Talk Like A Theologian

I’ve been taking a Hebrews class all week with about 90 other guys taught by D.A. Carson at the Sovereign Grace Ministries Pastors College.

Dr. Carson is warm, humble, engaging, and very, very smart.  On top of that, there are a lot of very smart guys in the class.  I know this because I was an art major in college.  I can recognize smart people when I see them.

So I’ve  been listening to everyone and taking notes not only on Hebrews but on how to talk like a scholar. I can’t teach you to walk like an Egyptian, but now I’m pleased to say I can teach you to talk like a theologian.  After reading this you will be able to stride into the halls of Oxford or Cambridge and converse with the C.S. Lewises and Tolkiens of today with confidence.  Talking like a theologian is as simple as sprinkling a few choice words into your conversations.

Start with the word “trajectory.” This is currently a very hip term among scholars.  Say this and you will not only impress theologians but rocket scientists as well.  Here’s how to use it: “I’m moving on an ever-increasing trajectory toward lunch,” or “If I continue on my current trajectory of coffee consumption, I’ll need to move to Sumatra.”

Next word you need to know is “nuance.” This refers to subtle distinctions.  If you say, “I love the nuanced flavors in this Big Mac,” a hush will come upon McDonald’s as everyone realizes they are in the presence of Sophistication incarnate.

Theologians don’t simply explain things, they “unpack” them, or they “tease things out.” For example, I may say to my wife Kristi, “Let me unpack for you why I bought this car without asking you.”  Or, “Let me tease out for you why I need another electric guitar.”  To which she will probably reply, “I’ll tease you out — right in the head!”

When scholars want to digress off topic, they say, “Let me make a brief ‘excursus.’” Now when I have a conflict with Kristi and she says, “You’re avoiding the issue,” I can say, “I’m not avoiding anything, I’m just taking a brief excursus.”  No comeback for that one.  Genius!

Finally, bright people add “-logical” to the ends of words that end in “-logy.” For example, methodology becomes “methodological,” and “ontology” becomes “ontological.”  My last name, Altrogge, becomes “Altrological.”

Alright, I’ve given you some tools.  Let’s put your new genius vocabulary to work.  Next time you’re with friends try this:

“Hey Mary, have you met Bill?  Let me tease out for you some of the nuances of the trajectory of our phenomenological commonalities despite our differentialities of confessionalism and variegated methodologies.  Are you up for an excursus?  Ok, Let’s unpack our lunch.”

Your friends will look at each other, shrug, and be amazed at your conceptualities.

(P.S.  I have heard all of these words this week.  Of course, I know what they all mean).

photo by woicik

  • beth

    wow. great thoughts. i'm glad that's what you're taking with you from this week of teachings.

  • Mark Altrogge

    Oh I’ve got lots more….

  • Thom Inglin

    Someday, I hope to be as clever as you,,,,

    • Mark Altrogge

      Thanks Thom! I'm grateful you'd even read any of our posts…

  • Petra Hefner

    Wow, theological talk has never caused me to laugh with such trajectorial velocity.

    • MarkAltrogge

      That kind of velocity is really fast, Petra!

  • matt blick

    very very funny

    • MarkAltrogge

      Thanks Matt!

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  • Leslie

    Does this mean we need to start bringing our dictionaries to church so we can figure out what your sermons mean? Or maybe you can have the definitions flashed on the wall behind you during the sermon.

    • MarkAltrogge

      Don't worry, Leslie, I'll be sure to give you the meanings. Provided I know what they are.

  • Madonna

    So comicologistical! Your trajectorial cleverness never fails to tease our brains. Love the post!

    • MarkAltrogge

      Thanks Madonna. Obviously, you're growing already.

  • Anonymous

    The fact that you guys think you have to me comedians all the time makes me seriously consider finding a new church.

    • @stephenaltrogge

      Whoever this is, I'm sorry you're feeling offended! Me or my dad would be glad to talk to you in person if something we are doing is causing you to struggle.

    • MarkAltrogge

      Hi Anonymous,

      I agree with Stephen. We'd be glad to talk to you any time. I do think that if you read much of our blog, or spend much time in our church, you will find that we love Jesus our Savior, and though we are certainly sinners, are serious about our desire to pursue him and encourage others. Our humor, I believe, flows out of our joy in the Lord and all he's done for us, and our desire not to take ourselves seriously – we want to take Jesus seriously but not ourselves.

      Again, we'd be glad to talk with you if you'd like to. Thanks!

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  • Dan Sudfeld

    Thanks for serving me with this post. Very helpful.

    • MarkAltrogge

      Thanks Dan!

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  • Melissa Goins

    Mark! You CRACK me up! I'm sending this to all the attendees as we speak. Excellent!!

    • MarkAltrogge

      Thanks Melissa! Hope I don't get into trouble….

  • chris silard

    I can't stop laughing.
    And your conclusion is brilliant. At least we can sound smart…
    Chris Silard

    • MarkAltrogge

      Sounding smart is about all I can hope for, Chris.

  • Chris Burke

    Thanks Mark, great stuff! I especially like Altrological. Of course, my favorite phrase of the week is ” principial obsolescence.” As in. “the pricipial obsolescence of my original understanding of the letter to the Hebrews has been made absolutely clear in light of what I have learned this week.”

    Great meeting you this week my friend.

    • MarkAltrogge

      Hey Chris, That's a good one! Somehow I didn't catch that one. Great meeting you too!

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  • Joey

    This is funny, because this runs through my head when leading the church in prayer on Sunday mornings.

    It's a battle to try to not to use the theological "SAT words" to show some false holiness or knowledge.

    And "Theologians don’t simply explain things, they “unpack” them,"…that's great haha

    • MarkAltrogge

      Hey Joey!

      You're right – we don't want to use "theological 'SAT words'" just to impress people. That's not what was happening this week (I know you're not implying that) in my class – if anything, I was mocking myself for how much I don't know. Thanks for your comments!

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  • Mrs. Erven

    Just read a blog by one of your fellow pastors, and he used the word "nuance." Thought of this post! :) I laughed.

    • Mark Altrogge

      Hi Mrs. Erven, see what I mean? Glad you got a laugh…hopefully you won't laugh out loud when you hear it in a message in church.

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