Communication Problems

What do you think is the communication problem between the Christian and the wider world? Lewis has a couple of points to make about it in an essay titled “Before We Can Communicate”. So, before you answer, let’s look at what he wrote and see if you agree. 

First, Lewis doesn’t get fancy or academic with his answer. He says he feels a little embarrassed (I don’t think too badly), since his answer lacks high-brow sophistication. But that’s really his point, as we’ll see.

Communication breaks down because definitions are not always understood properly or at all. Lewis cites changes to the Book of Common Prayer as a step into this reality. He says that the clergy changed indifferently to impartially, in the statement that magistrates should, “truly and indifferently administer justice.” Why? Lewis groups people into the construct of high, middle and lower classes, stating that the change protected the middle majority so they might understand the point correctly. So, whereas indifferently might mean careless to some, impartially, “guards the ‘middle’ churchgoers from misunderstanding,” says Lewis.

Communication also breaks down because of avoidance and arrogance. Lewis doesn’t put it that way, but he goes in this direction by providing the advice that we should communicate for lower-minded folk understand and not Cicero. In doing so, we realize we must be verbose in our explanation so to provide understanding, and, most importantly, we will be humbled by the people who often win the argument or say something brilliant despite having a learned background. Lewis calls it sympathy, and, he says, “Sympathy is a good thing. It may even be in some ways a better thing than intellectual understanding.” 

How can we apply this to today when language is so misused, reused, and much too used? It seems that the weight of words defies gravity altogether and they float aimlessly with no clash, no drop, nothing. I would propose a high view of Scripture and the more important, Jesus as the Word of God, is a place to start. It helps formulate the opinions and definitions we keep, well beyond our own craftiness. This runs alongside Lewis’s first point.

Second, I would remain humble, not in a defeatist stance, but in a reliance on God’s Truth and in admitting our flimsy, fleshy truths. If we are being refined in the refiner’s fire, we will certainly defer to the way, truth and life, knowing that no one comes to the Father except through Jesus the Son (and his cross). This squares up with Lewis’s second point, and, more importantly, sides with Jesus shaming the wise by the foolishness of God.