We live in the midst of cultural propaganda. We are relentlessly being catechised into a worldview that is something of an amalgam of opinions and theories and values mushed together and dressed up in self-righteousness. This worldview cannot stand on its own two feet and is only propped up in a semblance of life.
Eventually, the ruse will be revealed, and everybody will see our current cultural trend for what it is: a rotting corpse. There is no Life in it, or at the least, it seems the life is slipping away. Only a Spirit-powered resurrection will change the course of nature.
There are some who can see the problems, they know something is awry but they can’t put their finger on it. Some know there are problems and so they offer up trivialities and trollop as an antidote to chaos. Others know this is a sinking ship and so they try to jump overboard and sequester themselves away from the problems.
What are Christians to do? We find ourselves in the world, but knowing we are not of the world. It is selfish to withdraw, but we cannot join in the self-harm parade of paganism.
We find ourselves as pilgrims in a foreign land. Like Abraham, we know the land is promised to us, but it is not yet cleansed of all unrighteousness. We cannot settle here yet. We must remain apart, even while we live in the land. We’re a consecrated people who belong to YHWH, living with sure and steadfast hope on promises yet to be fulfilled on the basis of promises already delivered.
“According to [God’s] promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (Pet. 3:13).
Here’s some advice for how to handle the waiting in a hostile environment: Be on guard. But how will you identify threats? “gird up the loins of your mind” (1 Pet. 1:13 KJV). Prepare yourself with truth so that you may stand on solid ground and not be tossed to and fro by every ideology that comes over the horizon.
“The highway of the upright turns aside from evil; whoever guards his way preserves his life.” (Pro. 16:17).
“Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.” (Ps. 119:104).
But let’s get a little specific, let’s point out a potential crack in the defences so you can sure them up:
Presently language is being used, or rather misused, to manipulate people. Famously in George Orwell’s 1984, the ironically named Ministry of Truth messed with language, because they argued that if you can control language, you can affect how people think. If someone in apparent authority can say “2+2 = 5” and others say, “Yes! Of course, thank you for keeping us informed,” then that’s a fairly good indication there’s some hijinks in the system.
Around us, words are having their meaning manipulated at an astounding speed. If I could point out some obvious examples, consider:
“Love” which used to mean something like “a sacrificial devotion for another’s benefit,” but is being bent to mean “Unquestioning support of all my choices”.
“Gender affirming care” should mean: “if you’re struggling with your biological gender (a.k.a. sex), we will encourage you to embrace your wonderful God-given identity,” but instead it means “in place of helping you, we will encourage your confusion, pump you full of unnatural hormones and mutilate your body for a profit.”
“follow the science” should mean “investigate to understand how God’s world works”, instead means “abase yourself before my preferred interpretation of the observations.”
There are plenty other words and turns-of-phrase that are getting the same treatment, but I bring these up as a example of a larger trend. Each of these examples uses terminology that appears good at face value, but they have been loaded up with meaning that leads in a certain direction.
But it doesn’t stop there. Not only is there twisting of existing words, there is both: the misapplication of words to confuse and mislead; and a continual invention of new terminology to positively speak about ungodly things.
Language naturally changes over time, yet what we are observing is not an organic evolution, but rather a concerted effort to paint evil as good.
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isa. 5:20).
For us, it is good to be aware of this trend and to reject it out of hand. We are not going to join them in this charade. We will not be cornered into calling evil good or lying to make someone feel better.
Despite how you may feel, “Thou shalt not offend anyone” is not a biblical mandate. Yes, speak the truth in love, do not be unnecessarily cruel, be gentle and respectful, but do not be afraid to offend. God’s truth is offensive to those trapped in darkness, but they need to hear it because it is their only hope.
Yes, even refusing to abide by the latest inventions of language manglers can be a step toward a revelation of God’s truth. It is though we say “Because I love and respect you, I will tell you the truth. Truth that is good for you to hear. You can trust me to be a faithful witness in the midst of this circus.”
You may think that you’re helping by going along with the trends, perhaps thinking that you may create space for a spiritual encounter in their world. But, don’t drink the Kool-Aid! A little sip, a little taste of that sweet agenda may leave you feeling like you can let go of your scruples and rest on the tide of “progress,” but be warned, the current is dragging you into a rip.
A little obeisance on this language front is like bowing to Dagon in order to win over the Philistines. Why should they turn away from a false god that you’re honouring? You’ve just affirmed my worldview and now you’re trying to tell me to give it up?
Ultimately we are in a battle over souls, not language. Yet language is the tool we use to communicate the life-giving truth of Jesus Christ. If we give our language away, we give away one of our greatest assets for defeating illicit ideologies.
As pilgrims on the way we would do well to resist the temptation to be conformed to this world, but instead we ought to be transformed by the renewal of our minds, that by testing we may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Rom. 12:2).