Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Extinction of Words

Since our preacher today chose to recycle portions of a sermon we heard two years ago, I will recycle much of my post from that day. I will remind everyone that today's Gospel reading was Mark 1:7-11,
He proclaimed, ‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’
Two years from now I hope that whoever is preaching on the subject of Jesus' Baptism will address the heresy of Adoptionism since the Baptism of Jesus is one of those passages that can lead people into that heresy. Since I doubt that Adoptionism will ever be the topic of an Epiphany sermon in our parish, I will try to make it subject of a future post.

The message in her sermon today and two years ago was to imagine a future where the words "Baptism" or "Resurrection" lose their deeper meaning. To illustrate this, she suggested that one half of the world's languages will die by the year 2100 (she may have been referring to the National Geographic Society's Enduring Voices Project which can be found here).

Our priest told us that languages tend to die once a population shrinks to less than one million people who speak that language. Given the fact that the average Sunday attendance in the Episcopal church has been below that threshold for more than a decade and is dropping like a stone (TEc research shows that the average Sunday attendance across the church in 2013 was 623,691 U.S. compared to 856,579 in 2000). Could it be possible that Episcospeak and its related tongue, Episcobabble, are in the process of going extinct?

Anyone familiar with the rambling letters of our bishops, and the sometimes difficult to comprehend social activist rants of our priests, will see that this extinction business might not be a bad thing. Lest they protest that I am hoping that their revisionist language go the way of the dodo, I should remind them that they themselves sought to eliminate another language, and that was the language of my parents and my youth when they came out with the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.

I might also remind them that the very words that our priest fears might die have already been hijacked and have seen their meanings revised. The following are taken from the "Revisionist Dictionary By Irenaeus First Edition—August 2007" published in five parts on-line at StandFirm in Faith. (I posted the entire thing two years ago with updates and revisions).
(1) Traditionally, the covenant made at baptism by which we repent, renounce sin, accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, and become members of Christ, redeemed by his atoning sacrifice. “Obdurate sin grieves the Holy Spirit and violates our baptismal covenant.”
(2) For Progressives, two related ideas: that baptism irrevocably confers good standing in the church so neither “sinful” conduct nor heterodox belief disqualifies any baptized person from holding church office; and that baptized persons need little trouble themselves about “sin”*, repentance*, or amendment of life*. “A moratorium on ordaining noncelibate homosexuals would betray our baptismal covenant.”

RESURRECTION: Feeling that Christ is alive. Formerly, the crude notion that Christ rose bodily from the dead.

And don't forget the biggie that we recite every time we say the 1979 Baptismal Covenant and the one that shows up in any argument about human sexuality and the Church,
JUSTICE: P.C.* outcomes, by any process. “The 1959 revolution did much to establish justice in Cuba.”
"Justice," in Episcospeak, also has the deeper meaning: "My will be done, not Thine."

In another earlier post I quoted CS Lewis on the "Death of Words," and it bears repeating in this context,
"What is the good of deepening a word's connotation if you deprive the word of all practicable denotation? Words, as well as women, can be 'killed with kindness'. And when, however reverently, you have killed a word you have also, as far as in you lay, blotted from the human mind the thing that word originally stood for. Men do not long continue to think what they have forgotten to say."

C.S. Lewis, "The Death of Words" From (C.S. Lewis On Stories, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich 1982, p. 107)
We should not pass on to our children through any "Faith Formation" process words that have been "killed with kindness," or words that have been so perverted that they have not only lost their ancient meanings but have taken on new and more dangerous ones.

Whether or not Episcospeak and Episcobabble deserve to die, they will if the statistics are accurate. The attempt by Episcopal revisionists to change the meaning of words in order to foster and justify the social and moral changes popular among the majority of clergy of the Church was doomed from the get go as were the ancient heresies (although it took a lot of time and effort to debunk those once popular beliefs).

When Episcospeak goes extinct, don't blame people for not teaching it to their children.

Instead, blame "The Word" for the death of "those words".


  1. Actually, I did preach against adoptionism and Docetism yesterday.

    The words referenced by your preacher have already lost their core meaning in many places. Heck, many of the major "scholars" and "theologians" cited as authorities in official Church Publishing materials redefine them to mean whatever they wish.