The great Oxford don, C.S. Lewis, by all accounts, was a brilliant philologist, an expert in language, particularly as he related to the study of medieval literature. His remarkable Studies in Words, is a collection of essays examining the history of how words develop and change in language.
I am a software engineer by trade, and I am not surely not the best writer (just pick through the proof-reading errors I make in more than a few of my blog posts!). But I got interested in philology by following some of the big theological debates, that bring out divisions among Christians, as well as by thinking about the power and use of symbols in popular culture today. A lot of people will pick a side on a particular debate, based largely on how particular words are defined, in that debate. Without fail, those on the other side of the debate, will pick that side, based largely on different definitions of those same particular words!
Half the battle, when it comes to theological and cultural discussion, comes down to trying to determine the exact meaning of certain words. Such meanings of words can change very easily, which explains why a lot of theological and cultural debates generate more heat than light.
In this post, I am simply jotting down notes, or otherwise quoting Lewis (or other reviewers of Studies in Words), to help illuminate the problem with words. As I write this post in June, 2020, the American culture is convulsed by protests, and even rioting, over racially-biased, police brutality. I hear calls for “defund the police.” What do people mean by that, “defund the police?” Well, it depends on you talk to, and it seems like everyone has a different understanding of what that even looks like. We need the wisdom of C.S. Lewis now, more than ever.