For the Love of Words

November 23, 2021 — 17 Comments

Most writers, including the majority of bloggers, share a common affection. We love words, don’t we?

That love extends beyond mere fondness. We can find ourselves in a state of genuine wonder as we ponder definitions, etymologies (evolutions through diverse languages), and phonesthetics (how they sound). As C.S. Lewis once wrote, “Isn’t it funny the way some combinations of words can give you – almost apart from their meaning – a thrill like music?”

This is one aspect of a great article in the current issue of The Lutheran Witness.* In “For the Love of Words,” editor Roy Askins uses C.S. Lewis’ classic The Four Loves to explore the relationship we have with words. He does so from a Christian perspective shared by the Oxford don.

Words shape us in profound ways. God formed creation and continues to sustain it by the Word of His mouth. . . . Words, then, are not incidental to our lives, but form a central part and core of our identity as God’s people. It’s certainly appropriate for us to talk about “loving words.”

The very word for a lover of words – logophile – combines the Greek logos (word) with philia, which Lewis deems priceless, like “that Philia which Aristotle classified among the virtues or that Amicitia on which Cicero wrote a book.”

[Coincidentally, I have an article about ministry to those who are mourning in the current issue of The Lutheran Witness, as well. I assure you, however, that’s not why I’m citing “For the Love of Words.”] Longtime readers of Mere Inkling are well acquainted with my personal fascination with words and wordplay.

Many of you share this predilection. C.S. Lewis describes us in Studies in Words.

I am sometimes told, that there are people who want a study of literature wholly free from philology; that is, from the love and knowledge of words. Perhaps no such people exist. If they do, they are either crying for the moon or else resolving on a lifetime of persistent and carefully guarded delusion.

Literature, Lewis argues, is not simply the sum of its words. It involves the history of the words, their complex shades of meaning, and even what those very words meant to their original writers.

The Uniquely Christian Perspective

God pours out his gifts of writing quite broadly. Countless styluses, quills and pens have been wielded by talented pagans and atheists over the centuries.

Still, as Askins’ article alludes, Christians have a unique connection to words. Not only did God speak all creation into existence through his Word, but that Logos, that Word became incarnate and suffered an innocent death so that humanity might be redeemed. Askins concludes his article with a joyful truth.

When we seek to love words, then, we do not seek to love them as words in themselves. This danger we editors and writers must mark and avoid. No, we love words because in them and by them, we hear of and share God’s love for us in Christ. He alone makes words holy and precious; He alone makes words worth loving.

I love these closing words. And I strongly believe C.S. Lewis would too.


* The Lutheran Witness is the magazine of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.

17 responses to For the Love of Words

  1. 

    Dear Reverend Stroud,

    Thank you for composing a post containing such deep and thoughtful examination of the potency and import of words.

    How you and I have been writing is ostensibly indicative of our being inveterate logophiles!

    For some unknown reason, your post has resurrected the following song in my mind:

    Thank you for liking my newest post entitled “🦅 SoundEagle Guided Imagery ⋆*ࣰ☀̤̣̈̇🏝*ࣰ˜҈”˜҈░*ࣰණි “. I would be delighted if you could kindly leave a token of your visit at my said post in the form of a comment there, as I always appreciate your thoughtful insights, knowledge and wisdom.

    Wishing you a productive week doing or enjoying whatever that satisfies you the most with or without being an inveterate logophile!

    Yours sincerely,
    SoundEagle

  2. 

    Dear Reverend Stroud,

    Please pardon my typo. The last word in my first paragraph should be “words”, not “word”.

    Well, the “word” has gotten the better of me!

    Yours sincerely,
    SoundEagle

    • 

      I corrected your slip in the initial message. Typos are inevitable in the life of a writer. My opinion is that non-writers don’t have a right to complain, and even those who do write should be admonished not to be too critical… lest their own glass houses come crashing down.

  3. 

    Love this post, Rob, that final paragraph says it all. Many thanks.

    • 

      True. We who know the Word possess a unique bond with words.

      At the same time, every person (being created in the image of God) is capable of finding themselves amazed by the power of words.

  4. 

    Hi Rob,

    Just wanted to wish you and yours a Blessed Thanksgiving Day tomorrow. I am not on the computer much but love your Inklings blog.

    I moved to a senior facility last spring as my mobility is so poor I couldn’t manage my home any longer. I am very blessed to be here.

    You may not remember me which is fine but I do love all that you post. I am the one who used to live in Olympia, WA. Been in AZ 20 years this month.

    In Christ,

    Helen

    • 

      Helen, so kind of you to share that you’ve been enjoying Mere Inkling through the years.

      Allow me to wish you a joyous Thanksgiving as well. And a blessed celebration of the Nativity next month too!

      Transitioning to a new home is not always easy, but contemporary senior facilities often boast wonderful communities and lots of enjoyable activities. I encourage you to take advantage of these. And, hopefully your church provides rides to services–something many congregations now do.

      Arizona… we lived in Yuma when I began elementary school. Quite different from Washington, as we both know. (I just started a fire in our woodstove right before reading your warm note.)

  5. 

    A beautiful thought any writer can appreciate. I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We have so greatly blessed by God.

    • 

      Our Thanksgiving Day celebration was on Friday, since we have no reservation about deferring to our children’s in-laws each year. After all, as you point out, we are greatly blessed each and every day!

  6. 

    How interesting, naturally, as your observations and research ever are. This whole notion of The Word Incarnate is brand-new to me; I had not heard of it before last month when my blogging friend, Jon, referred to it. What I’ve learned of the trinity from LDS teachings resonates better with my religious logic -although tying logophilia to Christianity, thus, is genius.

    • 

      In orthodox Christianity, the Trinity is recognized to be a mystery, incomprehensible to our finite, mortal minds. The miracle of the Incarnation describes the preexistent Word of God, assuming flesh to accomplish our redemption through the atonement.

      Thus, we refer to Jesus Christ, the Word, God the Son as “begotten” of the Father… our of the very nature of God himself… in contrast to being “born” and having a beginning. As described in the first chapter of John’s Gospel, the Word (Logos) is preexistent and nothing exists without having been created through him.

      Christ’s uniqueness is also emphasized in that he is the “only begotten Son.” There is no other offspring of God our Father. Humanity is simply his creation, albeit blessed to have been created in God’s own image.

      • 

        I still have trouble wrapping my mind round it all. It seems needlessly complicated.

        Isn’t it true that religious scholars and authorities before The Council of Nicea agreed with the LDS definition of the Trinity, that of there being three separate beings of one purpose?

        As a writer, I read The Word as His Spirit, a sort of conveyance of heavenly power and intent. His son is actually his son and our brother. We, also have the (eventual) ability to achieve godhood.

        I see your other points and am not trying to argue or convince you so much as cause it to make sense in my mind.

      • 

        In reading over your explanation again: Jesus, the man, was the word of God? So, he’s a part of our Heavenly Father that came down? He talked to himself?

        I’ll understand this description eventually…

      • 

        One God, three Persons. In the incarnation, he relinquished some prerogatives of his divinity (e.g. Philippians 2:5-8). Much too complex a doctrine to discuss on the internet. I can find someone near where you live to discuss the subject with you personally, if you’re interested.

      • 

        As for Christology before it is codified at the Council of Nicea… yes, there was not a unity of description for the Trinity. That was the primary reason for the gathering of the senior leaders of the entire church. They came to recognize the consensus of Christian belief.

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