“Purity” is a twisted word? Yes. Just as we can dirty our water or the very air we must breath, it seems we are quite capable of contaminating any word.
What Is Purity?
Just as they can represent people, places, and things, words can also represent concepts, and the concept of purity is a bad one to mess with. Consider the use of the word “pure” in context below. When we define wisdom, purity is of prime importance.
James 3:13-18 Authorized (King James) Version (AKJV)
13 Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. 14 But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. 15 This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. 16 For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. 18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.
Where did the word “purity” come from? Here is the etymology.
purity (n.)c.1200, from Old French purete “simple truth,” earlier purte (12c., Modern French pureté), from Late Latin puritatem (nominative puritas) “cleanness, pureness,” from Latin purus “clean, pure, unmixed; chaste, undefiled” (see pure (adj.)).
In his Notes on the General Epistle of St James, John Wesley observed: “But the wisdom from above is first pure – From all that is earthly, natural, devilish.” That is, pure wisdom does not lead us to sin.
How Do We View Purity?
Is there something wrong with the way we currently define purity? No. Although I doubt most people could explain what it means for wisdom to be “pure,” the twisting of this word seems to be one more of connotation, not denotation.
Why would someone dislike being pure? Some people prefer worldly wisdom. Consider the origin of the word puritanical, ultimately a derivative of the word “purity.” When the Puritans sought strict moral purity, their opponents derided them as puritanical. Supposedly, the Puritans were overscrupulous (from here), whatever that means. Anyway, their opponents won the public relations battle, and the caricature of Puritans as puritanical stuck. That helped to make the quest for sexual purity look a little ridiculous.
Why was purity important to the Puritans? Check the Holman Bible Dictionary article on Purity-Purification. The Puritans sought ethical purity. That is, they sought to do what is right, not sin. Yet, as this article suggests, The Pauline Doctrine of Purity as Life According to the Spirit by Pope John Paul II, we often use the term purity in connection with sex. Since the sin of fornication provides such a powerful temptation, those who would put sex before God deny the need for sexual purity. Hating God’s demand for sexual purity, they deride it as puritanical.
Here is an example of such derision. According to Wikipedia:
A purity test is a self-graded survey that assesses the participants’ supposed degree of innocence in worldly matters (sex, drugs, deceit, and other activities assumed to be vices), generally on a percentage scale with 100% being the most and 0% being the least “pure”.
As already noted, the concept of purity has applications apart from sex. In fact, purity need not involve ethics. For example, those who place place too much importance on political victory deride the idea of a “political purity test.” Here is the typical approach.
The reason progressives have been on the sidelines for a generation is because a small-but-loud groups of us think of themselves as the Democratic “base,” while they trash any Democrat who isn’t purely liberal/progressive. At the same time, Republicans will vote for damn near anyone from their party, regardless of flaws. They voted for Rick Santorum in the primaries and Mitt Romney in the general. What does that tell you? (from here)
Of course, there is a distinction between passing a purity test and trashing people who don’t pass a test. Are we suppose to pretend that sexual impurity is a good thing? Are we suppose to pretend a candidate is something that he is not just so long as he can win? Well, some people think it bad to hurt another’s feelings, and some people do seem to think winning is awfully important.
Is the quest for truth important? We say “yes,” but we live in an age filled with loud voices, a powerful mass media. If sex and politics are not enough to corrupt a word, the advertising industry can do it. Hence, if we go online, we can find these combinations: pure romance, pure nightclub, a weird book named “Pure,”….. In their unrelenting efforts to sell trash, some advertisers will willfully turn the meaning of any word upside down.
Renewing The Quest For Purity
With formation of communities, mankind began to war with itself. In our pride, we struggle to make others think like us, obey us, and mirror what we wish to believe. Because of our natural pride, we have great difficulty restraining our wrath.
Put yourself in the position of a politician. Imagine the thrill of power. If you restrain yourself to protecting the God-given rights of your fellow citizens, you must inevitably exercise very little power. On the other hand, if you design to bend others to your will……
What is our defense against the manipulation of unscrupulous leaders? As those New England Puritans we now so readily deride could have told us, our defense is pure wisdom, wisdom that is from above.
In our age, instead of Godly wisdom we now fill our minds with the corrupt wisdom of foolish men. Fortunately, there are those who revere God’s wisdom. In spite of fierce opposition, there are those who still proclaim His Word. Here is an example. On June 19, 2014, Christians marched in our nation’s capital. They celebrated a March for Marriage. They marched to uphold God’s definition of marriage. If we want our marriages to be real, we must submit to a “purity test” — God’s purity test — not a phony purity test devised by some unaccountable judge.
Do we want to drink pure water or filth? Do we wish to live by the pure wisdom of God or by the wisdom of this world? The world will try to sell us. The world will offer us a bargain.
I am okay. You’re okay.
But we cannot be trusted to keep our bargains. Because of our overweening pride, as natural men we cannot be trusted. We will not leave each other in peace. Even as born again Christians, we are still works in progress.
Philippians 1:6 English Standard Version (ESV)
6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Only when we submit to being cleansed by the living water of God’s word do we begin to become pure. Thus, we begin learning how to submit every action and word to a “purity test.”
There is a complete list “Of Twisted Words” posts at the first post in this series, OF TWISTED WORDS => FEMINISM.