Verbum Dei Manet in Aeternum
REV. PHILIP MEYER, PASTOR EMERITUS
When I was a seminary student I took an independent study with three classmates and our professor. He gave us a paper to analyze written by a leader in another Lutheran church body. We struggled with it because we knew the author had different doctrinal views but he used all of the familiar language we used. Finally, our professor gave us the key by defining one term that the author had used. We had assumed the author defined it as we did. He didn’t. He co-opted the language. He detached words from their original meaning and invested them with different meaning. We learned that the same language could be used to say something entirely different than commonly understood. Language can be used to deceive. It was a defining moment in my education.
Language has long been used to deceive. It happened in the third chapter of Genesis when Satan deceived Eve and then Adam through the misuse of language, in this case, God’s own words. “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” [Gen. 3. 1b]. The serpent accused God of lying to our first parents. To use a term heard today, he “weaponized” God’s own words against him. He used God’s own words to deceive Adam and Eve so that they would sin.
We Lutherans love to talk about God’s creative Word. It does what God speaks. God created everything that exists solely by means of his Word. He spoke and it was done. In Genesis 2, before God had created woman out of man, he brought every creature to Adam. “So out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.” [Gen.2.19].
You may have noticed the parallel between Genesis 1 and the Gospel of John’s opening words.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” [Gen. 1.1]
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” [John 1.1-3]
The Word creates. It comes from the mouth of God. Without him nothing is made. So, the source of all being originates with God. Words, therefore, have meaning. Truth corresponds to the words which come from God’s mouth. To lie is to contradict God. It is sin. John calls our Lord Jesus Christ the Logos, the Word. To lie, then, is to be anti-Christ.
Friedrich Nietzsche is probably not a name familiar to most of you. He was a German philosopher [b. 1844, d. 1900]. He is perhaps most famous for saying, “God is dead.” He was also a philologist, that is, one who studied languages. His thinking led him to deny the objectivity of language because that represents order and thus, a connection to God, the Creator of all things. If God exists, he said, then truth is an extension of the person of God. This he vehemently attacked. Truth was not divine for him. It had to be replaced by “the will to power.” The roots of Fascism spring out of Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger. Rationality depends on objective truth, so objective truth must be destroyed.
Nietzsche once said, “I’m afraid we’re not rid of God because we still believe in grammar.” He tried his best to get rid of God from public discourse. In order to get rid of God one must get rid of truth and the vehicle used to convey truth, the word [Word!]. The Nazis used Nietzsche’s philosophy in propaganda. Who hasn’t seen the signs above the Nazi death camps which stated, “Arbeit macht frei” [Work is (makes) freedom]? The co-opting of normal language lies at the heart of Fascism. A book in our church library is a must read if you want to understand why Fascism continues to be the most dominant philosophy in the 20th and 21st centuries. It’s entitled “Modern Fascism—Liquidating the Judeo-Christian Worldview” by Gene Edward Veith, Jr..
A definition of Fascism is necessary. First of all, it is not right wing as many mistakenly think. Bradley Birzer wrote: “Socialists and Fascists have always been kissing cousins” . Veith says that they are rival brands of socialism. And so, these two were always seeking to destroy each other! The Nazis were “National Socialists.” The name of the party was officially the Nationalist Socialist Workers’ Party. From the German we get the acronym NAZI. Ernst Nolte, a German historian, defined Fascism as “the practical and violent resistance to transcendence,” or more simply as Gene Veith, Jr. wrote, “It was a revolt against the Judeo-Christian tradition, that is to say, against the Bible.” [Veith, Modern Fascism, pp. 17, 14].
Why? Because when reason, truth, and grammar are buried, so is any rationality to life. Anything goes. So words become power. One writer says that in our current day language has become “weaponized.” Words are used as power and weapons. Words are used to deconstruct the truth so that truth is whatever one wants it to be. We hear some say that certain things “are true for me.” Truth [if we can call it that anymore] is completely subjective. A term for this is Deconstruction.
