We are all amateur philologists. Philology is the study of language, and we use language to talk about everything. We type, text, speak, sing, and scratch out our words. Words are the materials that shape our relationships and responsibilities.
There are many weird and wonderful aspects of our relationship with words. One of those is how we relate to the Dictionary. Some days we submit to it. We know a word but cannot recall exactly how to spell it. The Dictionary reveals the canonical order of letters. There are other times when we read or hear a word that we’re not familiar with. We open the Dictionary to search out the lawful use. It’s almost a religious ritual, seeking meaning from the oracle of the printed page. We trust Webster Almighty.
But annually a committee of our philological priests makes sacrifices and bring offerings. Old words are laid to rest and invented words brought before the glossary gods. One moment a word servant, the next a word judge. Language evolves or devolves by the stroke of our word clergy.
Deep in the heart of every sinful man is the desire to write his own dictionary. We can’t help but use words because we are made by words and in the image of The Word. But when Eve and Adam ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they took authority that wasn’t theirs. With help from Father Falsehood, they came up with a new list; what was evil was not being like God. What was good was not submitting to God’s declaration.
When we muddle nouns like “man” and “woman” and “marriage” we are attempting to (re)define our lives. Our culture has been selling tickets to rides at the fair of vanity for a while. We glamorize bleeding-edge dictionary workers on glossy magazine covers, at least after applying a liberal dump truck of make-up and hiring a team of Photoshop jockeys to fake the rest. This is the new definition of “courage.”
Our confession as Christians, our homologeo, “saying the same” as God, is an act of submission, honor, and truthfulness. Let us not cover our sin by lies or by appeals to the word committee to pass our lusts get through the spell-check.