November 6, 2013

Words about Words, and Evangelicalism

The internet is accelerating pluralism like the last metastasizing phases of cancer. Not that pluralism is bad for us like a cancer, but it's definitely killing something that used to seem healthy and good.

I find myself wondering if evangelicals are marked by such verbal strictness (about tight definition and word meanings) in part due to their political insulation. An ecumenical or "catholic" community must soon enough find itself being more prone to flexibility in using language, simply because it's not possible to enforce rigid standards for discussion within a broad based meta-community. Sometimes that linguistic flexibility may serve to increase relativism, or produce syncretism, but communication requires listening and understanding one another's personal languages, with or without becoming overly agreeable.

I realize it has been theological distinctiveness which traditionally isolated strains of Protestantism from the rest of God's people, but I'm suggesting that isolation itself does much to strengthen someone's intellectual rigidity. If your political world is quite small, it's easier to enforce standardized "definitions", so that Paul's vocabulary always means precisely what we define it to mean, as opposed to Paul's words being tools for whatever he was trying to express at a given moment. 

It seems to me the more practical and natural view should be obviously more reasonable, but I suppose it's harder to see that if one has been conditioned to believe that (or *pretend* that) community thinking can actually can be kept within strict verbal boundaries.

This whole train of thought today was sparked today by conversations on Facebook about NT Wright's new Paul book. (It sounds like NTW may take a broad view on "justification", which many will be eager to quibble about. Soooo not my thing, but the sociology is fascinating.)

For me, I'm realizing more and more that conservative power brokers simply don't change their minds because someone reasons with them about scripture. The language barrier is too high, too pre-emptive, too deeply reinforced, and too deliberate. Something else may be needed to crack that intellectual shell.

Possibly something like "duck season, wabbit season". But I'm not sure anyone should play Elmer. #Boom

Anon, then...

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