Friday, March 14, 2008

Dictionary Obsoletion and Discernment

Apparently one of my favorite pet hobbies is worse than unpopular. It’s irrelevant to the world around me. I love to study words. Their roots and history, and how they got from start to present, are fascinating to me. When I find the etymology of a word, I feel like that word is full of color and life and intense meaning that before was cloudy and uncertain. When I write I want the best word not only to say exactly what I mean, but with the tone and connotations I intend. Etymology helps me do that (I hope).

In any case, being a linguist helped JRR Tolkien. Jane Austen and Charles Dickens also employed word selection to aid their plots and descriptions. The more I improve my vocabulary, the more I appreciate classic authors and their works. I marvel at the subconscious effect their word choice had on me before I understood. Their literature comes alive when I really know what their language indicates.

But today, in an increasingly post-modern, non-absolutist, highly individual world, adhering to one definition for a word is less feasible than adhering to one faith in one truth about one reality. And this makes debate completely useless. This makes computerized discernment and classification impossible. In other words, we can no longer test someone’s words to see what they believe. Either they sound heretical, but were really just trying to use hip lingo and got sloppy, or they sound orthodox and mean something mystical. In both cases knowledge of what the words inherently mean, and are supposed to still mean, is no help at all. In fact, it’s confusing.

So what we need instead of the computerized classification or test such as evangelicals gave to presidential candidates last century (asking them whether they were born-again; how long do you think it took for the candidates to catch on and learn to say the right thing? They’re politicians!), is real discernment. People who have studied truth need to test all things, but not with clich├ęs. They need to pray for God to guide them with His eyes. They need to be Samuel, who so leaned on God’s insight, who yielded to God’s vision of man’s heart instead of human sight of the outward appearance.

There is a spiritual gift, like teaching, like giving, like service, and like compassion. Through the supernatural empowering of the Holy Spirit, those who have called on the name of the Lord and are therefore indwelt by the Holy Spirit and led by Him into all truth need to examine the words of men and discern spirits. After studying the gift of discernment, I think there are several reasons Paul calls it “discerning of spirits.” This analysis provides another reason: in a postmodern culture that defies definitions, discerning words is basically useless. We need to discern (discover, classify, penetrate, understand, identify as true or false) where a speaker is coming from, and what they really mean.

The other reasons I have considered are: 1. Discernment is spiritual. It has to do with the spirit-world, and can often involve identifying demonic activity or influence. 2. Discernment of a spirit can be of a message, due to the Greek word (pneuma)’s double meaning of breath and spirit. 3. Discernment might have to do with insight into the spiritual needs of an individual. Beyond whether an individual is right or wrong, where are they weak and where are they strong? What is the spiritual reality going on in their life, behind the service and the teaching or the sin and the doubt?

I believe God gifts members of His body as needed to see all these things, and I believe there is an incredible need in the Church today for those who can identify the spiritual truth of a situation, message, or person. These people, using their gifts, are an incredible contribution to the community and cooperation of believers. They are indispensable in edification. And in a world where there are many books, many teachers, and much mesmerizing media, the Church needs to seek God’s direction and discretion as they choose their courses of ministry and belief.

To God be all glory.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Lisa,
I am a constant reader of your blog. You once somewhere in your topic mentioned that there is series of Jane Austen novel's movies. I saw Persuation and Pride and Prejudice. While I am looking for more. Can you please help me and tell me how many more are available in motion picture. You know, here we dont have any certain ways to find out what are the latest movies so we have to ask our supplier for them.
I hope you will sure help me. Byt eh way, nice writing. Have a nice day.

Lisa of Longbourn said...

Anonymous, thanks for reading! I am soon going to post an extensive article on the new Jane Austen Season DVD's per your request. Soon means within the hour.
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn