Thursday, March 4, 2010

Machen on Defining Terms

If you were to ask my children what is the first rule of logical discourse, they would immediately reply "to define your terms" (I admit, we are the kind of family that around the dinner table talks about things like logical fallacies).

Read this quote from J. Gresham Machen:
"Nothing makes a man more unpopular in the controversies of the present day than
an insistence upon definition of terms. Anything, it seems, may be forgiven more
readily than that. Men discourse very eloquently today upon such subjects as
God, religion, Christianity, atonement, redemption, faith; but are greatly
incensed when they are asked in simple language what they mean by these terms.
They do not like to have the flow of their eloquence checked by so vulgar a
thing as a definition."

What is Faith?"; Pg. 14; Machen

1 comment:

  1. Funny how people (including my children, all adults) really DO get annoyed at that. You get asked a question: "So, because you're a Calvinist, you believe in 'once saved, always saved,' eh?" Then you say, "Well, let's define "once saved, always saved." Many times the questioner can't define the very terms he uses.

    My kids probably roll their eyes every time I say, "Well, let's define _______________." Definitions, though, DO matter.