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Theological jargon

15 February 2008

Academic theologians, like most specialists, tend to develop jargon that is difficult for other people to understand. Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s I was in the thick of it at the Unisa theological faculty, but I was also working in the Editorial Department, where we tried to make academic texts understandable to students.

At one point I developed the Conceptual High-Impact Phrasal Synthesiser, which was guaranteed to add depth and density to theological writing, whether undergraduate essays, journal articles, conference papers or full-length monographs. All one needed to do was link the phrases with suitable verbs and pronouns.

I ran it this morning just to see if it still worked, and here is a sample of its output:

Integrated laity challenge
Responsive global concern
Balanced structural dialogue
Integrated biblical awareness
Wide-ranging contextual encounter
Long-term fellowship approach
Relevant ecumenical perspective
Balanced dynamic awareness
Relevant structural outreach
Basic laity typology
Charismatic reciprocal challenge
Original serving paradigm
Open-ended alternative response
Basic serving involvement
Relevant serving challenge
Relevant twentieth-century situation
Relevant twentieth-century typology
Original global involvement
Flexible twentieth-century situation
Integrated reciprocal awareness
Nuanced ecumenical challenge
Ongoing serving critique
Wide-ranging laity encounter
Responsive dynamic protest
Issue-oriented alternative protest
Basic global approach
Responsive socio-economic encounter
Flexible multi-facetted perspective
Flexible laity dialogue
Ongoing caring approach
Unstructured structural critique
Issue-oriented fellowship protest
Long-term laity challenge
Basic contextual involvement
Relevant caring challenge
Balanced serving outreach
Issue-oriented fellowship approach
Nuanced dynamic response
Ongoing twentieth-century critique
Flexible ecumenical critique
Wide-ranging laity concern
Issue-oriented multi-facetted protest
Wide-ranging in-depth encounter
Issue-oriented community encounter
Flexible community critique

But then I looked at it, and of course was immediately struck by the thought that it’s so 1980s.

Obviously “twentieth-century” would have to go, and there should be a “discursive” in there somewhere.

But here’s my challenge to you, gentle reader (all two of you), my relevant twenty-first century challenge: what words would need to be added, and which ones dropped to bring it up to date for 2008?

Please give a list, and couple of sample phrases showing how they could be employed.

I probably never will bring it up to date, though. I think I’ve lost the source code, and even if I hadn’t, it was written in Turbo Basic, which no longer works on today’s processors. And I’ve decided that learning computer programming is a waste of time, because long before you’ve mastered any programming language it will be obsolete.

One Comment leave one →
  1. 22 October 2009 2:44 am

    I think theological jargon is like judicial doctrines like stare decisis…much ado about nothing…and needlessly divisive. I suspect that Christian unity (something I’ve been posting on recently) could have a liturgical manifestion without necessarily requiring uniformity of belief. …

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