Dear Salem Family,
“How was Annual Conference?”
I was asked a question the other day that made me realize we have a problem with language in the church. More precisely we have a problem with vocabulary, because the church—well, let’s be honest, pastors–have a habit of throwing words around as though everyone knows what they mean…and, by extension, what we mean.
When I was a puppy, learning communications theory, this was called “jargon.” Jargon is the language that develops around any specialized field: math, science, politics, philosophy, music…you name it, if it’s a field where people need to talk about things, they develop a specialized language to talk about it. This serves a couple of purposes: one, it creates a kind of verbal shorthand, where concepts can be boiled down and expressed as single words or phrases, facilitating discussion between those who can speak it; and, two, it serves as a way to simultaneously shield the secrets of the specialty from the outside world, as well as make the secret speakers sound knowledgeable and mysterious.
(If this seems unlikely, try thinking about the last time you heard two mechanics discussing that car problem you’ve been having, or two doctors discussing your symptoms between themselves.)
The field of theology is not immune to this, of course, which is unfortunate because what we need to do is reach people and explain things effectively, not surround them in a flurry of words and hope for the best; that’s better left to the politicians.
Which brings us to the question that started this all…
We hear the words “Gospel” and “Scripture” used frequently—heck, virtually every week—in worship. What’s the difference between the two…if there is one? Let’s see if we can explain this without using more jargon…
The Gospel is, simply, the “Good News” of the coming of Jesus. For Biblical purposes, the Gospel is the “biography” of Jesus (loosely speaking) and the story of his ministry contained in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Scripture, on the other hand, is the entirety of holy writings contained in the Old and New Testaments. (Technically, scripture—lower case “s”—can also refer to sacred writings of any religion…but we’re limiting ourselves to Christianity, here.) Thus, all of the books of the Bible make up Scripture, while only the first four books of the New Testament constitute the Gospel.
If you’re mathematically inclined, think of it as a Venn Diagram:
And if math isn’t your thing, when you hear the word “Scripture” think “Library” (as in a collection of all of the Books of the Bible), and when you hear “Gospel” think of a single shelf within the library, holding only books about the life and ministry of Jesus.
Hope that helps! If you have other questions about vocabulary or concepts that we throw around without explaining, let me know!
See you in church!
(Earlier A Word from the Pastor messages may be found in Newsletters.)