Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Language - Something Deeply Erroneous and Dangerous

Father Patrick Henry Reardon writes in his reflections on Psalm 12 (Christ in the Psalms):

“The idea is now common that the primary purpose of speech is communication, the sharing of ideas, impressions, and feelings with one another…Human speech is widely interpreted as a matter of arbitrary and accepted fashion, subject to the same vagaries as any other fashion…Thus the sense of words can be changed at will…”

“According to this view, words are necessarily taken to mean whatever the present living members of a society say that they mean, so that the study of language really becomes a branch of sociology.”

Reardon goes on to say that this thinking is “deeply erroneous” and that “It is also egregiously dangerous to spiritual and mental health, for such a view of language dissolves the relationship of speech to the perception of truth, rendering man the lord of language without affirming the magisterial claims of truth over man. Declared independent of such claims, language submits to no tribunal higher than arbitrary social dictates. Human society, no matter how sinful and deceived, is named the final authority over speech, which is responsible only to those who use it, subject to no standards above the merely social.”

I wonder if the destruction of language could occur anywhere else than in postmodernity – at least to the degree that we now witness. As Reardon points out, the demonic and humanistic overthrow of language (my words) has been with us since the Fall – that was Satan’s assault in the Garden – God didn’t really mean what He said. While this assault has continued through the ages, it seems to be reaching a crescendo as it attacks the image of God and the words, “Let us make man in our image.” The “us” is attacked; the “man” is attacked, the “image” is attacked – until there is nothing.

Professing Christian institutions are now using the language of non-language; words without enduing meaning; they are using terms and descriptions of that which is not, adopting the fleeting fractured linguistic elements of the rebellion. One make-believe “reality” comes after another, states of mind are given words and terms and images conjured from the abyss – and any semblance of language that cries out to be coherent and consistent and to correspond to reality is attacked until is withers beneath the fusillade. The duck has become a dog and the dog has become a duck and there is also the duckdog and the dogduck and what is a duckdog today may be a dogduck tomorrow and professing Christians use the terms and language of the rebellion so that they may show proper empathy and sympathy and lest they be accused of being closed-minded.

There can be no true truth for the truth that is true must be true today and must have been true yesterday and must be true tomorrow – and well, we know that cannot be for just look at how language is changing. Rather than insist that language conform to truth we now use language to dismantle truth; language which once was an expression of truth is now a weapon against truth.

“With our tongue we will prevail; our lips are our own; who is lord over us?” (Psalm 12:4).

Really? We will see. 

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