grammar and vocabulary that our praise can inhabit. Worship is set within the daily drama of human life and we learn to see worship as an honest expression of our heart's current GPS. When we learn the language of praise our posture and relationship with God changes. We embody the psalms not in "phrasing" but in a heart unburdened and uncensored before God.

J. Dawson Jarrell

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