[forthright] Helping Our World Grow Wiser

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From: Forthright Magazine <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Thu, 06 Jul 2006 12:00:13 -0500
Forthright Magazine
Straight to the Cross


Helping Our World Grow Wiser
by David Anguish

My parents had a better vocabulary than my sons
do. At least they did if both my parents and sons
fit the general trend cited by Bill Repp.

In a question-answer column appearing in our local
paper, Repp, who is president of the Organization
Development Group, responded to a reader who
questioned the fairness of having a presentation
judged by the size of her vocabulary. He stated
that "in 1950, the average 14-year-old had a
vocabulary of 50,000 words. Today, the average
teenager knows only 25,000 words."/1 Repp went on
to say that these numbers are evidence of "a trend
that's been called the 'dumbing down' of America."
They are numbers that should not surprise us in a
society where the average person watches more than
30 hours of television a week. As Repp observes,
"There's not much opportunity to build a powerful,
commanding vocabulary watching 'American Idol,'
'Dancing With The Stars' or 'Desperate
Housewives.'" This trend presents a challenge and
an opportunity for God's people.

We are challenged in our ability to influence our
world. We live in this "dumbed down" society and,
as Repp notes, may "have too easily joined" the
trend. At the same time, we find ourselves facing
in a culture with a variety of belief systems the
likes of which the church probably has not faced
since New Testament times. The question is not
just whether we can communicate with people in a
"dumbed down" world. We must also ask whether we
are equipped to respond to the many "arguments and
... lofty opinion[s] raised against the knowledge
of God" (see 2 Corinthians 10:3-6, ESV). To the
extent that we resist the dumbing down trend, we
are presented with an opportunity to affect our
world as radically as the earliest Christians
affected theirs. Think about what they did. A
small group of confused and frightened followers
in the hours after Jesus' crucifixion became
leaders in a movement that in just three centuries
saw the capitulation, philosophically at least, of
the world's greatest power.

How did they do it? They took seriously Peter's
charge to persecuted Christians to "always be
prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you
for a reason for the hope that is in you" (1 Peter
3:15). Notice that preparation came first. They
had to know before they could defend.

Nearly a century ago, T. R. Glover explained how
that process worked out in practice. "The
Christian read the best books, assimilated them,
and lived the freest intellectual life the world
had. Jesus had set him free to be true to fact ...
 From the very start every Christian had to know
and understand, he had to read the Gospels; he had
to be able to give reason for his faith. They read
about Jesus and they knew him, and they knew where
they stood ... Who did the thinking of the ancient
world? Again and again it was the Christian. He
out-thought the world."/2

Our world awaits similar direction.

1/ Bill Repp, "Vocabulary is seen as a skill, so
cultivate it," The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal,
May 14, 2006, p. D3.
2/ T. R. Glover, The Jesus of History (New York:
Association Press, 1917), p. 217.

David Anguish has served as minister in the
Southwind church in Memphis, Tennessee, since
April, 2000.

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