Monday, February 13, 2017

Definitions

We are debating almost daily about the definitions of terms. More accurately, the definitions of ideas. You know how it goes. Normal people think "There is male and there is female" and we come to find out that those are only two choices of a possible 50 or more and if you limit it to binary gender you're just a hater. Huh? We think that marriage is the union of a man and a woman and we find out that it's some sort of close relationship between (two) people apparently. (The "two" is in parenthesis because it is the current requirement, although nothing in the current argument for it supports or requires "two" ... or even "people".) Some people think that "equality" means "of the same value" or "having the same opportunities", but apparently it is more at "the same". People used to think that "family" was defined by blood or legal relationships, but many today commonly believe that their favorite pets and even good friends are just as much "family" now. The federal government defines the fetus in the womb as "human" ... unless its mother wants to kill it. It's all very confusing.

We're long past the days of the prescriptive dictionary. Webster wrote his in the 19th century to define words. That is, "This is a reference work. If you want to know what a word means, look here. If you think it means otherwise, you're wrong." No longer. Now they're descriptive. "This is a representative work. We've tried to gather the various meanings that people assign to the words in our language. It is always a work in progress. Good luck with it." Language, like morality and reality, is apparently relative. So are the meanings behind the words.

So where do I go to get my definitions? There are a variety of sources, to be sure, but I'm really interested in the important things at the moment, things like "male and female", "marriage", and "human". Where do I go to get these definitions? I mean, no one is contending much about "red" or "pizza", but there is very nearly a battle over "life".

My preference, when I can get it, is to use a biblical definition. You know, what did God say? How does God define things? For instance, we read, "So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." (Gen 1:27) It doesn't take a super genius to figure out that God is operating on a binary gender system. They weren't "malish" and "femalish". They were "either/or", not "both/and" ... or any other combination you might think of. So I define gender by one of two modes -- male or female. So I don't recognize the growing numbers of possible genders offered in various places in our culture as valid. I'm not saying it's immoral; I'm saying it is outside of the definition of the idea of gender.

Lots of people are free to define marriage however they want. I am not. We have a biblical definition. "A man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." (Gen 2:24) This clearly defines marriage from God's perspective as the union into a family of a man and a woman for life (because "one flesh" makes "two fleshes again" impossible) for mutual support (Gen 2:18) and procreation (Gen 1:28). Now, people are certainly free to define it (or, currently, to fail to define it) however they wish. I will just point out that mine is based on Scripture and the rest are ... not. Those without regard for Scripture will see no problem there, but I think that it should be abundantly clear that I am not free to define it any other way. I'm not saying it's immoral; I'm saying that other possibilities are outside of the definition of the idea of marriage.

Consider another. "Human" is "made in the image of God" (Gen 9:6) and Scripture clearly refers to the unborn as human (e.g., Psa 139:13-15; Jer 1:5; Luke 1:41-44). I don't get to define a fetus as a "tissue blob" just because women would like to be free to kill them.

Just some examples. The point here is not that everyone must agree with my definitions. The point is that 1) they aren't my definitions -- they're from God's Word -- and 2) I have no option to play fast and loose with terms defined by God. In postmodern relativism where words mean whatever you want them to (although most are quite sure they don't mean what I say they mean) and reality is defined by how we feel, I cannot expect rational living or reasonable thinking. I'm just unwilling to live or think that way myself.

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