Working in Canada’s only officially bilin- gual province gives me many occasions
to enjoy both our official languages.
Coming across the translation of a
familiar English word, however,
recently brought me up short.
The French word for a “preacher”
is le prédicateur.
Preachers are to declare the
Good News and proclaim the Word
of God in its fullness. These are
great and heavy responsibilities to
which all Christians are called from
time to time.
Whether or not we ever step into
a pulpit, we all share the gospel
with our friends and teach the Bible
to our children. So all of us are
preachers, at least some of the time.
That’s an astounding, even crushing, burden – to be called to speak
“the very words of God” (1 Peter
4: 11). We could not possibly bear it
unless the very Holy Spirit of God
The French translation of
preacher can get us thinking about
another aspect of our preaching.
Literally le prédicateur becomes
“the predicator,” which might make
you think of the Terminator or
some villain in a superhero movie.
But in fact a predicator is actually
someone who “asserts something
about another thing.”
Predicators are those of us
charged with the awesome task of
asserting true things about God.
We dare to finish the sentences that
start with God as the subject.
God is –.
God is like –.
God has done –, is doing –, and
will do –.
The most important thing for you
to know about God is that God –.
In fact every Christian – whether
we speak much or little about God
– is implicitly a predicator. In
everything we do in every area of
our lives, we imply certain predicates about God.
“What kind of God is it that those
people worship? Well, judging from
how they behave, God must be –.”
“Judging from how they treat
their spouses and children, God
must be –.”
“Judging from how they treat
each other, God must be –.”
“Judging from how they partici-
pate in society, all I can conclude is
that their God is –.”
Just as we observe Muslims or
Mormons or any other group to
ascertain what is at the centre of
their religion, and particularly to
see whether we should welcome or
fear them, so we Christians are
being observed in a Canada that
increasingly knows nothing other-
wise about our faith.
And particularly as certain loud
people are speaking and acting in
the name of evangelicalism south of
the border, many of our Canadian
neighbours have become deeply
uneasy with anything tagged “evan-
gelical.” That word has become a
predicate with a range of unsavoury
meanings that hinder any opportun-
ity we might have to invite people to
consider the God we worship.
“Hah! Evangelicals apparently are
–. And they seem to like to –. So if
we let them, I’m afraid they’ll just –.”
Over the next decade how will
we Evangelicals try to alter the
perceptions, the predicates, our
fellow citizens will stick on us?
Everything we post on social
media predicates something about
us. Everything we put on our congregation’s website or church sign
communicates a message.
Everything we wear, eat, listen
to, watch, drive, inhabit or buy
signals our values.
Everything predicates, so everything communicates.
We dare not hope people will take
the time to study our Christian
Scriptures, or read a fine book by our
favourite Christian author, or even
just attend one of our Christian services to see our religion at its best.
People will do what is easy to do
with what is easy to find – on the
Internet and in their everyday acquaintance – and will draw lines
from that to who we are and what
we do. They’ll extend those lines to
determine whom we worship.
And then they will draw lines
back again to decide how to treat us
– and anything we care to say.
Isn’t that all we do when we’re
investigating another group or religion or movement?
The challenge is this: How will
we prompt better predicates about
our kind of Christianity, yes, and
especially about the kind of Christ
we adore and long to commend to
This is our pressing public task
– since we will be invited, or even
merely allowed, to do little else if
we don’t strategically and faithfully
improve our predication. /FT
We are being observed in a Canada that
increasingly knows nothing otherwise
about our faith.
“ASSER TS SOMETHING
ABOU T ANOTHER
CHRIST & CULTURE IN CANADA
JOHN G. STACKHOUSE JR.
sentences, subject and –
How do our lives preach about God to our neighbours?
John Stackhouse teaches at Crandall
University in Moncton, N.B. His next book is
Why You’re Here: Ethics for the Real World
(forthcoming from Oxford). Find more of his
columns at www.Faith Today.ca/ChristAndCulture.