I know I am only in my first semester, but I am wallowing in "seminarianism", or the use of all the "-ation" or "-ology" words to make one sound educated and "holy"... I don't talk that way. I don't relate my faith that way. Is it required that I sound like a walking Thesaurus to be an effective pastor? Somehow, I don't think so... but at the moment I am feeling fairly stupid.How does one combat the snarky little desire to throw out a little Greek or Hebrew or the massively impressive theological term in casual conversation to sound like a Reverend-WannaBe??Or am I just in a vocabulary learning curve?
And now for the Matriarchs' collective wisdom:
I had a seminary professor who suggested that we learned all these fancy terms so we could sound smart at cocktail parties. Funny, I haven't been to that many cocktail parties.
I also knew a guy who used the Greek New Testament as his pulpit Bible. He translated as he went. Comment from the congregation: "He was so smart we couldn't understand him."
I told them that if he were really smart he would be able to help them understand the concepts and not have to use Greek or Hebrew or the massively impressive theological term.
LOL. We have all been there, and some of us still struggle with it. The "isms" get me. Part of being a Pastor is being the "Resident Theologian", or at least I was told that. I see it this way, I know that people come to us with tough questions or really want to know or understand something. My job as the "Resident Theologian" is knowing the resources to turn people to, helping them understand in a language they can understand, and often helping them with the questioning and wrestling they are doing with God.
Do I have to know it all, be able to expound it all? No, except when I served a church full of PHD's and they knew it all or thought they did, and I had to be on my toes. But seriously it is important to know the "ology" and "ation" and Greek and Hebrew to be informed to keep learning and to help inform our congregation and keep them growing as disciples.
I remember being told I would lose my faith by going to seminary, that they would strip it away for all the head knowledge. That was not what happened at all though, My faith grew as my knowledge base grew. I didn't just have a heart religion or feeling religion but a head and heart faith. I learned that I loved learning, and that I was being taught to think for myself, and not to be afraid to ask the big and hard questions. I learned I love NT and Greek and some other parts of my Divinity degree. Later on I have learned I have a love for the OT and Hebrew.
"Seminarianism," that's a funny title for it, I thought it was a cemetery. Develop your friends, read short stories and novels, have a hobby or sport, listen to your favorite music. Get a life, get off campus, I mean you are human aren't you? And when you serve a church you will be serving humans too, take a hint from Jesus, he treated them like human beings and acted like one himself.
I like what Jan said about spouting terms at parties, that's like the Doctor or Psychologist spouting clinical terms at parties. Yuck.
In the book Ministry is a High Calling (Aim Low) by Kurt R. Schuermann, He has a chapter titled "Don't ever use any word you learned in seminary". On page 4, he then lists the words as the following but not limited to:
- Liturgical renewal
The inner child
Sitz im leben
The homiletical plot
Any Greek word
The name of a German theologian
The name of any theologian
Jan offers this:
Although denominational committees charged with overseeing seminarians might disagree, you are going to seminary to please God – not them. While they and your professors, and even a couple of obnoxious classmates, might find it impressive to say things like "I used to concur with Anselm's theory of atonement but now I'm more of an Abelardian" Jesus didn't talk like this any more than you do.
There's nothing worse than a pastor who is least likely to remind everybody of Christ.
The average parishioner is going to be more interested in your bedside manner, how real you are, and how much you love them even when they are unlovable.
You are called to make disciples of all nations and while it's good to know your theology, you will please God and find that people take you seriously as a pastor if you use your theology to serve not to show off. People who unnecessarily toss around words like "soteriology" never get invited to cocktails parties. (Or at least the fun ones.)
I'm renowned for being a walking thesaurus, but as a layperson, when someone in clergy drops one of those words in my lap I find myself scrambling for a dictionary and annoyed that I'm "not smart enough." I can only imagine how it is for the layperson who hasn't studied Latin and Greek extensively (as I have) and isn't a professional editor (as I am). Now, I know you submitted this partly in lighthearted jest, but one of the reasons I thought to run it is that during a book discussion group recently, one of the priests leading the discussion dropped a ten-dollar word into the discussion and everyone in the room simultaneously did the blank-nod-vacant-smile face of incomprehension.
This isn't a problem peculiar to seminaries; its rampant in academia. And while we all shared a chuckle at your distress, there is something you can do. Come to understand these concepts in language that means something to you--by doing so, you'll be able to convey these concepts in language that means something to the people you are talking to. For the real gift of a true communicator isn't that she is a lexical heavyweight, it's that she can bring grander themes and issues into focus using language and diction that connects with people regardless of their backgrounds.
*runs off to look up "soteriology" again*
(And big thanks to RevAbi for helping me out this week.
Galley cat did the big work compiling the answers. I did the posting as she was detained momentarily by situations in her personal life, but says she will be back next time. And by the way Soteriology is the doctrine of the work of the Redeemer or doctrine of salvation as effected by Jesus. You can go to St. John Rev Abi to find some more links.)