I recently read a Tweet from a friend quoting a respected theologian, saying, “Definitions are never a matter of life or death.” While given the explanatory context I agree with the claim, taken out of context (a perennial hazard of Twitter, and social media in general) this could be dangerously misunderstood.
For example, how does one define a person? Is an unborn fetus a person? As such, do they have a God-given right to life? Consequently, should elective abortion be defined as a species of murder? Or consider the key terms fought over in the Civil War. When it was declared that “all men are created equal,” how should man be defined? Was a slave property? Which is correct grammar: the United States is, or the United States are?
I discuss this issue in this 30-second clip from my Introductory Logic video, Lesson 1, on “The Purposes of Defining Terms.”
My point is that definitions are not purely academic. God cares how we define our terms. And sometimes it is a manner of life or death.