Friday, November 14, 2008

Misusing Language

In recent years I've noticed a habit among some in the church to misapply the definition of a word/phrase in one context as the definition of the same word/phrase in another context.

In some situations, this is a valid approach. It definitely works in mathematics:
If A = B, and if B = C, then A = C
But it doesn't always work in human language:
God is Love. Love is blind. Therefore, God is blind.
For example, the word "confess" has two uses which are often conflated together.

James 5:16 urges his readers to "confess your sins one to another".

Romans 10:9 teaches that "if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord'," you will be saved.

These are two totally different uses of the word (one referring to an admission of wrong-doing, the other referring to a proclamation of a Truth), yet often both passages are given in support of the "confession" step of the "Five-Step Plan of Salvation" as if they are the same thing. They're not.

The point I'm trying to make is that we've gotten sloppy in our logic, because our pet doctrines are supported by such sloppiness. We need to be rigorous in our thinking, and not accept the misuse of language just because it scratches our itching ears.

Interestingly enough, after I made this post, I listened to a podcast in which Casey Luskin had this to say, which seems relevant:
Us folks who are, who have been involved with the legal field have a term for that kind of thinking ... it's called "Outcome-based Jurisprudence", where people don't care about the logic or the reasoning they use to get to your conclusion; they just care about your conclusion, that it's the quote-unquote "politically-correct accurate conclusion" as far as their own goals and agenda's concerned. Good reasoning and logic and truth are not of primary concern when you do that kind of reasoning.
The podcast was very interesting; Casey interviews an atheist who, unlike most of his fellow atheists, believes Intelligent Design has a place at the discussion table. He also mentions that many atheists no longer present a good case for atheism (although he believes one can be made), but rather they just use emotional rhetoric to shut down the discussion. Go give it a listen -- Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

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