What's in a Definition?
I actually posted this quite a while ago on my other blog, but it seemed relevant to my recent post on Pearl Plants a Tree and the ideas presented there.

In the educational approach we are using, finding, analyzing and applying the proper definitions of words is very important. We use the Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language because it is the only American English dictionary which uses scriptural definitions of words. The goal is to learn to appreciate and strive for precision in language which will lead to precision in thought, precision in communication and, hopefully, precision in behavior. So, I suppose it would be appropriate to begin a discussion of definitions with a definition:

1. A brief description of a thing by its properties; as a definition of wit or of a circle.
2. In logic, the explication of the essence of a thing by its kind and difference.
3. In lexicography, an explanation of the signification of a word or term, or of what a word is understood to express.

My hard copy gives me some more information...that the word is derived from a Latin word which means "to end," or "to limit." It seems the main principle expressed is to "explain" the "essence" of a thing by its "properties." It shows the end or limit of a concept, thing or idea. This applies whether we are talking about the definition of the biceps or what is found in dictionaries.

Our language is currently undergoing drastic changes, and what defines us as Americans is under attack. A brief survey of modern dictionaries, particularly when compared with Webster's 1828, shows an increasing push toward ambiguity. Some are so vague as to be essentially meaningless. When the definition (border) of a word is vague, so is the idea it encompasses. When ideas are vague, so is our culture. The natural result is an ever growing "gray area" in all the affairs of man. In short, when did the word "wicked," come to mean "good?"

While listening to Ravi Zacharias today, I heard more on definitions I thought was interesting. He brought the concept to the forefront with a simple rewording of a well known bible verse, updating it slightly to better match the original meaning or essence of the Greek:

In the beginning was the definition, and the definition was with God and the definition was God.

At first, I thought that was a bit odd. But after listening to the rest of what he had to say, I realized just how much clearer this translation leaves one of the most basic concepts to Christianity. Back up to the Garden of Eden. Eve is talking to a serpent. What is the temptation to which she yields? Luscious fruit? A sweet talking snake? Genesis 3:5 tells us, "...ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. " She seeks to be like God, knowing good and evil. Determining good and evil. Defining good and evil. That role which belongs solely to God, she desires for herself. She wants to define right and wrong for herself, without regard to the law of God. What do we seek today? This is the root of all sin, from which all sins we could possibly think of are derived.

Secular humanism has made man into a god, glorifying his achievements and telling him how he can define right and wrong for himself. Christian humanism does the same, with some recognition of a higher power. True Christianity seeks to follow the Definition...and be conformed into His image. Christ is the end, the limit, the essence and the property of what it means to follow God. The only way to truly follow Him is to let Him lead, beginning with an understanding of scripture and continuing by allowing Him to provide the definition of your walk with Him.

For more on the importance of using Webster's 1828, here is an interesting article by the Foundation for American Christian Education.

, , , ,