Saturday, April 6, 2013

Word and Language: The Heart of a Theology of Christian Writing - Part 2

In the last article, we drew this point for our theology of Christian writing:Words, in accordance with the syntax and grammar of the language that we write in, give us the capacity to glorify God by expositing truth and reality accurately – as it really is.

This capacity to glorify God will be addressed in a subsequent article. For now, I want to consider the functionality of writing as an exposition of truth and reality. A few years back, I ran across the teachings of Jan (Justice) Boshoff who through a multitude of you-tube videos and facebook notes disparaged the Bible calling it a danger to the Christian who should not be fooled into thinking that the Bible is the word of God. He was not saying that there was absolutely no value in the Bible, but it should not be taken as the word of God to us today, here and now. He advocated a continuing revelation from God and that through the Holy Spirit we receive his word now. The Bible is not for our time, written by men who were fallible and were addressing issues of a day gone by. This brought into question of not only the veracity, inerrancy, and authority of the Bible, but also of the reliability of human language to communicate faithfully God’s divine word.

In a series of eleven articles, I challenged Mr. Boshoff’s claims, and in the sixth article (The Adequacy of Human Speech as a Medium for Divine Speech) I discussed how human speech is patterned after God’s speech:God’s speech is the pattern on which all human speech is designed. The first recorded words of God are “Let there be light,” or simply, “Light be!” Genesis 1:3. It is divine speech, translated into human language, having a meaning that we humans can understand. God’s speech is translatable into and understandable in terms of human language.   Since it was God who spoke first and human language came afterwards, we may understand that human language is analogous of divine language. Human speech is patterned after God’s speech. God’s speech is the paradigm that human language follows. Grammatical rules, syntactical relationships, and meaningful vocabulary are intrinsic to human language because they are intrinsic to God’s language. That is why human language is suited as a medium for expressing God’s speech. When human language is enlisted to express God thoughts as they are in the words, “Let there be light,” those human words are God’s words using the grammar, syntax, and verbal meanings of a human language that is analogous to God’s speech.

The implications are that just as God speaks, so the human may speak and say something meaningful – it speaks truly and accurately having significance, value, and purpose. That meaning is conveyed through language that can be spoken or recorded for posterity. For the Christian writer, that posterity includes his peers as well as those who follow in subsequent generations. Speech communicates, and written speech communicates through time. That is a property of writing that we infer to be by design as God has used it to communicate his will, purposes, plans and even his character over time and for Adam’s posterity through the holy scriptures and through theological works that faithfully exposit the scriptures.

I propose, therefore, that a theology of Christian writing must recognize (a) that God speaks meaningfully, (b) that human speech and writing (recorded speech) is patterned after God’s own speech and therefore is capable of communicating something meaningful, (c) this inherent quality of writing is intended to communicate not only to those living in the present but to those who come later (as God providentially did in the holy scriptures), and (d) what it communicates ought to be in line with the way things really are, that is, say something in keeping with the divine design and purpose of things.

Therefore, Christian writing should not be frivolous and cryptic but a clear and accurate exposition of whatever the writing is about. This requires a mastery of the language in which we write and a craftsmanship that enhances written structure. Just as a plain box can hold many useful tools or toys, depending on its purpose, the box is not appropriate for other more sophisticated uses – the ultimate example being the cubicle Holy of Holies of the Old Testament tabernacle and temple. The Christian writer, particularly when his work is intended as high Christian writing, should not be looking at the toolbox, but the Holy of Holies.

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