THE LANGUAGE OF CHRISTIAN RELIGION: A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH AND SOME SELECTED PENTECOSTAL DENOMINATIONS
The major objective of language is communication but the manner in which language communicates appears to be interlinked with individual experiences in terms of linguistic attitude, cultural influences and personal perception. Register is a term that is used to describe variations in language according to use. For instance, Thorne says that lawyers use a legal register, doctors a medical register and the priests a religious register ( 95).
The language of Christian religion will be examined by analysing the spoken and written forms of the language of Roman Catholic Church and the selected Pentecostal denominations. Christian religion is the most widely distributed of the world religions. In the 1990s its total membership exceeded up to 1.9 billion people (Probert Microsoft Encarta).There are other systems of beliefs and values such as Platonism, Marxism, Freudianism or Democracy. Christianity is in many ways comprehensible only to those who share its benefits and strive to live by its values.
Wilken points out that Jerusalem is the center of Christian religion, at least until its destruction by the Roman armies in A.D 70. From it Christianity radiated to other cities and towns in Palestine and beyond. At first, its approval was large although it was not completely confined to the adherents of Judaism to which it was presented as new but not a brand new religion (820).
Leith states that in its very beginning, Christian religion manifested a dual relation to the Jewish faith, a relation of continuity and yet of fulfillment of antithesis and of affirmation. The forced conversion of the Jews in the Middles ages and the history of anti-Semites condemnations of both by church leaders are the evidence that the antithesis could easily overshadow affirmation. The fateful loss of continuity with Judaism has however never been total (450).
Above all, the presence of so many elements of Judaism in the Christian Bible has acted to remind Christians that He who they worshiped as their Lord was Himself a Jew and that the New Testament does not stand on its own but it is appended to the Old Testament. An important source of the alienation of Christianity from its Jewish root was the change in membership. And at the same point ,Christians with Gentile backgrounds began to outnumber the Jewish Christians. Clearly, the work of Apostle Paul was influential. Born a Jew, he was deeply involved in the destiny of Judaism, but as a result of his conversion, he believed that he was a “chosen instrument” to bring the message of Christ to Gentiles. He was the one who formulated his epistle to several early Christian congregations and many of his ideas constitute the core of Christian religion (453).
Manners says that the Christian religion is easier to describe historically than define logically. Such a description does yield some insights into continuing practices and essential characteristics of the Christian religion. One of such element is the centrality of the person of Jesus Christ. This is in one way or another, a feature of all historical varieties of the Christian belief and practice. Jesus Christ died so that his followers might share in the life of the Father in heaven and become the children of God. His cruxfiction, death and resurrection, to which the early Christians referred when they spoke about him as the one who had reconciled humanity to God, made the cross the chief focus of Christian faith and devotion .It is also the principal symbol of the saving love of God the father (520).
- BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
The Greek word Ka0aЛukoc (katholikos) from which catholic is derived means “universal”. It was first used to describe the Christian church in the early second century. Since the East-West schism of 1054, Norman states that the western church has generally been known as ‘Catholic’ and the Eastern Church as ‘Orthodox’. Following the reformation in the 16th century, the church in communion with the Bishop of Rome used the term Catholic to distinguish itself from the various Protestant churches (15).
According to Phayer, Roman Catholic Church is the world’s largest Christian church with more than a billion members. Its leader is the Pope who holds a supreme authority in concert with the collage of Bishops. The church defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity. It operates social programme and institutions throughout the world including schools, universities, hospitals, missions and shelters (930).
Having played a prominent role since the forth century, it teaches that it is “one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church’ founded by Jesus Christ. Its Bishops are consecrated successors of his Apostles and the Pope, as the successor of Saint Peter, possesses a universal primacy of jurisdiction through twenty-one ecumenical councils. The church maintains that it is guided by the Holy Spirit from falling into doctrinal error. The belief of the Roman Catholic is based on the Holy Bible and Sacred traditions interpreted by the church’s teachings and they are detailed in the catechism of the Catholic Church. Catholic worship is called the liturgy, the central component is the Eucharist (938).
Doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church
According to the Encyclopedia of Catholicism, the Catholic Church holds that there is one external God, who exists as a mutual indwelling of three persons, God the Father, God the son and God the Holy Spirit which makes up the Trinity. To Catholics, the term “church” refers to the people of God who abide in Christ and who are nourished with the body of Christ. The Catholics also believe that the fullness of the means of salvation exists only in Catholic Church. It also acknowledges that the Holy Spirit can make use of Christian communities separate from itself to bring people to salvation.
