Language Gaffs and Forgivness


A mostly-humorous post. Although a real point about a point in theology did sneak in at one point.

So last humorous post I wrote (about the Woman's March) got a total of 1 like and 2 comments, both from people I don't know (or event have any mutual Facebook friends). One person was violently offended by my terminology (which I deliberately tried to keep neutral), and the other person wanted to tell me that he agreed... with a point I didn't make (he gave me the like). So, while I stand by my right to poke fun at absolutely anything, this time I an going for something nuttier.

Therefore, today's post is on Christian language gaffs, meaning religious things Christians say/write that look like they mean something else. I assume that these really show up all over the place, but, for whatever reason, I notice the Christian ones more. Or remember them more. Or whatever.

My all-time favorite is from the song The Love of God by Frederick M. Lehman, which has the following chorus:
Oh love of God how rich and pure
How measureless and strong
It shall forevermore endure
The saints and angels song
(I have removed the punctuation to match how I normally see the lyrics written.)

The problem here involves the word "it". Mr. Lehman presumably intended "it" to refer to the song, leaving 2 points: the love of God is big, and the song endures. However, according to normal English grammar rules (and barring weird punctuation, which I have seen), "it" would refer back to the love of God. Specifically, it is now saying that the love of God will endure despite the song. Which raises the question of why the saints and angels are considered a threat.

The simplest answer is that maybe they can't sing very well, and the song is consequently driving God nuts. Monty Python and the Holy Grail has God actually saying this (not in reference to this song). Theologically, however, it seems weak, as God presumably gave people and angels the voices he wanted them to have.

But there's another idea that I would find more plausible if not for the fact that this whole thing is nonsensical: maybe it's what they are singing about. Now this might seem odd, because pretty much everyone is in favor of love and generosity, at least when someone else is doing it. Unfortunately, divine love has a nasty habit of bringing other things, like mercy and forgiveness.

People don't like those. And yes, I am completely serious about that. C.S. Lewis put it very well: "Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive, as we had during the [second world] war. And then, to mention the subject at all is to be greeted with howls of anger. It is not that people think this is too high and difficult a virtue: it is that people think it is hateful and contemptible." The root problem is that they offend our sense of justice. People don't want their enemies forgiven; they want revenge. Like this:

But it goes deeper than that. People don't want mercy and forgiveness for themselves either. (At least in the modern West, I have heard it claimed that the ancient world was different.) Instead, they want to believe that their actions were justifiable under the circumstances. In a word, they want to be excused. And excuses and forgiveness aren't really compatible: The part of an act that is excusable cannot be forgiven (because it was not wrong), and the part that is forgivable is the part that cannot be excused.

The same thing applies to mercy (and grace, which is just looking at mercy form a different angle). People don't want to be given things they don't deserve. Instead, they want the same things, but with the assurance that they have a right to them. And when they can't explain why, they just get angrier about it.

Anyway, back to the humor. I also have a list of Christian books and what they sound like they should be about (none are). All of these are in my church library, and the list does not include fiction or biographies (where clever titles are common).
Bounds on Prayer (by Edward McKendree Bounds)
A philosophical/theological analysis of what prayer can and cannot achieve, and what it is (morally) appropriate to use it for.
(The) Confessions (by St. Augustine)
A record of the different sins people confessed to him (he was ordained as a priest), now made publicly available to allow people to judge their own spiritual state more effectively.
The Rest of God (by Mark Buchanan)
A theological treatise covering those aspects not covered in his other books The Love of God, The Power of God, and The Truth of God.
Waking the Dead (by John Eldredge)
A beginner's guide to necromancy.
The Imitation of Christ (by Thomas a Kempis)
An alternative for people who find the real Jesus too... troubling.
Beyond Seduction (by Dave Hunt)
Essentially a "Dummies" book for adultery.
The Trouble with Jesus (by Joseph Stowell)
A book of theological questioning by a man who isn't nearly as confident about his faith as he used to be.
And an honorable mention for:
Just Do Something (by Kevin DeYoung)
It presumably should be a screed calling for Christians to stop wasting their time trying to work out what they should do and just take a guess, even if it's wrong. There's only one problem. I think that that is exactly what it is.

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