Communicating with C.S.Lewis

Here is my latest article for ZENIT

C.S.Lewis wrote an essay in 1961 about the basic principles of communication for those trying to talk about the Christian faith with ordinary people. He says those who are specialists have to ‘translate’ the faith into everyday language. Catholic priests, theologians and scholars use specialized ‘insider’ talk. Even ordinary in the pew Catholics use a special language when talking about the faith. Non-Catholics don’t understand our specialized lingo, and an increasing number of Catholics don’t either.

We use five categories of specialized religious language, and the good evangelist and apologist will understand them and not only avoid the special language, but translate it for his reader or listener. The first category of religious language we use is theological. We toss terms about like “Immaculate Conception” and “Double Procession of the Holy Spirit” or refer to the filioque clause. This won’t do. We need to use simple language, and explain what these terms mean.

The second category of special language we use is liturgical language. People don’t know what an ‘ordo’ is and don’t much care about the difference between a tunicle and a dalmatic. They don’t know  what the ‘epiclesis’ is and don’t know what we’re talking about when we spout words like ‘ad orientem’ or ‘versus populum’. When we talk about our worship we need to use ordinary language. Likewise when we use devotional and spiritual talk or the specialized jargon of canon law and the intricacies of the church hierarchy.

Read the whole article here.


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