At The View from Her, Jan has an interesting post titled, WORDS HAVE MEANING(S) (HT: Intellectuelle). She makes the very good point that we, as Christians, must make the effort to insure that the words we communicate are being understood as intended (which is always a good thing when one is making an argument).

However, I was a bit bemused by a reference to what a New York Times reporter said, at the conference Jan had recently attended. From Jan’s post,

The assumption is that because we’re all speaking English, we’re speaking the same language. Michael Luo, a reporter at the New York Times, and a believer, spoke at one of the sessions and inadvertently clarified one fundamental, doctrinal issue between the two camps. Asked if he had any advice for church people invited to comment on a situation by the news media, Michael said, “Well, be careful about using too much church language. Like… well ‘sin’ is a good example. That word doesn’t mean what you think it means to people outside church. ‘Sin’ is actually, like… good.” And everyone chuckled.

The word “sin” is one of the most divisive words in the heresy battle between the generations. The modernists rail that “sin” only has one meaning, and that the post-moderns don’t like it because it makes them uncomfortable. The word “sin” is black and white. It has an absolute meaning in Christian doctrine.

…Except when it doesn’t. If the world thinks “Sin” now stands for all the fun things people like to do that used to be forbidden, using that word is just a bad translation… like saying, “Jesus died for the good stuff.” It fails to convey the correct meaning across cultural divides. Yes, words do still have specific meaning. But it’s clear that we have to work harder, ask more questions, actively seek to understand, and define our terms to make sure we really understand what the other person is really saying.

On the one hand, I agree that we need to make sure our words – our terms – are understood. On the other hand, I think we need to make every effort to fight against the unwarranted hijacking of the definition of words by a lazy culture.

For example, the implication that Michael Luo seems to be making is that when the world thinks of the word “sin,” they think of “good” (and, I suppose, “fun”). Yet, this is new? Hardly. The writer of the book of Hebrews wrote about the fleeting pleasures of sin (to which Steve Taylor wrote a CCM song, back in the 80s). And one can hardly get through the first section of the book of Proverbs without noticing that the admonitions to get wisdom are laced with the acknowledgment that sin has its pleasures.

Simply put: “sin” is “fun”, and pretty much always has been.

Of course, now we need to define “fun”…

Filed under: ChristianityCultureReligionRusty

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