Imprecision and vagueness have been used for thousands of years by those who want to abandon meanings and retain words.

Ek het so pas Piper se boek oor Christelike epistemologie (die studie van hoe ons iets kan weet) “Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God” klaar gelees. Ek dink alle Christene vandag behoort die boek te lees. Dit is die perfekte entstof teen die destruktiewe leuens van die emergent kerk en die emergent gurus wat studente in ons eie kerk se teologiese skole oplei.

Kyk maar wat sê Piper oor hoe daar vandag met die Waarheid van die Bybel omgegaan word. Die onderstaande is uit ‘n lesing wat hy gegee het by die opening van ‘n teologiese skool.

Ek besef daar is redelik oorvleueling met my vorige pos. ‘n Onderwyser het egter vir my gesê dat verspreide herhaling ‘n belangrike didaktiese beginsel is.

Daar is twee punte in hierdie uittreksel wat vir my uitstaan. Die eerste is Piper se aandrang op die feit dat die woorde in die Bybel se betekenis vasgemaak is deur God, en dat ons nie ons eie betekenis daaraan kan koppel sonder om God oneer aan te doen nie.

Die volgende is sy beskrywing van die Arianiste se omgang met die betekenis van woorde. Prof. Johan Janse van Rensburg noem dit “reservatio mentalis”: Sê een ding maar bedoel iets anders. Ek het reeds in ‘n vorige pos oor Piper se boek hierdie aanhaling uit Ben du Toit se boek gepos. Ek pos dit egter weer hier omdat dit so ‘n perfekte voorbeeld van die gedagteproses is.

“Wanneer die Christendom daarom die opstanding van Jesus as die voorloper van die opstanding van die mens (opstanding “van die vlees”, soos die Twaalf Artikels dit formuleer) bely, is dit binne die postmoderne konteks niks vreemds of onrealisties (soos dit in die rasioneel / logies behepte wetenskaplike era was) nie. Weliswaar word hier nie teruggekeer tot ‘n premoderne wêreld- en lewensbeskouing nie, maar is die spirituele voortbestaan van die mens na die dood, as onvernietigbare energie wat op die een of ander manier opgeneem word in die dimensie van die Bron van alle energie (God) aangedui.” (bl 152)

Dus: Ons sê “Opstanding van die vlees” maar bedoel iets heeltemal anders.

Hier volg die uittreksel uit Piper se toespraak: 

We live in a day that is not congenial to accuracy and precision in public discourse. Language is seen more as a tool for creating desired effects than for transmitting truth clearly. “Spin” has a meaning today that it did not have fifty years ago. The way language is used today is often contrary to the standards that the apostle Paul set for himself:

We have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. . . . For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.

(2 Cor. 4:2; 2:17)

This is not what is happening when Bill Clinton, on his way to his party’s nomination for president, said in a speech, “Scripture says: ‘Our eyes have not seen, nor our ears heard nor our minds imagined what we can build.’” This was an allusion to 1 Corinthians 2:9–10: “What no eye has  seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.” When I heard Clinton’s quotation, I felt a sense of dismay that God’s Word could be so manipulated.

And to make sure you know this is a nonpartisan critique, it got no better when President George H. W. Bush, at the 1992 National Religious Broadcasters gathering, said in defense of the Gulf War, “I want to thank you for helping America, as Christ ordained, to be a light unto the world.” This is an allusion to Matthew 5:14—“You are the light of the world”—which, of course, was not about America but about the followers of Christ.

This is the kind of peddling of God’s Word that Paul rejected. Words in the Bible have a meaning fixed by the intention of God, expressed through the mind of the human authors. It cannot be made to mean what we choose without tampering with God’s Word. But the atmosphere of our time puts so little premium on truth that the language of the Bible and of historical Christian documents has become a wax nose to shape according to the desires of the speaker.

This is not new. At the Council of Nicaea in ad 325 the Arians were fighting to defend their view that Jesus Christ was not equally divine with God the Father and that he had a beginning. When Scriptures were used by those defending his deity, strangely the Arians accepted them. Only when terms were found that removed all ambiguity could the council really know what the Arians were affirming. Here is how Gregory of Nazianzus described the event:

The Alexandrians . . . confronted the Arians with the traditional Scriptural phrases which appeared to leave no doubt as to the eternal Godhead of the Son. But to their surprise they were met with perfect acquiescence. Only as each test was propounded, it was observed that the  suspected party whispered and gesticulated to one another, evidently hinting that each could be safely accepted, since it admitted of evasion. . . . The fathers were baffled, and the test of homoousion [an interpretive Greek phrase meaning “of one nature” with the Father] . . . was being forced upon the majority by the evasions of the Arians.

Imprecision and vagueness have been used for thousands of years by those who want to abandon meanings and retain words. J. Gresham Machen, one of the founders of Westminster Theological Seminary, saw it in the early part of the twentieth century and described it like this in relation to the doctrinal defections of the Presbyterian Church:

This temper of mind is hostile to precise definitions. Indeed nothing makes a man more unpopular in the controversies of the present day than an insistence upon definitions of terms. . . . Men discourse very eloquently today upon such subjects as God, religion, Christianity, atonement, redemption, faith; but are greatly incensed when they are asked to tell in simple language what they mean by these terms.