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God, Language and Scripture

I picked up the book, God, Language and Scripture by Moises Silva, and started reading it this week.  I don't know where I heard about it, but somewhere out there in bloggy land, someone had mentioned this book in conjunction with D.A. Carson's Exegetical Fallacies, which I also have. 

God, language and scripture are three of my favourite things to think about.  When I was in my last year of university, I needed an elective, and I took an introductory course in linguistics.  That was one of those, "I wish I had done this earlier" kind of situations, because I really enjoyed it.  This book, by Moises Silva looks at the Bible in light of general linguistics.

In the opening section, Silva points out that in the opening of Scripture, we find the phrase, "God said."  Silva says that being made in the image of God involves speech:  "We are made in the image of a God who speaks."  One question that Silva briefly ponders (quoting Noam Chomsky, an author I remember well from when I took a course in development psychology, and when I took linguistics) how thought and language are related.  Is thought possible without language?  It's an interesting thought to ponder.

Silva goes on to discuss the effects of sin on language, beginning of course with a reference to the Tower of Babel.  His perspective is interesting though, because he reminds the reader that the account is the backdrop to the account of Abraham, and that some scholars have made the observation that the confusion of languages was redemptive in nature, because had the people been allowed to go ahead full steam, they would have continued in sin.  I thought that was rather interesting.

Another effect of sin on speech is the presence of evil speech.  Both the Old and New Testaments are full of injunctions against evil speech, and it has more to do with the inability to understand another person's language:

The confusion resulting from the destruction of Babel implies more than our inability to understand languages foreign to us.  That inability, no doubt, has often led to serious quarrels among nations and ethnic groups.  But the multiplicity of languages throughout the world is perhaps only the reflection of a more fundamental discordant streak in humanity.  After all, nations that speak the same language have hardly been invulnerable to the horrors of war!  Without minimizing the role played by substantive differences of opinion among people, one must wonder how often we delude ourselves into thinking that our disputes have vital significance when in fact we have only failed to communicate clearly.

I think that last sentence can be applied very heartily to disputes between family members.


Warfield Wednesday

On the foreknowledge of Jesus:

Not only were there no surprises in the life for Jesus and no compulsions; there were not even 'influences,' as we speak of 'influences' in a merely human career. The mark of this life, as the Evanglists depict it, is its calm and quiet superiority to all circumstances and condition, and to all the varied forces which sway other lives; its prime characteristics are voluntaries and independence.  Neither His mother, nor His brethren, nor His disciples, nor the people He came to serve, nor His enemies bent upon His destruction, nor Satan himself with his temptations, could move Him one step from His chosen path.  When men seemed to prevail over Him they were but working His will; the great 'No one has taken my life away from me; I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again' (Jn. x. 18), is but the enunciation for the supreme act, of the principle that governs all His movements.  His own chosen pathway ever lay fully displayed before His feet; on it His feet fell quietly, but they found the way always unblocked.  What He did, He came to do; and He carried out His programme with uwavering purpose and indefectible certitude.

I guess one cannot really agree with Warfield unless he believes in the equality which exists between Jesus and the Father.  So much of what we understand about Christ really hinges on this equality.  Perhaps that is why so much time was spent early in the Church articulating that relationship.


Heart Aflame - August 15, 2010

Psalm 91:14-15

"Because he loves me," says the Lord, "I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name."  Here it is noticeable that God, in declaring from heaven that we shall be safe under the wings of his protection, speaks of nothing as necessary on the part of his people but hope or trust.  We must rest with a sweet confidence in God, and rejoice in his favour.  The language implies that we must be continually surrounded by death and destruction in this world, unless his hand is stretched out for our preservation.  Occasionally he assists even unbelievers, but it is only to his believeing people that his help is vouchsafed, in the sense of his being their Saviour to the end.  Their knowing the name of God is spoken of in connection with their trust and expectation; and very properly, for why is it that men are found casting their eyes vainly round them to every quarter in the hour of danger, but because they are ignorant of the power of God?  They cannot indeed be said to know God at all, but delude themselves with a vague apprehension of something which is not God, a mere idol substituted for him in their imaginations.  As it is a true knowledge of God which begets confidence in him, and leads us to call upon him; and as none can seek him sincerely but those who have apprehended the promises, and put due honour upon his name, the Psalmist with great propriety and truth represents this knowledge as being the spring or fountain of trust.

He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.  The Psalmist now shows more clearly what was meant by trusting in God, or placing our love and delight in him.  For that affection and desire which is produced by faith, prompts us to call upon his name.  This is another proof in support of the truth, which we had occasion to touch upon formerly, that prayer is properly grounded upon the word of God.  We are not at liberty in this matter to follow the suggestions of our mind or will, but must seek God only in so far as he has in the first place invited us to approach him.  The context, too, may teach us, that faith is not idle or inoperative and that one test, by which we ought to try those who look for Divine deliverances, is, whether they have recourse to God in a right manner.


Worry: its causes and its cures

That is the focus of the fourteenth chapter of Lloyd-Jone's second volume in the Studies on the Sermon on the Mount.  This whole chapter was quite convicting, as are most of them, because I tend to worry.  Lloyd-Jones points out that worry is always a failue to grasp and apply our faith.  He goes on:

Faith does not work automatically.  How often have we seen that during these studies.  Never think of faith a something put inside you to work automatically; you have to apply it.  Faith does not grow automatically either; we must learn to talk to our faith and to ourselves.  We an think of faith in terms of a man havin a conversation with himself about himself and about his faith.  Do you remember how the Psalmist puts it in Psalm 42?  Look at him turning to himself and saying, 'Why art thou cast down, O my soul?  ad why art thou disquieted within me?'  That is the way to make faith grow.  You must talk to yourself about your faith.  That is the way to make faith grow.  You must question yourself as to what is the matter with your faith.  You must ask your soul why it is cast down, and wake it up!  The child of God talks to himself; he reasons with himself; he shakes himself and reminds himself of himself and of his faith, and immediately his faith begins to grow.  Do not imagine that becuse you became a Christian all you have to do is to go on mechanically.  Your faith does not grow mechanically, you have to attend to it.

Well, I've already got the talking to myself down pat; I've been doing that for years.  I guess what is more important is what the conversations consist of.


An off day

I'm having a rather off day today, and I had planned on posting another snippet of B.B. Warfield, but I woke up late, and didn't have enough time to read much this morning.

Last night, I took a walk, and I listened to a favourite recording, so I shall leave that with my blog today.

Dan Fogelberg passed away in December 2000. His recording The Innocent Age remains my favourite one.