Word perfect: 'man,' 'sodomy,' 'Onanism'...
Jesus answered them, "Has it not been written in your Law, 'I said, you are gods'? If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, 'You are blaspheming,' because I said, 'I am the Son of God'"? (John 10:34-36)
But Jesus answered and said to (the Sadducees), "You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God: 'I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not the God of the dead but of the living."
When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at His teaching. (Matthew 22:29-33)
In both texts above, Jesus bases His argument on specific words in the Old Testament, and in the second He faults the Sadducees for their failure to pay attention to those words. Had they been good students of Scripture they would have known that God is not the God of the dead, but the living.
If you need convincing about the nature of Scripture's inspiration and authority, look carefully at Jesus' use of the Old Testament and ask yourself whether you have the same devotion to the text of Scripture--it's very words--as He did? One tenth of the verses in the Gospels that contain quotes of Jesus have Him quoting from the Old Testament.
In his superb essay, "It Says: Scripture Says: God Says," B. B. Warfield pointed out that the use of these three phrases throughout the New Testament is a plain indication of the full confidence among the Apostles that, "What Scripture says, God says." Notice how often Jesus does specific things the Apostles explain with the statement, "that Scripture might be fulfilled." Read John Wenham's classic, "Christ and the Bible." You'll finish it with a new commitment to the Word of God and all its gnarly Divine truths. And words...
Which brings me to our words--those we use preaching, teaching, and writing. Our words should be intentional, particularly where they're offensive. Of course, at times we'll be offensive simply because we're sinful, needlessly offensive or uncharitable. But the offense of the Gospel hasn't burned out yet, and I've noticed it's often where others assume my insensitivity and lack of charity that I'm most intentional in being biblical.
Consider, for instance, the use of the generic "men" and "brothers."
Living in a university community, I remind our congregation regularly that my inclusive use of male-marked terms doesn't come naturally; that each time I say "men" or "brothers" when referring to a mixed-sex group, my face turns red, my heart palpitates, and all my old facial tics return...
A child of the sixties, I took my B.A. at University of Wisconsin, Madison, then attended Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (where evangelical feminism was the reigning ideology), followed by almost a decade serving in the mainline Presbyterian Church (USA) where feminism was the only orthodoxy. So I've had neutered speech--"He and she," "him or her," "persons," "mankind," "humanity,"--beaten into my head so relentlessly that to this day all my speech habits are completely progressive, as it were. But I resist them fiercely, knowing that by words we confess our faith.
Our understanding of the significance of biblical words grows throughout our lifetime, though, and some realizations come to us later in life. For years, I scrupulously observed the politically correct language that neuters every sentence and meticulously avoids the use of 'men' to refer to a group containing women.
One day I realized that when God named the human race "adam", He used the same Hebrew word that Genesis records as the name of the first man. So when the we see this same Hebrew word, 'adam,' used by the Holy Spirit throughout the Old Testament to refer to Adam's descendants, the whole race of them, if I were committed to the plenary verbal inspiration of Scripture--that every single word of Scripture is inspired by God and useful--I would name the race as He did. And that meant, of course, that I would repent of my scrupulously neutered habits of speech.
So now, I discipline myself to confess our Most Holy Faith by using the very words of Scripture. I consciously refuse to avoid words of God that are offensive--'adam,' 'man,' 'brothers,' and so forth--sticking to the old paths of God. And having become obedient to the very words of Scripture, I've started to learn the reason for those words being chosen by the Holy Spirit.
Christians for Biblical Equality, for instance, being feminist rather than Christian, refuse the biblical doctrine of Adam's federal headship; in other words, they deny that all of us die in that one man, Adam. Instead, counter to the explicit teaching of Scripture, they declare that "The Bible teaches that man and woman were co-participants in the Fall: Adam was no less [or more] culpable than Eve." How carefully wrong, undercutting as it does the teaching of the Word of God that it is through Adam's sin alone that all die. Not Adam and Eve's sin, but Adam's sin alone. As Romans 5:12 declares, "...through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men...." And 1Corinthians 15:22 puts it this way, "...in Adam all die..." Quite clear, isn't it?
