The war on guns is not a war on guns, but rather a war on words. The war on marriage is not a war on marriage, but rather a war on words. The war on unborn children is not a war on life, but rather a war on words. The war on true victims is not a war on victims, but rather a war on words. And all of this is because of unregenerate man’s hostility to the Word. Words remind them of the Word, and it is a Word they do not wish to hear.
Having words retain their meaning, and having an objective and fixed connection between the word and the referent is something that reminds men too much of their Maker. “For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm” (Ps. 33:9, ESV). And so they want the right to keep and bear arms to mean something like not having the right to keep and bear arms. They want the married state between a man and a woman to be something that can also exist between a man and a man, because we have decided to use the word marriage that way. They want a child with a heart, liver, lungs and thumbs to be a cluster of tissue only — but a cluster of tissue that (magically) has a salable heart, liver, lungs and thumbs. They want a victim to be whoever they designate a victim, and not someone who actually might be one. This is not, as it sometimes first appears, to be a battle between facts and feelings — although it certainly presents itself that way sometimes. The real battle here is between facts — the will of God — and feelings — the will of man.
They also want their crusade for freedom to eventually extend to geometry, so they can liberate all the oval triangles.
All these individual battles are important, but there is one battle that runs through each of them. That battle is over whether words proceed from the Word, or from the heart of rebellious man. Shall God speak the Word, or shall man? The ancient rebellion began with the question, “Did God say?” Has God spoken? Do we really have His Word? And since we do not actually have His Word, or so the serpent whispered, who shall speak instead?
God wants us to speak with gratitude, and so we speak with envy. He wants us to speak with contentment, and so we murmur. He wants us to speak the truth, and so we take ourselves to the Internet to spread lies. He invites us to praise Him, and so we disparage His glory by insisting that the cosmos is just one great big matter-in-motion pile-up.
But the men who do all this are clever enough. They want an intellectually sophisticated basis for their rebellion. They don’t just go and do it. They carefully laid all the groundwork first. They insist that anyone with half a brain, that anyone who is really educated, that anyone who has basked in the Enlightenment sunshine, should know, by this point in their project, that we don’t really know anything. Didn’t you know that?
This is the telos of Immanuel Kant’s entire project, the gist of which boils down to a division between phenomena and noumena, between the world as it appears to us, and the world as it actually is, and to which we have no access whatever. The world as it actually is is closed off to us. We know nothing about it. We are stuck on this side with our thoughts about it all, which are very deep thoughts, are they not? Do they not make the sophomores go whoa?
Immanuel Kant is the world’s most ironically named philosopher, and I suspect there were a more than a few horse laughs and snorts from the angelic hosts over it. Immanuel — God with us — Kant. And his whole project amounts to saying that “Immanuel can’t.” But He can, and did.
So for the simple (and faithful) Christian, these Freebird solos on the air guitar of philosophy collapse before the question — which world was Jesus born in? In which world did He heal the sick? In which world did He die for me, and in which world did He come back from the dead? The phenomenal world or the noumenal world? In which world did He forgive my sins?
The division is not between the world as it appears and the world as it is. The division is not to be found in the world itself at all. The fundamental division is always in the heart of man, and so we have the world as gift and the world as refused gift. The world saunters up to us in much the way described by Thomas Reid, and says hi. We respond either by thanking God and receiving the pied beauty gift with profound gratitude, or we say that dappled things certainly are presenting themselves as dappled phenomena, but is this not much the same as when you rub your eyeballs hard and see sparkly lights? Over in the noumena, there might not even be any dappled things. No sense thanking God for that.
It is therefore my considered opinion that any Christian leader who has taken more than three graduate credits of anything needs to have Colossians 2:8 tattooed on the inside of his eyelids.
The connection between a word and its referent — in the world God gave as a gift, mind you — is the connection that a two-hundred-year old oak tree has with the soil it has grown in. But modern man — what Andrew Lytle called momentary man — wants words and their referents to have the connection that pond lilies have to the silt on the bottom — and they are working on getting rid of the silt, and the bottom, and the pond.
Then the lilies will be free. Then they will fly. Then they will soar with the pigs.