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Oh No – I’m a Grumpy Old Man…!

October 16, 2014

A few weeks ago, I turned 48. That’s not a lot, especially not in this part of the world – I’ve got a church member twice my age – but it’s still older than I used to be… Which surely entitles me to play “grumpy old man” once in a while, right? So here are three of my favourite rants – and only one of them has anything to do with faith!

1) The UK cannot leave Europe. No, not because of legal wranglings or Brussels bureaucracy, but because Europe is a continent. Britain can’t leave Europe any more than Peru can leave South America! It really annoys me when people confuse Europe (geographical) and the European Union (political). OK, it’s easier to say, but it’s factually wrong. We used to live in Albania, and it was very frustrating when Post Office staff would ask if Albania was in Europe (which is it) when what they really needed to know was if it’s in the EU (which it isn’t). There are many European countries not in the EU; it’s both ignorant and somewhat rude to exclude them from their own continent!

2) There’s no such thing as bad grammar. Well, actually not quite true: obviously foreigners like myself might sometimes say and write things that no native English speaker would say – but that’s the only genuine kind of grammatical error there is. Technically, the only way to define what’s “correct” in any language is by studying how native speakers speak – and this changes over time. Once upon a time, “you are” would have been wrong; it should be “ye are”. Once, both “thou art” and “he hath” were part of normal, every-day speech. One day, it might be perfectly acceptable to write “we was”, a form that is already common in many spoken regional versions of English. The singular “they”, as in “Somebody hurt themselves”, is already standard in most varieties of English, even in writing (including the form “themself”). Not that long ago, that usage would have been frowned upon, if not banned altogether – even though it’s been in use since Shakespeare’s days!

[For the sake of clarity, I guess I should add that it’s quite reasonable for a national language to have one written standard, which differs to varying degrees from the many spoken varieties. What I’m ranting about is people who think that the current written standard is somehow intrinsically and eternally “correct”, when it really is just a convention that has emerged out of centuries of writing.]

3) Christians are not science-hating, illogical morons. Seriously. OK, there are illogical Christians, and there are Christian morons – but they’re not the standard. A few weeks ago, my daughter shocked a classmate of hers, when he realised she was a Christian – how could she be, when she was so good at science?! *facepalm*

Why do people believe Christians are anti-science? Because Dawkins and others insist on saying we are. It’s not true, and we need to be clear about this. There are lots of Christian scientists (e.g. Edgar Andrews and John Lennox), and even creationists use scientific principles in their attempts at disproving evolution.

I especially take issue with Richard Dawkins calling me (well, all creationists) “history-deniers” in The Greatest Show on Earth. History is based on documents, eyewitnesses and artefacts; there aren’t any of those for evolution. People who claim the Holocaust never happened are history-deniers; I find it quite offensive to be lumped together with them, just because I don’t accept certain interpretations of scientific data!

Another aspect of this is the atheists’ insistence that Christians approve of “blind faith”, believing something with no evidence and even in the face of evidence to the contrary. The British magazine Christianity (October 2014 issue) relates the findings of a survey about this very topic. The survey question was, “Do you agree that when Christians use the word ‘faith’, they mean ‘believing something even though it is not supported by evidence’?” Interestingly, whereas 72% of non-Christians answered ‘yes”, a whopping 91% of Christians disagree with that statement!

Which just proves my point: there’s a huge misunderstanding around, and we need to get rid of it. When we talk about “faith”, we do not mean “blind faith unsupported by evidence”. There is no conflict between faith and reason; in my judgment, it’s perfectly reasonable to put your trust (= have faith) in Jesus, based on the available evidence – because there is plenty of evidence that supports Christianity. Pitching faith against reason is unbiblical, unnecessary, and only plays into the hands of atheist propagandists.

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From → Christianity, Faith, Jesus

8 Comments
  1. patchingcracks permalink

    Totally appreciate #3. Thanks for writing this.

  2. We certainly need to address incorrect views of faith. For there to be at least a level playing field everyone needs to be working with the same definition.

  3. Susanne Rugg permalink

    Oh yes, there is bad grammar! Every day I walk past a garage with the sign “MOT’s £35” and a few minutes later a café that advertises “The Best Cream Tea’s in Town”. What has the poor apostrophy done to deserve all this abuse? People who don’t know the differece between “your” and “you’re” or “it’s” and “its” should not be allowed onto the Internet!

    • Those are violations of the current written standard, which I agree are possible. The reason people keep getting them wrong is that there is no difference in spoken language, which means that in many languages they would be written the same. And I don’t think of spelling conventions as “grammar” …

      • Susanne Rugg permalink

        Hm.. so incorrect use of the apostrophe is not grammar… It still bothers me when people don’t make an effort before they make a sign, or write anything that others are going to read for that matter. I would actually dare to suggest that it is not usually we foreigners who abuse the beautiful English language; native speakers can be quite sloppy. I take your point that you could get away with saying “we was” or “he don’t find nothing” if you think of it as typical of a certain dialect or or social class, but as soon as you are writing you should aim to get it right (yes there is a right and wrong!).

      • Well, I guess apostrophe use is on the border between spelling and grammar. And yes, written language has to comply with accepted standards – but those standards can change, they’re not written in stone.
        But where I don’t agree is about people abusing the language! Only non-native speakers make errors (when speaking); what native speakers regularly say is what defines correct usage. Saying “you” instead of “ye” was “sloppy” once! If most Swedes start using “hen” as a 3rd person pronoun, then that is correct, however much some of us dislike it.

  4. Susanne Rugg permalink

    Whether you’re a native speaker or not is irrelevant, I correct my children if they say “gooder” in English or “braare” in Swedish; it’s the same mistake and equally wrong. When new words or expressions are introduced and take hold in a language, they often stem from other languages and this only makes the language richer.

    I mentally correct the grammar of adults. In England, more than anywhere else that I have come across, your grammar is a sign of what social class you belong to, much more so than for example your clothes. Here you might argue that just because people of a certain social class use grammar in a way that others find sloppy, this does not make it wrong. That we could discuss until the cows come home.

    Regarding the apostrophe; it should be used to indicate genitive, not plural (see my examples above). If this isn’t grammar, I don’t know what is.

  5. I have the same kind of argument with the rest of my family… And in a way it’s not worth arguing about. But just to clarify:

    “Gooder” is clearly wrong in English, because that’s not what native adult speakers say. But that could change, which is my point: in 200 years, “gooder” might be acceptable or even correct. (Although languages that have a written standard tend to change more slowly than unwritten ones, so it might take longer.)

    The use of the apostrophe is grammatical, but it’s only a spelling convention – as far as speaking is concerned, there is no difference between “the boys” and “the boy’s”, just like there’s no difference between “[he] cuts” (verb) and “[budget] cuts” (noun). You could even argue that scrapping the apostrophe wouldn’t even amount to language change…

    I think part of the problem is that Brits are very reluctant to accept that English has dialects, just like every other language. In Sundsvall, people always used “ä” as an imperative: “ä tyst!” instead of “var tyst!”. That was/is obviously wrong in standard written Swedish. but it was perfectly correct in the local dialect. Should I correct you when you say “tjöta” just because that word doesn’t exist in standard Swedish?

    Anyway, I have a couple of sermons to finish, so I’ll stop here. The cows are just about to come home…

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