Over at The Elephant of Kettering, Dr. Gerald Priest, Professor of Historical Theology at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary (my alma mater), makes some important comments about Andrew Fuller’s use of language on the atonement. Read his post found here.
You can see how Fuller’s adoption of problematic governmental language in his discussions of the atonement lead to much unnecessary controversy. When you study Fuller carefully, you find that he truy sees the main thrust of the atonement as penal substitution. Yet, his adoption of his friend’s New England governmental language lead many to question his orthodoxy.
This lead me to do some thinking of late on how we must use our language carefully. As pastors, theologians, church historians, etc. it behooves us to handle the Word of God rightly; to understand the Word carefully; and to represent it accurately. Our people rely upon us to carefully instruct them in the doctrines of the Word. If we are not carefuly in how we do so, we can lead people down very dangerous paths.
When we are teaching people about the purpose of the atonement of Jesus Christ (which we should be doing!), we must be careful in our language! Not only that, careful use of theological verbiage will help to prevent unnecessary controversy and arguments especially when we truly agree with those whom we are arguing!
The ministry of the Word is the most important thing we can be doing in this life. Therefore, we should be doing it with that much more care. Pastors and theologians… use your language carefully! If Andrew Fuller, the greatest Baptist theologian of the 18th century could make a mistake like this, don’t you think that we could too? We must be careful in how we use our theological language.