Latin Camp - And the Importance of Language Learning

By Pastor Esget

This week students have enjoyed Latin Camp at Immanuel. Miss Clevenger, Mrs. Krumwiede, Miss Fleming, and Miss Chin-Yee have done a magnificent job connecting the Latin world to Holy Scripture and its application to our life today.

Why is language learning important? There are significant theological reasons that language is important. A book that I am reading, God's Song in a New Land: Lutheran Hymnals in America (Carl Schalk, CPH), discusses the conflicting views of immigrant Lutherans in America on adopting the English language in church: The conflict was between those who “on the one hand, would boldly adopt English in order to win America, and those who, on the other hand, feared to embrace English lest they be lost in America.” The concern was that in changing language, they would also change their theology.

The history of the Christian Church is in many ways a history of language (and the culture from which it flows). As the message of the Gospel moves from one language to another, subtle shifts can happen that work big changes over time.

An excellent example is found in this Sunday's Gospel (Luke 15:1-10). The topic is repentance. The command "Repent!" means in Greek (the language of the New Testament), "Change your mind!" St. Jerome, translator of the Bible into Latin (called "The Vulgate") rendered "Repent!" as "Do penance!" Over time, penance became part of the Roman Catholic sacramental system. Repentance became not a change of mind and art, but an action performed before the priest. This had deep and radical implications for the corruption of Christianity. That is the background for Luther's famous opening to the Ninety-five Theses, "When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, "Repent!", He willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance."

Language matters. Words matter – but the most important words are God's Word. (This is why it is important to have pastors and preachers who have learned the languages of Scripture.)

It's a custom for many to have "summer reading," often consisting of thrillers to read at the beach or poolside. There's nothing wrong with light reading. But as summer vacations are times for refreshment and renewal, let your reading lists also contain items for your own spiritual refreshment and renewal. As always, you can see what I'm currently reading—and get a few recommendations—here.