Politics, Language and the Kingdom of God

[From the archives.]

George Orwell (1943) Wikipedia

In his short 1946 essay Politics and the English Language, George Orwell describes the decline he saw in the English language.


Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly.

Dying metaphors, pretentious diction, meaningless words

He writes of “dying metaphors”, “pretentious diction”, “meaningless words” and other problems. Essentially, he says all these are not merely the result of laziness, but also cause more laziness in turn. They keep us from thinking about what we are really trying to say.

A speaker who uses that kind of phraseology has gone some distance toward turning himself into a machine. The appropriate noises are coming out of his larynx, but his brain is not involved as it would be if he were choosing his words for himself. If the speech he is making is one that he is accustomed to make over and over again, he may be almost unconscious of what he is saying, as one is when one utters the responses in church.

His comparison to participation in church got me thinking. Do we do things in the kingdom of God – not just in the Sunday morning service but beyond that time as well – that have become unclear, difficult to understand, perhaps even begun to lack any significance because we have surrendered to a lazy way of expressing ourselves? In short, are we becoming “those arrogant people” Isaiah wrote about:

You will see those arrogant people no more, people whose speech is obscure, whose language is strange and incomprehensible. (Isaiah 33:19.)

Plain Spiritual Speech

I write about faith and Scripture, sin and redemption, the gospel and God’s glory. Orwell led me to examine my own thought processes in writing these articles. Happily, he offers advice – a cure of sorts.

One can often be in doubt about the effect of a word or a phrase, and one needs rules that one can rely on when instinct fails. I think the following rules will cover most cases:

(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

(ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.

(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.

(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

My first thought on reading that list is that rule vi is the one that makes all the others workable. My second thought is that this advice would not only help me be a better writer; it would help me be a better speaker, whether I’m leading a Bible study, teaching a class full of judges, speaking to a group of schoolchildren visiting the courthouse, or preaching a sermon.

Orwell giving out sermon tips? Whowouldathunkit?*


*And who knows what Orwell wouldathunk about that word!


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4 Responses to Politics, Language and the Kingdom of God

  1. Exactly! My journalist husband occasionally quotes this very essay to me. (He loves Orwell, for several reasons.) My husband’s handy rule for writing? “Eliminate needless words.”

    Thanks, Tim. @chaplaineliza



    There are seven billion people in the world today and only two point two billion even claim to be Christians.

    There is only one way of salvation and that is through faith in Jesus Christ.

    Luke 13:23-24 Then one said to Him, “Lord are there few who are saved.?” And He said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. (NKJV)

    Universal salvation is a fallacy of consensus.

    Matthew 7:13-14 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. (NKJV)

    Universal salvation is a fallacy of consensus.

    John 10:7-10 …..9 “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me , he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture……(NKJV)

    To believe there is more than one door to salvation is the fallacy of consensus.

    John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. (NKJV)

    To assert that because a majority of men believe that there are multiple ways to the Father is the fallacy of consensus.

    Acts 4:10-12 …that the name of Jesus Christ…12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”(NKJV)

    To claim that most will be saved because many men believe that there are various names by which men might be saved is a fallacy of consensus.

    God does not rule by consensus.

    Mark 16:16 “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. (NKJV)

    A fallacy of consensus is that Jesus did not mean men had to be baptized in water to be saved.

    Matthew 16:16-18 …..17 Jesus answered….18 “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. (NKJV)

    A fallacy of consensus is that Jesus said “I will build the Roman Catholic Church.”

    Psalm 139:13-14 For You have formed my inward parts; You have covered me in my mother’s womb. 14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.(NKJV)

    A fallacy of consensus is that David was born guilty of the sin of Adam and only had sinful desires because he inherited a sinful nature from Adam.

    Job 1:1 There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil. (NKJV)

    A fallacy of consensus contends that Job was born a dirty little sinner because of the original sin of Adam and only had evil desires.

    Acts 10:1-2 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, 2 a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always.

    A fallacy of consensus is that the gentile named Cornelius was born guilty of original sin, could not seek God, and only had evil desires.

    Romans 4:15 because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression.(NKJV)

    To assert that being born is a transgression of the law; therefore all men are born sinners is a fallacy of consensus.

    1 John 3:4 Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. (NKJV)

    To assert that babies commit sin by being born or are guilty of sin as infants is a fallacy of consensus. Sin is committed, it is not inherited.

    The fallacy of consensus is that because the majority agrees on a doctrine that it is God’s word.

    • Tim says:

      Steve, if you would like to link to a blog post related to something you read here, that is fine. It’s better to do that rather than cut and paste into this blog’s comment section.

      Frankly though I don’t see how your comment relates to my post at all.

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