Kathy Petersen’s Blog

Say what you mean

Posted in Bible, books, Uncategorized by Kathy on May 4, 2008

We live in an age of relativism. Just like Pontius Pilate, many people today are asking, “What is truth?” There is the idea of “it’s right for you, but not for me.” (To a certain extent, I can agree with that — my husband would not be right for you, but is right for me — that sort of thing.) But one thing that is particularly disturbing to me is in the area of changing the meaning of words, or changing what a document says to bend the words to a preconceived notion.

A few years ago, I read a book called The Genesis Flood, by Drs. Whitcomb and Morris, in which they studied what the Bible said about the Flood as described in Genesis. It was very interesting. One of the things they said that stuck with me is that at the time they wrote the book (I think in the late 60s or early 70s, although it has extended up to this day), some people were trying to say that when the Bible said that all the hills and mountains were covered, and all flesh died, and all this and all that… that all didn’t really mean “all.” Now, I know that sometimes “all” can be used in a limited sense — “everybody watches the Olympics” — well, certainly not every single member of the human race does — but that is not the language of Genesis. The authors point out that the original Hebrew terms, specifically the repetition involved in using “all” so many times in such a short space, shows that there is no way that “all” can be taken in a limited sense, without seriously distorting the meaning of the term and in fact the entire Hebrew language. The way they said it was (paraphrasing, because I can’t remember the direct quote), “If this section is not meant to show a global flood, but instead a limited flood, what other terms could have been employed to show a global flood?”

I think about that a lot, as it relates to the Bible, as well as other things. Take, for example, the section of the Constitution that deals with Eminent Domain. Now, it looks pretty simple to me — the government can force you to sell your land if it is needed for public use; however, the Supreme Court has ruled that “public use” includes selling that land to private individuals or organizations for them to build apartment complexes or malls, which will generate more revenue in the form of taxes, which is considered to be beneficial for the public/government. Huh? So, let me ask the question this way: Had the framers of the Constitution intended to restrict Eminent Domain to being used solely to take land for highways and such (what has historically been the restrictions), what language could they have used to delineate that?

I guess that’s why I’m not a lawyer — I like plain English. 🙂

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2 Responses

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  1. cindyinsd said, on May 4, 2008 at 10:44 pm

    Good point, Kathy

    It’s impossible to invent truth. Truth must be discovered. Something insidious has happened to English useage in the last decade or so. Words, it seems, now mean whatever the hearer (or speaker) wants them to mean. So what do you say to someone who says to you, speaking of something real, like scripture: “That may be true for you, but it isn’t true for me”?

    Cindy

  2. Kathy said, on May 4, 2008 at 11:57 pm

    Cindy,

    Thanks! And to answer your question, I’m not quite sure. I find myself so indoctrinated with relativism that I’m not quite sure of how I would answer. It hasn’t come up much in my life (I’m blessed to attend a fairly strict Bible-believing church, and these church members are my main “community”), but I know I do need to think of it, and to “study how to answer” and formulate a good answer.

    I’m thinking out loud here, so what I’d probably say is 1) something along the lines of what I said above — if that passage doesn’t mean what it says, then what words ought to have been used to say what I think it means (or conversely, what you think it means)? or 2) The Bible speaks for itself, and I think it is best if you just listen to it, rather than forcing your views on it.

    Otherwise, I think people are getting dangerously into the territory that was voiced by Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman.” When asked her name, she responded, “What do you want it to be?” When making truth “whatever you want it to be,” it has the same effect — it prostitutes the truth, which is very shaky ground to be on, especially when prostituting the truth of God’s word, and ultimately, of God Himself.


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