What Dictionary Is That?

I wrote here about the mixed/changing definition of the word equality. We also saw changing definitions of terms in the COVID narrative (case, cause of death, vaccine …). And we discover secretly changed definitions in other categories.

There’s a reason I’m touchy about the topic of twisted, deceptive definitions. When my husband died, his health insurance company found a legal loophole to deny the entire claim, thousands of dollars. (And that’s not just my opinion. The state insurance board, a high-priced lawyer, insurance agents from that company and other companies, hospital staff … all said it was wrong.)

The company had created its own definition of what constituted a “preexisting condition.” They just hadn’t bothered to explain that. Whereas, the rest of the industry shared what the lawyer called the “usual and customary” definition of that term. So while even the state board agreed that the denial of the claim was morally and ethically wrong, it was legal.

All that’s bad enough. But definitions also get twisted in spiritual matters …

J. B. Rhine was credited with coining the term extrasensory perception. This was to avoid having to use terms like occult and sorcery and witchcraft with the scientific community, since they would be prejudiced against those as not scientific. Other terms were later coined, like parapsychology. What was originally called spiritualism was renamed as psychic studies and then parapsychology. Such redefining “would serve as convenient ways to dish out old concepts as ‘new evidence.’” Parapsychology was “hailed as a ‘new’ science.” And, as Robert Morey further explains, “There was nothing ‘new’ about the practices which were being investigated. … [They] had been secularized by simply dropping all the religious terminology and relabeling everything with secular terms.” (Robert Morey, Death and the Afterlife © 1984, p 178, 258)

I earlier posted “Trouble with Truth”—about how certain ministers were instructed to hide their beliefs from their own congregations.

Dr. Jack Cottrell describes the experiences of a minister who told

how his liberal seminary professors denied the actual reality of such things as the virgin birth, revelation, and heaven; but they taught that ministers should continue to affirm that such doctrines are true—not in the sense that they correspond to reality but in the sense that they serve such purposes as giving people hope and keeping them committed to the church. (Of course, ministers need not disclose the fact that they are using a definition of truth totally different from that of most church members, who would probably be a bit upset if they knew it!) Thus ministers may confidently affirm that the doctrines of the virgin birth and the resurrection, for example, are true, while denying in their hearts that they actually happened!” (Jack Cottrell, Faith’s Fundamentals, 1995 edition, p. 14, referencing the article “Words and Their Meanings,” Disciple Renewal, August 1987)

Cottrell led into this by describing one philosophy that says truth is about whether the statement works, produces the desired effect (as in the case of telling a made-up story about courage that makes people feel bold). Never mind whether it’s actually true or not.

We can justify the use of that approach in certain situations (maybe!). But of course, most people assume that true means “factual,” not “a lie—but who cares?”

Realizing that these types of examples are all around us, we’re compelled to make sure that both parties in any discussion are using the same dictionary. Sad but true.


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