Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What's in a word? [Megan]

            Words are important.

            Other than Christ himself, the individual who has most profoundly demonstrated the importance of words in my life is my husband. He takes his words very seriously.

He uses gently (and sometimes not-so-gently) probing questions to force even me — the person he knows better than anyone — to carefully clarify my views. That practice — however frustrating it can be — has served to make me much more careful about making blithe or flippant statements, both in and out of his company.

            During a recent episode of “Renewing Your Mind,” (www.ligonier.org), Dr. R.C. Sproul explored the importance of words — vocabulary in particular, and benefits of the classical education model. Sproul said mankind’s ability to verbalize ideas and concepts is a major distinguishing factor between human beings and the rest of the animal kingdom. That distinction resonates theologically — our relationship with God is principally verbal, both in terms of the way He communicates with us (we have the written Word and the Word incarnate), and the way we communicate with Him (prayer is, more often than not, expressed in words).

            Sproul said humans were created with the capacity to communicate. More specifically, followers of Christ are called to communicate the truth as expressed in the Word. And, as Sproul so eloquently pointed out, truth and fallacies are often separated by a razor’s edge. In other words, communication is something that should be done with precision.

            With such a small margin of error, it seems communication in the “marketplace of ideas” should be taken much more seriously. I don’t think the majority of individuals willingly tout things they know are false, but such falsehoods are uttered frighteningly often. Some are wrapped in such intimidating language — “bigger vocabularies” — it’s easy to accept them. When truth is separated by the edge of a razor, a slip in the wrong direction can make the influence of one’s words dangerous. But then, we see it happen all the time.

            There is a missing element in the cycle. Even today’s “educated” circle from facts to some form of rhetoric, and forget to check their information at the gates of logic. Droves of high school seniors leave the classroom, for the most part, still in rote-memorization mode. Minds that naturally began to question ideas at the age of 12 or 13 discovered that such questioning was lost in the classroom. There were just more facts to memorize. It makes sense that minds so thirsty for logic turn toward authority figures and other curiosities with fervor. 

            Young people graduate with the notion that facts are out there to be memorized and parroted — not thought through. Sadly, that notion sticks for many if not most.

            It makes it difficult to blame those who hear and adopt enticing sound bytes like, “I am pro-choice. I would never have an abortion, but I believe the government should stay out of a woman’s private decisions.” Or “Women have the freedom to do whatever they choose with their own bodies.” And let’s not forget, “You’re just being judgmental. Even though you think it’s wrong, you shouldn’t force your views on others.”

            The same insidious cycle exists for many who want to further their pro-life views. Sadly, the statement, “The Bible says it’s wrong, so I think it’s wrong,” doesn’t hold much water with someone who rejects the Bible as valid to begin with because they’ve accepted someone else’s elegant-but-empty dismissal of it.

            The absence of logic is the reason a simple question stops so many in their tracks. They find themselves groping for a bridge they never constructed, and finding a chasm.

            The good news is — armed with the truth and a few well-directed questions — we can expose the chasms in people’s thinking about issues regarding the unborn. Equipping individuals to do just that is what LTI is all about.

            It’s a fact that we use vocabulary to express our thoughts and ideas, including those that shed light on the truth about abortion and other issues.

            How important are words, you ask?

            Logically speaking, words save lives.


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