I picked this up for well under $10 (used) a few weeks back: Talking the Walk: Letting Christian Language Live Again by Marva Dawn. It is a neat book, something like a devotional glossary of Christian terms. Dawn briefly discusses words like Messiah, Good Shepherd, confession, guilt, mystery, substitution, and redemption – around 70 total in 200 pages. Here is part of the reason why she wrote this book.
“I want with love… to reclaim some words significant in the heritage of the Christian faith and to insist that they be properly preserved and embraced.”
“I am solemnly concerned about the corruption of words in contemporary Christian faith. When we speak bad theology, we live badly theologically. When our theologians and pastors and communities reject or abuse significant words in the heritage of faith, our Christianity is reduced or decimated.”
She also asks probing questions concerning Christian speech:
“When we use other words not from the tradition to deny the meanings of that legacy, is it still Christian faith? When we corrupt words or use corrupted ones, do we lose our ability to verbalize the faith well?”
I agree with Dawn’s emphasis on wanting to keep these key Christian words robustly alive. Positive, encouraging Christian radio has reduced the Christian faith to an a-theological good feeling about Jesus. Mormons have borrowed Christian terms to make their sheep’s clothing look more convincing. And the American culture generally speaking does not have time for words and terms that are not instantly gratifying.
If we want to keep these orthodox Christian terms living, we have our work cut out for us! Dawn’s book is a good primer for this purpose of letting the Christian language live.