And yet, seeing clearly that such statements in Scripture seem to undercut the equality of the moral agency of women and men, CBE will have none of it. No! Adam and Eve were "co-participants in the Fall." And while Adam and Eve did both sin in the Garden of Eden, they most certainly were not "co-participants in the Fall." The Fall is Adam's work, "Adam's failure," and we today inherit original sin from Adam alone. Nowhere does Scripture lay the blame for the Fall and its fruit at Eve's doorstep.
Now follow me with this: When Scripture refers to our race as 'adam,' and explains to us that it was and is Adam's sin that brought death to us all, male and female, it becomes clear why the Holy Spirit habitually uses male-marked nouns to refer to mixed sex groups.
Through His words and Word, God is training us to think biblically about the Fall, but also about the authority of our Heavenly Father that is resident in earthly fatherhood, starting with Adam and coming down to us today. God could have decreed that it be otherwise, that Eve represent the race with Adam, but He didn't. And every single time the Holy Spirit speaks in Scripture about the distinction between the sexes, reinforcing the Edenic truth that creation is neither matriarchal nor egalitarian, but patriarchal--that God is the Father from Whom all fatherhood gets its name--we need to listen up, believe, and then confess this glorious truth with our actions and words.
And words. So let me ask you: Do you avoid using the very words of Scripture that confess patriarchy, father-rule, because you know they're offensive? When you write your papers or theses or dissertations for your professors, do you confess your faith, or do you wimp out with all that flaccid garbage? When's the last time that, blushing and sweating and blinking rapidly, you spoke up in class, gave a lecture, preached a sermon, or posted a blog using 'man' for our race, 'brothers' for the church, or 'he' for both men and women?
You say it's wrong to do this because people today don't know those constructions and will mistakenly think that only men/men are being referred to?
Well, that's our failure. We've failed to confess our faith and now it's dying, isn't it? So what--we connive at its death under cover of clarity and charity?
Over a hundred words are in the English language because early translators like John Wycliffe and William Tyndale knew they'd need to bring Hebrew and Greek usage in, coining new words and phrases in English in order to assure the proper communication of the Word of God. So today, why are we allowing feminists and their willing helpers to strip usages common in the English language for centuries out of our vocabularies? Are we really so naive that we don't know they're doing this because they hate the biblical concepts communicated through that usage?
The problem with the inclusive use of 'man,' 'brother,' and 'he' is not that it doesn't communicate accurately, but that it does communicate accurately, and the world hates it. But Christians love it and discipline themselves to keep on with it, knowing that it, too, is part of the deposit of truth that Jesus commanded us to pass on to faithful men and women.
Should it be any surprise, then, that I'm convinced we shouldn't speak of men who engage in same-sex intimacy as "gay" or "homosexual," but "sodomites"? And yes, I'm aware that, as one esteemed pastor told me last week, my frequent use of this word makes me look like a "raving lunatic." But if you're willing to look more carefully at the words 'gay' and 'homosexual', you'll notice both of them lack something the word 'sodomy' keeps in view--namely, God's notorious judgment of this sexual perversion when He consumed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah with fire because they had given themselves over to same-sex physical intimacy--what has for centuries been referred to as 'sodomy'.
So was this choice of words by millions of past fathers and brothers in the faith an indication of their insensitivity and callousness toward brothers who struggle with the sin of sodomy? Of course not--we today haven't invented love for sinners. All previous generations of believers loved sinners as much, or more, than any of us do. But they were unashamed of Scripture's commands and words, and believed that their laws and words ought to help, not hurt, those they loved who fought against this temptation.
So my own use of 'sodomy' and 'sodomite' is not due to a lack of love for those who struggle with this temptation, but rather my love and refusal to speak in clinical and morally neutral words. And yes, I had to train myself to do it.
Believers should work to see very old habits of speech protected so that the concepts they carry live on. We should not refer to adultery as "cheating" or "an affair." And what about self-sex intimacy? Why call it "masturbation" when there's a perfectly good word that's been in use for centuries and brings the practice back from a clinical, to a moral and biblical perspecgive: "Onanism"?
Keep going--there's more where those came from.