Sunday, November 02, 2008


Crazy Talk: A Not-So-Stuffy Dictionary of Theological Terms, ed. Rolf Jacobson, Augsburg, 2008.

If the authors have German names, the book is published by Augsburg Press, has a chapter on Reformation, and prefers 'Communion' to 'Eucharist/Mass', you'll guess it has an 'Evangelical Lutheran' flavour. Here's a racy - yes, sometimes crazy - easy-to-read little pocketbook which is an excellent introduction to many theological terms, without dumbing it all down too much.

But first: If this book is for beginners, try defining these terms: Adiophora, Adoptionism, Happy Exchange, Hypostatic Union; Kenosis, Ontology, Perichoresis, Theodicy.

Still breathing?

Adiophora = 'something not worth fighting about', like human traditions; Adoptionism = the heresy which believes that Jesus didn't become God's Son until the age of about 30; Happy Exchange = Christ carries our sins/burdens on the Cross, but we are, in baptism, 'clothed with Christ'; Hypostatic Union = the two natures of Jesus, divine and human, are united in one person (but it's a bit more complicated than that); Kenosis = Christ emptying himself to become truly human (ditto about complication); Ontology = 'metaphysical reflection on the qualitative difference between the essence of various entities, for example, margarine and butter' (which is why 'you'll be reassured to know that nobody has a full-time job as an ontologist - at least not a paid one)'; Perichoresis = 'the attempt to describe the numbers "three" and "one" without using math'; Theodicy = 'the attempt to explain why the one who created everything and saved everyone doesn't live up to our expectations'.

'Saved everyone'? Well, there is a chapter on hell (but not universalism: this book's written by Evangelical Lutherans, remember) which says, in part: 'In the New Testament, hell is pictured as a place where there will be much gnashing of teeth - and where there will be no dental plan or health care of any kind. And there's a lake of fire but no indication of what lakeshore property is going for... Hell is the place where there is no relationship with God. In any case, you can trust Jesus to steer you toward much better real estate. As in all real estate, remember: location, location, location!'

A book which can reduce very serious matters to such absurdities can't be all that bad.

Rowland Croucher

October 2008


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