I have heard it said, or words to the effect that the language of theology is a precise language. By this: its implied that the words and terminology used, are precise words and terms, that are used for clarity and understanding.
Yet, I will argue that there is no actual consensus as to what many words and terms really mean, and if there is no real consensus, how can one truly write with clarity and precision to be understood by those they are writing or speaking to.
Take the Baptism of the Spirit as an example. It’s a simple term. Its one that you think you have a firm understanding of what it means. And within that framework you might have a groups of Christians talking together about this subject, all thinking they are talking about the same thing, because they are using the same words.
Yet nothing could be further from the truth…and we see misunderstandings start to emerge. Within the group you have some reformed evangelicals. Their understanding of the Baptism of the Spirit is equated with conversion. They are granted the Holy Spirit, who comes and dwells within them at the point of becoming a believer. There are the more covenant type believers who believe the person is granted the Holy Spirit at the time of baptism in water. Within their theological mindset, this is where conversion takes place, for Peter says in Acts that the promise of the Spirit is for you, your children and all who are far off. And there are the Pentecostals / Charismatics who believe that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is a second blessing / activity of the Spirit distinct to that of conversion.
So if the Pentecostal says you need to be Baptised in the Spirit, the evangelical hears you saying that they are not saved and need to be saved, because they don’t have the Holy Spirit. The Evangelical then retorts that the Pentecostals don’t believe any are saved unless they are Baptised in the Spirit…now further confusion arises when its said that the gift of Tongues is the initial evidence of being Baptised in the Spirit…and so the Evangelical hears the Pentecostal saying that you are not saved unless you speak in tongues…clear as mud..hey. And somewhere in the confusion you have the covenantal types adding their two bits into the mess of understanding and so both the Pentecostal and the Evangelical believe the covenant types are saying that the Water Baptism and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit are the same thing.
Within the framework of understanding: we need to listen and understand what each other is saying within their own reference so that indeed we are truly understanding. For as I have shown, in trying to understand others through our own understanding complexity and confusion results. This is but only one example of many examples that highlight the complexity of theology and discussion…I’d be interested in hearing other examples.