Spinoza Jones, my erstwhile beatnik friend, now a tumultuous believer, charged into my office like a water buffalo after a white hunter.

“Dr. Bulltillich!” cried Spin. “Yesterday I heard him preach!”

“So?” I replied. “And haven’t many heard the learned doctor preach?”

“Indubitably. But I also heard him address a gathering of clergymen only last week—when a pastor sneaked me into the assemblage. And what did this reverend doctor do but arise and announce that he was of the considered opinion that preachers should drop from their pulpit vocabulary all such words as ‘incarnation,’ ‘atonement,’ ‘regeneration,’ ‘redemption,’ and a host of others. And why should this be done? ‘Because,’ says the doctor, ‘people don’t know what they mean—and the preacher probably doesn’t know, either!’ So—scrap ‘em!”

“That,” I said, “sounds a little …”

“Ha!” shouted Spinoza. “Why not just drop the word ‘God’? Who knows what that means, either!”

“Well,” I said, “that’s something to consider.”

Spin snorted. “Attend me further, chum. Only yesterday I attended his church. He has a nice church, with a big congregation. He has a good delivery. In fact, he’s eloquent, in a passionless sort of way. But what did he say to the people?”

“He must have said something,” I suggested.

“But what? Man, despite the fact that I have sat at the feet of the masters of the academies, I’m not quite certain what he said! And I’m positive that I observed a few other intellectual heads over which the message went!”

“He was deep?” I said.

“Deep? Man, he was unfathomable! Some words, to be sure, rang with the sound of the familiar, even when we didn’t quite know their meaning—like ‘existentialism,’ ‘irenicism,’ or ‘docetism.’ Maybe not too many squinched up their faces when he said, ‘sacerdotalism.’ And when he said ‘ecumenicity’ faces lit up like the altar-candles because it looked like he was getting back to familiar territory.”

Spin paused and glared at me. “And at this point, so help me, friend, he came up with a thing like aggiornamento! Yes—but he did! Like that, man—aggiornamento! And he left it like that, with all the Italianless yokels looking like they’d been hit with a cold, wet rag!”

“Hmmmm,” I said.

“But get this—that Italian bit wasn’t enough. He then said like this: Weltuntergangstimmung!”

I blinked. “My German was never much. Maybe a little Pennsylvania Dutch …”

“Weltuntergangstimmung, yet!” howled Spin. “But consider, friend. The doctor takes time out to tell us what that freight-train word means. It means like an end-of-the-world mood. Which, he says, he is trying to save us from, that mood about the world about to go down the drain. You are still tuned in to me?”

“Somewhat,” I said.

“Well, there you are,” muttered Spin.

“Where?” I asked.

“Back where we commenced, friend. Back to terms people don’t understand.”

“You mean like ‘incarnation,’ ‘atonement,’ ‘regeneration,’ and ‘redemption’?”

“Like that. Existentialism this pulpiteer can speak of, and docetism. And without definitions. These we are supposed to comprehend. With Weltuntergangstimmung—he stops and explains. But what’s with a man who can toss out a double jaw-cracker like that but who cannot make clear the meaning of regeneration?”

“I understand English better than German any day,” I said.

“Precisely, and especially on Sunday! Incarnation, atonement, regeneration—all English! And spoken to an English-speaking people! Somewhere in that old language the Pilgrims spoke there should be words to make clear what old terms mean. Man, what arc words for?”

Spin halted. Then he continued, “Has not the great apostle spoken vehemently of those in the state of ‘understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm’? And has not the same apostle said, ‘Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee’?”

Spinoza stomped to the door. He yanked it open, then turned and said, “It’s not like I am opposed to new words or new terms, nor that I have any special disapprobation for big words. It’s like I think that we ought to define the old words and the old terms first before we begin to turn loose a whole volley of new ones.

“But I must desist, chum. Such cogitations as assail me now can only, if they persevere, bring on me a personal attack of Weltuntergangstimmung!”

He went out, the door banging after him. -Hastings, Michigan

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