Definitions, definitions, definitions

Lord Polonius: What do you read, my lord?
Hamlet: Words, words, words.
Lord Polonius: What is the matter, my lord?
Hamlet: Between who?
Lord Polonius: I mean, the matter that you read, my lord.
(Hamlet II, ii, 191-195)

I used to be much more careful about assuming I knew what someone was talking about when they asked me a question. Recent assumptions have come back to bite me. For example, when I was in college people knew that I was a Christian. A guy named Mike Hall (whom we called the "Dude") asked me one day if I was a Holy Roller. Now, it would have been easy for me to say "yes." Even though it is an old term for a believer in Christ I guess it could fit me at the time. Well, in a shot of wisdom, I asked him what he meant by Holy Roller. His explanation of what he believed one to be was so bizarre I started to laugh a little and said "no."

I was in a discussion with someone about legalism and he defined it as the presence of ritual. I said that was a bad definition and explained to him my definition of legalism, liberty, and license. I think that had we defined terms up front we would have had a shorter discussion or the discussion would have gone a different route entirely.

Recently we have been receiving emails about the new buzz word in Christian circles these days: relevance. Now, whether you are "for" or "against" relevance today there is room, I believe, to actually define what relevance is and, in so doing, define what it is not. That would help us avoid strawman arguments that I see in most of the literature that I read that tout its benefits or bemoan its effect.

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