It wouldn’t be much of a Dictionary of Christianese if the actual word “Christianese” wasn’t defined, right?
Would you believe that what you think of as “Christianese” is actually six different and distinct things? That’s right. When people say that someone uses too much Christianese or that it took them a while to learn Christianese, they could be referring to any of six different meanings that the word Christianese has.
You can read the entire definition of Christianese here (PDF), which contains tons of examples of each kind of Christianese, but I’ll spell it out quickly for you too.
Christianese has six distinct meanings, and when people refer to Christianese, they can be referring to any of the following things:
(1) Any sort of language that Christians use that folks outside the church aren’t familiar with.
(2) All those cheesy expressions, cliches, and inside jokes that become super popular, soon fade away, and are eventually replaced by the next wave of cornball Christianese.
(3) Fancy seminary jargon and theological terms such as justification, sanctification, and propitiation.
(4) Shallow, superficial, inauthentic code words and phrases that people use to sound like they’re saying something when really they’re just blowing smoke. This kind of talking conceals far more than it reveals.
(5) Shakespeare-era English that sounds like it was lifted straight out of the King James Bible, such as beseech, thy, Thou, giveth, and blesseth.
(6) The language and phraseology that tends to be used by evangelical Protestants (think: right-wing conservatives).
So how about it… maybe part of the reason people have trouble knowing how to deal with Christianese is that we haven’t ever had a really good understanding of just how complex of an idea it truly was.
When you yourself think of “Christianese,” which of these six different meanings do you first think of?