Is the Gospel the “Dynamite” of God and Does He Love the “Hilarious”Giver?

If you’ve sat in the pew long enough you’ve probably heard that we get our word “dynamite” from the Greek word dunamis. This word is used by Paul in Romans 1:16 to describe the gospel (it is the power of God for salvation). I offer the following words from D.A. Carson as an antidote to this kind of preaching.

“I do not know how many times I have heard preachers offer some such rendering of Romans 1:16 as this: ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the dynamite of God unto salvation for everyone who believes’—often with a knowing tilt of the head as if something profound or even esoteric has been uttered. This is not just the old root fallacy revisited. It is worse: it is an appeal to a kind of reverse etymology, the root fallacy compounded by anachronism. Did Paul think of dynamite when he penned this word? And in any case, even to mention dynamite as a kind of analogy is singularly inappropriate. Dynamite blows things up, tears things down, rips out rock, gouges holes, destroys things. The power of God concerning which Paul speaks he often identifies with the power that raised Jesus from the dead (e.g., Eph. 1:18-20); and as it operates in us, its goal is εἰς σωτηρίαν (‘unto salvation,’ Rom. 1:16, KJV), aiming for the wholeness and perfection implicit in the consummation of our salvation. Quite apart from the semantic anachronism, therefore, dynamite appears inadequate as a means of raising Jesus from the dead or as a means of conforming us to the likeness of Christ. Of course, what preachers are trying to do when they talk about dynamite is give some indication of the greatness of the power involved. Even so, Paul’s measure is not dynamite, but the empty tomb. In exactly the same way, it is sheer semantic anachronism to note that in the text ‘God loves a cheerful giver’ (2 Cor. 9:7) the Greek word behind ‘cheerful’ is ἱλαρὸν (hilarion) and conclude that what God really loves is a hilarious giver. Perhaps we should play a laugh-track record while the offering plate is being circulated.” (Exegetical Fallacies, pp. 32-33)

Exegetical Fallacies

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About Louis

I am a 1997 graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
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