Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Word Meanings

Much of the following is from the preface to Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis.  Any sentence quoted came from that book. I have been on a Lewis kick, reading and rereading all that he wrote. 

Like Lewis, I want words to have an exact meaning; not just mean what anything thinks they mean. I don’t want them diluted or expanded.   let’s just call a spade a 256px-CSLewisPlaquespade and let a word mean what it was supposed to mean.  Lewis points out in his preface that the world “Gentleman” once meant man who was a landowner.  It had only that one definition.  But people started deciding that “Gentleman” had characteristics other than landownership and they formulated what those characteristics ought to be.  For example, to them, Gentleman meant kind.  So an unkind person was not a Gentleman.  Then Gentleman meant nice, and when it finally resolved, Gentleman meant only a person that the speaker liked.  There already were terms for nice and kind people.  Nice.  Kind.  It was not necessary to dilute the term Gentleman so it meant nothing anymore. 

In the same manner, Christian has been diluted.  “The name Christians was first given at Antioch (Acts 11:26) to ‘the disciples’, to those who accepted the teaching of the apostles.  If we refine or spiritualize “Christian” then the word is no good to anyone.  If we spiritualize it we can say that Christians have no right to determine who is or who is not close to God.  If we refine it, non-believers will call anyone who is good (or bad or bigoted or . . . ) a Christian.   But it is no refinement because we already have words for good, bad, and bigoted.   So the word Christian is ruined because it means nothing or we can go back to the original meaning and say that a Christian is one who accepts the teaching of the Apostles, that is the New Testament.

That leaves it wide open denominationally and all we can really say is that someone is a good Christian, if they live lives worthy of the Apostles’ teaching or a bad Christian if they accept the Apostles’ teaching, but live unworthy lives.

Let’s keep the word Christian to its original meaning.  A clear meaning.  An undiluted meaning.  A good word.

No comments:

Post a Comment