by Mark

There are several ways to learn a language (I’ve been thinking about language acquisition quite a bit).  In general I see two approaches.  The first is the script, learning key phrases such as, “Where is the bathroom?”  “I can’t identify the rash I have in a medical textbook and think I am about to die, would you help me?” or other ways to smile and say phrases that you don’t necessarily fully understand.  The upside to this approach is you gain the ability to work in another culture very quickly – traveler phrase books are scripts.  When we first got here we learned the scripts for going to the market, a restaurant, a taxi and other life situations we find ourselves in here.  The problem is comes when people move off the script.  You can say hello in, oh about 2,000 different ways in Mongolian- in English we don’t say “Good morning sir, how do you do today?” but that is the script that is taught abroad- when you say “Hey, what’s up?” People look to the sky.  When people throw us a curve it takes a while to figure out what they are saying. 

The other way to learn a language is to learn the code.  We have two years studying this.  Its to learn the building blocks, grammar (I never thought I would be interested in discussing Mongolian grammar but it really is one of my new favorite topics for discussion- maybe a forum on the Internet?) vocabulary.  It takes much longer but we will be able to express and hear much more.  We will never be done with studying and learning the Mongolian language. (I realize I don’t really know English that great either, I just grew up speaking it)  The code is much more difficult but is vastly more usable. 

As I think about this I wonder if it is not true for the Christian life as well.  Do we know a script or are we going by a code?  Many Christians I know life life by the script (one they superimpose on the Bible) and as long as life follows the script all is good, but if things change-it all falls apart, they don’t know how to respond.  They can give the appearance of maturity and knowledge without knowing anything at all.  On the other hand those learning a code struggle.  Its embarrassing and not pretty, but they are growing, and maturing in ways that someone bound to the script can never know. 

Many are not content to learn the code, it takes to long.  I see many institutions who train pastors be content with teaching them a script of ministry  and not the code building blocks of theology, Greek, Hebrew, personal holiness an it goes on.  Its akin to teaching someone how to use Microsoft Word instead of how to program it and then calling them an engineer.  Most Christians don’t want to get caught up in it either- I mean forget theology, its about a relationship isn’t it.  The problem is we can’t understand what God is saying when he does speak, especially in the midst of suffering.  It isn’t easy but as that great example of cinematic theology, A League of Their Own Says- “If it were easy, everyone would do it.”