I’ve never heard the verb “backslide” used in any context other than church sermons, discussions, and meetings to describe some Saint-gone-astray or believer-turned-sinner. I ran into the term last night reading over some Sunday School lesson commentary. The commentary author, a learned university scholar with a formal seminary education, was using the term in reference what the epistle writer describes in Hebrews 2:1-4.
So I decided to look the word up online and found a link–click here to see the WebBible Encyclopedia’s definition. Interesting, I checked each of the scripture references, hoping to see “backslide” in scripture, but the closest terminology the scripture references ever provide to is “falling away” or “drifting away.”
You know, if you posed the question to the typical evangelical church member-in-the-pew, “Is ‘backslide’ a word in the bible?” almost all of them would swear vehemently that it is. But it’s not, at least according to my research to this point (If I’m wrong, I trust someone will correct me!). I just wonder where the term comes from.
We can conjugate it: “Today I backslide, yesterday I backslid, often I have backslidden.” Since it’s an irregular verb, it’s easily misused: “backslud.” But why do we need this word when “fall away” or “drift away” (which are used in the bible) effectively convey the same idea?
I think the answer has something to do with dogma, frankly. The word has become part of the doctrinal culture and dogma. Those who love doctrinal dogma and culture would likely think it woefully sinful to suggest that we eradicate the term from our cherished compendia of evangelical jargon (How many of them sincerely believe the word is scriptural, anyway?).
But leave it to me to propose the outlandish and outrageous anyway: Why not excise this word from our religious vocabularies? “Drift away” is probably much more accurate in most cases, and besides, it’s a biblical word!
What saith the cultural dogmatists to that idea?