This doctrine teaches that anyone who is saved is saved even if the person has invincible ignorance of the church and its teaching. According to the council of Trent, Christ instituted the seven sacraments; they are Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, Reconciliation (Penance), Anointing of the sick, (formally extreme unction), Holy orders and Holy matrimony. Sacraments are important visible rituals that Catholics see as God’s presence and effective channel of God’s grace (353).
In an event known as the incarnation, the church teaches that through the power of the Holy Spirit, God became united with human nature when Christ was conceived in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Christ therefore, is believed to be fully divine and fully human. Prayers to the Virgin Mary is also part of Catholic piety but are distinct from the worship of God. The church holds Mary, as a perpetual virgin and Mother of God, in special regard. Catholics beliefs concerning Mary include her immaculate conception without the stain of original sin and bodily assumption into heaven at the end of her life. This is infallibly defined as dogma by Pope Pius ix .Devotions such as the Rosary, the Hail Mary, the slave Regina and the memorare are common Catholic prayers (56).
After baptism, Catholics may obtain forgiveness for subsequent sins through the sacrament of reconciliation (confession). In this sacrament, an individual confesses to a priest who then offers advice and imposes a particular penance to be performed. The priest is forbidden under penalty of excommunication to reveal any sin or disclosure heard under the seal of confession. Immediately after death, the soul of each person will receive a particular judgment from God based on the deeds of that individual’s earthly life (383).
Probert, Walter Microsoft Encarta states that Pentecostal denominations dates from April 4 1906, when members of the congregation of Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles Californian experienced the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. This denomination emphasized the teaching of the ‘full gospel ‘or foursquare. This term refers to the four fundamental believes of Pentecostalism : Jesus saves according to John 3:16, baptizes with the Holy spirit according to Acts 2:4, heals bodily according to James 5:15 and is coming again to receive those who are saved according to Thessalonians 4:16-17.
Pentecostals greatly adhere to the doctrine of biblical teachings,
believe that the Bible has divine authority in matters of faith and adopt a literalist approach to its interpretation. However, they differ from other evangelicals by rejecting Colossian’s teaching. They belief that spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues and prophecy did not cease after New Testament times and that they are still in still in operation today. This is the fundamental requirement of Pentecostalism. The Pentecostal belief and practice centers on the understanding of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. To them salvation is received by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and cannot be earned through good deeds alone unlike the Catholic belief.
Ordinances and Practices of Pentecostal Denominations.
Like other Christian churches Pentecostals believe that certain rituals or ceremonies were instituted as a pattern and command by Jesus in the New Testament. Some Pentecostals commonly call these ordinances, while the Roman Catholics in particular, call it sacraments. However, the ordinance of communion is seen as a direct command given by Jesus at the last supper. Some Pentecostals reject the use of wine for the communion; they use grape instead. These Pentecostal denominations are also seen in Africa and Nigeria.
1.2 STATEMENT OF RESEARCH PROBLEM
The problem of this research study arises from the need to know if actually there is any difference in the language of Christian religion considering its multifarious denominations.
1.3 THE AIM AND OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY
The aim of this research is to identify the language of Christian religion with particular reference to that of the Roman Catholic Church and the Pentecostal denominations in order to bring out the differences and similarities in their use of language.
This research achieves this purpose through the examination and analysis of their spoken but written and written forms of language.
1.4 THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
This work is unique in the sense that it explores and brings out the language of Christian religion .This is a branch of register that people have been neglecting or putting little or no effort in researching. It will also be a stimulant and reference point to future researchers in the area of language and Christian religion.
This work, will in addition, serve as a means of enlightenment of how language is manipulated or used, especially during worship services, in the two Christian denominations.
Finally, it will further help to situate the fact that there can be slight differences even within the language or register of Christian religion.
1.5 THE SCOPE AND DELIMITATION
For ease of exposition, the work is limited to the literatures used in both Catholic and Pentecostal denominations. The language is found in many contexts: religious newspapers and bulletins, radio tapes, audio and video compound disc, local publicity materials that promote church events, sermons preached in both denominations and in their sacred text the Holy Bible.
1.6 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
The observation method was used during the service. The observation was carried out in three Catholic and Pentecostal churches respectively in the Enugu metropolis .These churches are:
- Saint Mary’s Catholic Church ,Uwani, Enugu.
- Christ the King Catholic Church, G.R.A, Enugu.
- Caritas University Chaplaincy, Amorji Nike, Enugu.
- Apostolic Faith Church ,Nkponkiti Road, Enugu.
- Assemblies of God, Isiagu Street, Uwani Enugu.
- Living Faith Church, Winners Avenue ,off Presidential Road,
Other sources used include: textbooks, journals, Christian newspapers, Holy Bible, written sermon and internet facilities