What is so ironic is that the Antifa movement [Anti fascist] is actually Fascism! The tactics they use are intimidation and deconstructing the language. It is mob violence for the sake of tearing down everything reasonable and that has to do with order. It is anti-God and anti-Christ.
George Orwell, who is probably best known for his insightful book “1984,” predicted this very thing. He wrote the novel in 1949 as a warning against post WWII trends and ideas. He predicted a future dictatorship where objective meaning would be a thing of the past. Instead, there would be “Newspeak,” a language developed by the government to replace objective language. Thus, a government could control thoughts as well as actions. “Thought crimes” would be punished. Many of us think that 1984 has been with us for some time! Words don’t mean what they used to. Language has been co-opted for political ends as well as moral ends. Take the terms “Pro Choice” and its opposite,, “Pro Life.” Why isn’t that first term “Pro death?” That’s what it is. Choice means someone has to die, and that’s the infant in the womb, or even less defensible, an infant that has been born alive. It is happening. A couple more: “All beliefs are equal,” and this one which is non-sensical on face value, “Our diversity is our strength.” No, our unity is our strength, but such ideas get shouted down simply because they are reasonable and orderly. Morality must not be tolerated because it is from God. Guilt restricts what people want to do.
So, in order to achieve deconstruction one must eliminate the words which cause us to think in rational terms. For example, sex is male or female. Scripture says it very clearly, but now this language has been condemned because there might be 144 genders or more! A person can claim to be whatever sex it [!] wants to be on any given day. Your driver’s license might just have an “X” for sex. Indeterminate. We are told that we are not binary, that is, either male or female. This opinion isn’t scientific at all! It has come from behavioral “experts.”
I’ve been accused of being a grammar Nazi (Grammar Police would be acceptable!), a thing which by very definition cannot be because I’m not co-opting the language. I am calling for the correct use of language, which includes language which is well-thought out and logical. Grammar has rules which are to be followed and words mean what they say. I’m told I’m swimming upstream. I have no doubt about that. Look at what we are up against: email, Twitter, Snapchat, FB, Tik Tok, and anything else out there which purports to be communication. Look at the poverty of our writing! Emojis [and I’m guilty of using them😩], the alphabet soup of expressions which say very little, and whatever shorthand codes about which I’m blissfully unaware. We no. longer speak in complete sentences; we just blurt out sentence fragments. Sociologists and psychologists warn that while we are more connected electronically, loneliness has become epidemic [another blog item!]. As we become more diverse we become unaware that we are being divided by words.
We are losing our ability to listen to rational discourse. It becomes emotional ranting. And fascists must be pleased. Perhaps we don’t know how to listen to God in his Word, or worse yet, we don’t want to listen!
If language can be used as weapon, and there is no doubt that it is being used that way, what’s the end game? Power. Plain and simple, power. Those who hate God, who hate his Commandments, don’t want structure. They breed chaos and destruction. What such persons want is to recreate a society in which God is no longer present. That’s what Nietzsche and others, like Martin Heidegger, wanted to happen. Totalitarian movements are happy to follow his lead. One after another arises and tries to stampede reasonable people into buying the lies they are selling. Saul Alinsky, who wrote Rules for Radicals, loved the first one who rebelled against God. He gave a shout-out to “the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom—Lucifer.” There you have Nietzsche. Get rid of God because then you get to create your own morality. You become your own god. You follow your basest desires, the worst of which is to play god.
That’s the temptation peddled to Adam and Eve by Satan. As our Lord Jesus clearly said,
You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” . (Jn 8:44–47).
A fierce battle is being waged in our age and it is often depressing and discouraging, but we do not despair because the Word of our Lord is sure:
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. (Mt 24:35).
The motto of the Lutheran Reformation and which Concordia Publishing House, our Synod’s publishing arm adopted, is seen in the graphic at the top of this article. It remains the emblem of the truth of God’s Word against a world swimming in lies:
VDMA, Latin initials for The Word of God Endures for Eternity.