This list is put together with the idea that I cringe when I hear these words, terms, or language. Some are like nails on a chalk board, others are decidedly less pronounced. Still, they all make me squirm, some immediately (i.e. maxims and biblical _____), and others if given enough time (i.e. emergent language). This list is predicated on the notion that language and method is important. Some seem to think otherwise, I suppose I’ll address that discussion some other time.
1. Using Gnosticism or Marcionism to describe a current theology or theological movement. Maybe this is just the historian in me, but using words like that lose the historical root and mess up our understanding of the past. Why not use “gnostic-like?” I have been guilty of this time to time, theologically its like giving someone the finger and it can be all too satisfying, but I do try to limit myself a great deal.
2. Biblical this or biblical that. As if other theologies have no grounding in the Bible (however, I do exempt biblical theology as an exegetical/literary movement, i.e. “a biblical theology of the New Testament” for instance). I see it as an attempt to one up other theologies, when ignoring the fact that a “biblical theology of manhood” is still interpreted by you in your social context. Conservatives, I’m looking at you.
3. Most emergent language. Sorry all, but seriously, you’re not the only ones who are dissatisfied with your church. And to be honest, sometimes the language seems really simplistic. Also, not for all people who claim the title emergent, but for many, it seems synonymous with “theological newb,” which is fine — new people to theology is welcomed, but geeze, it can get annoying sometimes when couched in some emergent language. Its as if the language itself has become salvific. Sure, its great to have a language to express an existential and theological shift, but that doesn’t mean that one should use emergent language just like the language one left because it was dissatisfying, otherwise you haven’t left some of the actual problem behind. For those of you who want perhaps the best definition of emergents I’ve ever seen, look here. I suppose in the end, I’m not as annoyed with emergent language, but rather with the way it is used. It seems often that those who run to emergent style have run to a new style with some specific reform, but often, language use has not been reconsidered. (Yes, its possible I may be unfair here. To clarify, this has more to do with run-ins I’ve had with lay emergent congregants, although it does certainly include some pastors as well.)
4. Theological maxims. I’ve touched on this before, but it just keeps coming up. Language is significant me thinks. Repeating mantras or maxims as if they’re faith itself and in quantities that rival Hare Krishnas is a serious problem. Sure, summary statements are great things to have, however, I’ve seen far too many people running around and simply repeating the phrase, “God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in him.” And then, such a maxim becomes one’s only lens through which the bible is read, people are related to, and entire theology is constructed. Gaaah!
5. Using the word sectarian. I have a whole post on it here.