|Posted by thethousandmarch on January 1, 2014 at 5:10 PM|
It can be challenging to explain the Gospel, especially if you need to speak simply and concisely. This is a challenge I’ve thought a lot about recently in relation to talking to my four year old daughter.
Language is meant to communicate. But something most of us don’t realize it is also a means to exclude. And if we don’t realize this we can easily miscommunicate. Every tribe of humans develops language that is meant to exclude and confuse outsiders as well as identify and include insiders. The problem is that once we are insiders and we feel the pleasure of our inclusion we forget that others don’t understand our specialized language. We rarely consciously try to exclude others. We westerners are usually oblivious to our tribal differences. And so when we with all good intention try to communicate to outsiders we find it difficult, or impossible. We are mystified that others do not see the world as we do. We cannot understand why all are not like us.
Few things get more confusing quicker than theology (to start with there’s the word theology itself which puts some people off). It’s a good thing that we have complex words such as justification, revelation, sanctification, Trinitarian, etc. These words communicate a large amount of information and if nothing else allow for brevity. But we must remember that most people don’t know what these words mean. A person cannot be expected to understand them without explanation. They must learn the language. Much of education is first learning grammar – the specialized language of a particular field of study. I’m often reminded of this when my wife, a physical therapist, is telling me about her work. She uses terms and abbreviations that I have never heard and have no hope of knowing.
Well I have found a tool that can help all of us explain complex ideas. Theo Sanderson, who “explores parasite genetics … @SangerInstitute, and helps run @TASTEforScience” - inspired by XKCD’s explanation of the Saturn V moon rocket - has created “The Up-Goer Five Text Editor”, which forces you to use the 1,000 most common English words to explain whatever it is you are trying to explain (incidentally the word English is not permitted). This was made with science in mind, but I’ve found it helpful for theology. And so I have written an explanation of the Gospel using this tool. (There is also “The Up-Goer Six Text Editor” which allows you to use any word you want, and then tells you how common that word is - salvation is number 9602; justification is 15,008; sanctification didn’t make the list; and it tells me Jesus is 929, but wasn’t allowed on the up-goer 5 text editor).
Here’s my up-goer 5 text edited Gospel:
Good news! God has not given up on us. Humans were made by God to walk with God, and talk with God face to face. But that relationship was broken when we believed a lie and did not trust God. Now even the best human has been hurt by this act of not trusting. Our lives are filled with pain and need. We are broken; we are breaking the things God made. No matter how hard we work, we cannot fix this. If God did nothing we would all die and not see God.
But God was not happy to let us go. God sent his Son - who is God himself - to us, to lead us into all that is good. The Son has done the work to fix us and all things. He lived a life that was good, to be the good we were made to be and do. He was broken and died to make up for the bad in us and the bad we do, and was made living again to beat death. God's Son fixed our broken relationship with God, he is fixing us, and he will fix all things. He has made a family for us to have place and meaning. God is our good Father; we have been made his children. We will see God, and again walk and talk with him. We can trust, we can hope. Death will not keep us. God will make all things right.