Sunday, February 12, 2006

Spiritual "Giftings"

A Christian blogger who goes by “ts” wrote a comment on my February 8 entry about the word “giftings.” I had to do a little searching to find where I had used that word, as it isn’t the way I ordinarily refer to “spiritual gifts.” In that post, I quoted a large segment of an article by John Thomas, who wrote about finding God’s will for our lives. Thomas says in his introductory paragraph that he wants to give “a few tips for discovering your unique giftings as an individual.”

At the time I set up that entry, I didn’t think anything about that word, one way or another. But now I do.

I found “ts’s” blog. He said that a visitor to his church pointed out that the Bible does not use the word “giftings.” Instead, it uses the word “gifts” to refer to the spiritual abilities given to Christians so that they can teach the gospel of God and minister to each other. Some of these gifts are teaching, prophesying, healing, helping others, encouraging people, and administering programs.

“TS” says in his blog that he

decided to research the issue. Using my trusty (free, online Bible), tried to find "giftings" in all the English versions--couldn't find it anywhere. I turned to the Oracle of our age, Google: more than 1.7 million hits for "spiritual gifts" compared to only a few thousand for "giftings." Moreover, the only websites that used "giftings" seemed to be Charismatic Christian churches. (Charismatic means believing that manifest works of the Holy Spirit--such as prophesy, speaking in tongues, healing--continue today and didn't cease with the passing of the original apostles.)

My best guess is that some crazy Charismatics, of which I am one, started using "giftings" mistakenly, and that the meme spread from there. It's kind of interesting to see how words that are spoken from the pulpit or from teachers carry a sort of undisputable authority, so that we don't even question the grammar of what's being said. It's a bit frightening, actually.

The use of “giftings,” then, is really incorrect. When I responded to “ts,” I said to him that “’Gifting’ is a verb and not even a main verb, actually.” But I suddenly realize that is wrong: “Gift” is a noun. You can’t put the verb ending “-ing” on a noun and use it as a noun. It is certainly not wrong to use an “-ing” verb as a noun, necessarily. We have gerunds in English—words like “swimming” and “reading”—that can be used as either nouns or verbs.

Oh, dear. This is confusing. Any time you try to put a universal rule on the English language, you are in trouble, because it originates from such a mish-mash of a number of languages. And English is always in the flux of change. But . . . I hold that people who write about spiritual gifts should say just that: gifts, and not giftings.

I think words are vitally important. A word is a symbol for something. We use these symbols to think and communicate. And our choices of words may have a huge impact on the way we are perceived—the effectiveness of our communication.

1 comment:

Tyson said...

you are extremely gracious, judy. i'm an english major, actually, but admittedly not a very good one.

i actually heard my pastor use giftings last week but didn't want to say anything to him cause he has more important things to worry about. maybe i'll have a chance to tell him later.


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