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Language Changes, But Objective Reality Does Not

“Those are just Semantics… You are just Playing Word Games.” Have you ever been accused of this? Why are they word games? Are we just spewing out sounds from our mouth that have no meaning? At this point, when someone is accused of playing words games, if the accusation were true, they might as well be shouting gibberish (unintelligible or meaningless speech or writing). 

When one makes the flippant claim after you try to show him or her the truth through logic, that you are playing word games, or that you are just discussing semantics (“pffft” followed by an eye roll), these actually are words with meaning. More frequently than I would like to admit, I hear the misapplied accusation of “semantics” or “word games” used as an argument in order to dismiss what was said before the accusation. The thing is, when someone says this, you can simply ask him what he means. Often, he will just tell you that you are playing with words. Here is how to show him that he is misunderstanding.

It is very simple

Think of the sounds that come out of our mouths that make up words. The sounds that come out might not have meaning, but what they represent definitely does. For instance, “excuse me” in English, Greek, Italian, French, Japanese and Spanish all basically represent the same idea. How about the word “Orange” (as in the fruit)? Whether you say it in any of the listed languages above, it all points to the same object, which is key to our understanding. The sound that comes out of our mouth to describe an orange will be different in many languages, but it will all point to the same thing. The same object.

Let’s see what Jesus says in Matthew 12:33-37,

“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”[1]

How is it that on the Day of Judgment, people will be held accountable for every careless word they have spoken? It is because our words are simply a representation of what we find in reality. Ultimately, there is only one language, which is reality. This is why it is universal, no matter if a person is Chinese, French-Canadian, Pakistani, Punjabi, Mexican, Russian, or literally anything else, that all people will be judged on the Day of Judgment for every empty word he or she has spoken. Language is not relative because objective truth is not relative. Languages do indeed change, but objective reality does not. See this link on a clear explanation on how to understand objective reality with a photographic time stamp.

 

If words do not have objective meaning, then how can we possibly communicate?

If I am referring to an orange to another English speaker, they believe because they believe that truth is relative, that the word “orange” means “bulldozer,” or even, “peanut,” then there would be quite the confusion in our conversation. The question is, how would anything be accomplished if we lived as if truth were relative in our words? The answer is nothing would be accomplished. This is part of the principle of livability. It might sound like a nice idea to some that words have relative meaning, but life does not work like that. We cannot possibly live our lives in this manner. This is why it is important to know these things so that when we have a discussion with someone that we can show them that our words do matter.

When people are making the argument that logic is just word games, they ultimately believe that it gives strength to their agenda. They try to use the idea of playing word games and semantics to make it like the words I have been using are just hollow, empty, grunts. But like I mentioned, these grunts and sounds, whatever they sound like, represent something in reality.

I think it is interesting to see at this point something that I alluded to earlier, that when someone says that “you are just using word games, etc.” he is saying that his words have meaning, even though words in general do not have meaning. His phrase, "you are just using word games" implies that he believes that what he just said is objectively meaningful.

In other words, his logic looks like this:

1. If you are using logic, then these are just meaningless word games.

2. You are using logic.

3. Therefore, you are using meaningless word games.

What is interesting about this is that when people do this, they are applying logic in order to make a logical argument against using logic, which is ultimately self-defeating. It is like saying, “Words do not matter.” Or even, “Logic is illogical.” Do those words matter? Is that logic illogical?

 The problem for our friends is that the truth lies in the object. The truth is not in the sound that comes out of our mouths, but in the object that the sound represents. Truth is claims that conform to reality. This is why we can say of the law of non-contradiction that something cannot be both true and false at the same time and in the same sense. Because what we are saying represents the things that are in actual reality. For instance, if I say, “Jane is pregnant.” That claim cannot be both true and false in the same sense and at the same time.

Similarly, in the law of excluded middle, anytime we make a claim (with our words) that claim is either true or false. It must be one or the other. To use the above example again, the claim “Jane is pregnant” can only be either true or false. There are no other alternatives. True or false is not a false dilemma. Why? Because this claim points to an object. That object in this instance being Jane.

Behold, the power of words:

The Bible teaches us about how and why our words are so important. The reason they are important is because they point to something greater than themselves… that being reality. In the list below, see for yourself that words are not relative, that they do point to something in reality. See for yourself that our words are highly significant:

James 1:26 “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.”

James 3:2 “For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body” (Continue reading this chapter to see that no one is able to bridle his whole body; see also Romans 3:10-18).

Proverbs 29:20 “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”

Proverbs 10:19 “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent” (Be careful with your words, because they do have meaning).

Proverbs 13:3 “Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.”

Proverbs 21:23 “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.”

Ephesians 4:29 “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

Colossians 3:17 “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

Matthew 4:4 “But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Ecclesiastes 10:12 “The words of a wise man's mouth win him favor, but the lips of a fool consume him.”

Colossians 3:16 “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

Matthew 24:35 “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

Isaiah 40:8 “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”

2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture [which are words] is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

John 17:17 “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”

 

If you have ever misused, abused, or confused your words, the Good News is that there is forgiveness. In Romans 3:23, Paul tells us that all fall short of the glory of God. James in the above list tells us that no one is able to bridle their tongue. We are in need of a Savior. We need to be rescued for using our words in an abusive, arbitrary manner. In short, we need to be saved from our moral failures. This is much easier than one might think. John 3:16 teaches us that God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not die, but will have eternal life. God loves you and He gave you a free gift. Romans 6:23 says, "For the cost of our moral failures is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord." Receive this free gift. "Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, then you will be saved" (Romans 10:9). Receive this free gift today. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. old things have passed away and behold, all things have become new."

 

Written by Nace Howell through the grace of the Lord Jesus

 © Nace Howell, 2022


[1] ESV; emphasis mine.


 

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