Driving home last night I heard a preacher on the radio mention that our word “dynamite” comes from the Greek word dynamis. True enough, but too many preachers make far more out of this than what should be done. And he did do more than just “mention” it. Consider this from D.A. Carson’s book Exegetical Fallacies.
“Our word dynamite is etymologically derived from δύναμις (dynamis, power, or even miracle). 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 believers’—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 (eis sōtērian, ‘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 to give some indication of the greatness of the power involved. Even so, Paul’s measure is not dynamite, but the empty tomb.” (p. 33-34)
I’ve said it before: this book should be mandatory reading for every seminary student and certainly for anyone considering a vocation in preaching. It is short, accessible and it will richly reward the pastor who heeds Carson’s advice.