By Mark Altrogge
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.