Translating Into the Vernacular


(Carson Weitnauer) #1

Hi friends,

In his essay “Christian Apologetics” in God in the Dock, C.S. Lewis says:

To conclude—you must translate every bit of your Theology into the vernacular. This is very troublesome and it means you can say very little in half an hour, but it is essential. It is also of the greatest service to your own thought. I have come to the conviction that if you cannot translate your thoughts into uneducated language, then your thoughts were confused. Power to translate is the test of having really understood one’s own meaning. A passage from some theological work for translation into the vernacular ought to be a compulsory paper in every Ordination examination.

According to the footnotes, this essay was read to Anglican priests and youth leaders at one of their conferences in 1945. So, this is a very practical word of advice!

Also of interest: immediately before the section where this quote appears, Lewis defines eighteen different concepts, explaining how the ‘religious’ use of these phrases differs from the common vernacular. He shows his audience how to work through these challenges.

With Lewis in mind, here’s a challenge to grow your faith:

  1. Take a theological term or concept (e.g., “atonement”, “God”, “crucifixion”, “gospel”).
  2. Share how you think most people understand this term (illustrate if possible).
  3. Share how you would more faithfully explain this term - in a way that reflects what the Bible teaches, but is also comprehensible in your social context.

(SeanO) #2

@CarsonWeitnauer Very helpful challenge. Here is an example where Tim Keller does a great job with the idea of ‘identity’. His explanation of identity was a huge aha moment for me in terms of understanding our culture - especially the comparison of the Viking and the modern man.

His main point is that Christianity is the only belief system where identity is ‘received instead of achieved’.

In brief, a Viking finds anger and taboo sexual desire in his heart. He chooses to stoke the anger and to stuff the desire. A modern young person finds the same two forces in his own heart - he will go to counseling for the anger and encourage the desire. Our identity is determined by how we respond to competing desires - we cannot look within and find our identity - it is always forced upon us from the outside.