Nonsense pollutes our air. Spectacular advances in “communications” have produced the side effect of increasing people’s capacity to manipulate and suffocate one another with distorted words. And so attempts at genuine communication are obscured by a persistent smog of nonsense. Every four years as election time approaches we become acutely aware that the nonsense-pollution index is rising, but the problem is not a quadrennial one. In a culture where advertising, sloganeering, propaganda, and even hard-core duplicity are integral parts of the way of life, the haze of meaninglessness and falsehood seldom clears.

In this wonderland of nonsense Christians must communicate clear meanings by words. We affirm that God himself has chosen to communicate to men through the inspired words of Scripture, and that words are among our most essential means to witness to the truth of the Gospel. And so, in contrast to the use of words to disguise reality, we must use words to represent reality as accurately as possible—the realities of God’s creation, man’s condition, God’s judgment, and Christ’s work of redemption.

As evangelicals, then, we hold a view of language that is at sharp odds with current norms and practices. We need to understand this difference clearly. It is particularly important, I suggest, to view the current manipulation by language and misrepresentation of reality as symptoms of basic cultural assumptions that are essentially antagonistic to the evangelical proclamation of God’s Word.

Although no one has a monopoly on misleading communication, the world of advertising is certainly a leader. Constant exposure to fanciful, extravagant advertising claims has conditioned us not to expect that ads will correspond to any discernible ...

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