The Importance of Theological Vocabulary

The end goal of teaching the catechism to our children is to systematically teach them the basic doctrines of scripture. At the root of this process is equipping our children with great biblical vocabulary. John Piper in his article, The Poverty of Theological Vocabulary, explains the importance of vocabulary.

“There is an intimate relationship, however, between our power to enjoy a sensuous experience and our capacity to describe it with words. In “Lines Composed Above Tintern Abbey” Wordsworth is not taken up nearly so much with the joy of revisiting the banks of the Wye as he is with the pleasure this moment will bring him in the coming years “recollected in tranquility.”

To put it simply, without a full and rich language of the sense, we will lose the enduring quality of our sensuous joys, and, what’s worse, with the atrophy of our descriptive capacities the power of all our enjoyment languishes. When you cease to use the word “tree” in your vocabulary, you have probably ceased to look at trees.

The relation this has to theological vocabulary is this: The fastest and easiest way to obliterate the language of the sense and the power of the senses is to read only poverty-stricken theology.”

So as we catechize our children, whether or not they are at an age to fully comprehend the doctrine, we are equipping them with biblically rich vocabulary. When we teach our little ones words like justification, sanctification, redemption, mercy, grace, they may not comprehend their meanings yet, but we have given them the vocabulary to build their knowledge upon and to experience the full joy of the Lord!

By John Piper. ©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Website:

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"Him we proclaim,
warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom,
that we may present everyone mature in Christ."
(Colossians 1:28, ESV)

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