In Etiolated Language I suggested that writers and speakers sometimes confusingly use words for Christian concepts in non-Christian or even explicitly materialist contexts. Use of the words analogously then blends into a new, replacement meaning, leaving us with no word for the original meaning. My point was that this can interfere with understanding of what Christianity holds to be true about reality. I suggested this use was sometimes fraudulent, rather than sloppy. In response, an astute reader commented:
“the nature and beauty of redemption [is that] it flips things upside down and restores the power of language through the hearer/reader’s recognition of the ‘fraud’ [quoting me], even as the poet is unaware.”
I completely agree. One can certainly see God past the fraudulent use of words. God can make Himself heard, no question. But my concern is that many people are nonetheless deceived by the debasing of language that pertains to spiritual matters. Misuse of words may render the fraud difficult to detect.
People arrive at redemption in different ways. For some of us, the path to redemption is through hard logic. Logic refers to reasoning with words. Misused words derail reasoning. People may never see the beautiful logic that takes them to redemption if the words are dumbed down or shifted so as to render the concepts inaccessible.
Words are often misused by applying them to multiple concepts and then subtly shifting the conversation over to an alternate concept. Over time the words come to mean something other than what they originally meant – perhaps even the opposite of what they originally meant. In this way we lose a word for the original concept. This sometimes happens because of sloppy negligence, but more often it is intentional, a sly means of slipping in an ideology in such a way that it’s not adequately examined. Here are a few examples of words misused like that:
Real meaning: pertaining to spiritual reality beyond the natural world.
Bogus meaning: really special.
Real meaning: the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen.
Bogus meaning: belief without evidence.
Real meaning: acting on God’s reality.
Bogus meaning: emotionally affecting.
Real meaning: respecting another despite different beliefs.
Bogus meaning: sameness of beliefs.
Real meaning: a variety of different beliefs.
Bogus meaning: the same belief.
Judge (as in “thou shalt not . . .”).
Real meaning: don’t count yourself superior before God.
Bogus meaning: don’t distinguish between good and evil.
Real meaning: counting other races inferior.
Bogus meaning: any belief not radically to the left.
Real meaning: reality which runs through and beyond the physical world.
Bogus meaning: contemplative.
Real meaning: Reconciliation with God despite sin.
Bogus meaning: Finding one’s worth in self.