The Word and Words

C. David Baker
2020 Bible and the Contemporary World  
Language, per se, bears revelatory witness to the nature of God and, in consequence, important insight into the structure of the cosmos. However, theological scholarship rarely engages language as a revelatory category, instead limiting its attention to the behavior of sacred words. This is unfortunate, for a deeper engagement with the essence of language offers fruitful possibilities that include encountering the triune God as a linguistic community, and the implications of all things existing
more » ... within God-speech. What follows probes the soul of language, positing the claim that who God is, language does. Introduction. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." John 1:1. In the essay to follow I will assert that a deeper understanding of how language works offers fresh insights into the character of God. It is my hope that, thus informed, post-modern Christian communities might find unity in bearing witness to an inviting God who shares of himself poetically. 1 As the Word God spoke the Creation into being, and with words he blessed it. He continues to converse with humans made in the Imago Dei, persons to whom he imparts those reflective, communicative, and imaginative processes of semiotic thought and speech mysteriously concomitant with his own nature. In so doing, God has chosen to reveal himself via languagebroadly defined for this essay as semiotic discourse, that is, communication through a full spectrum of images (including words), sounds, and gestures. 2 * The Word as Words 93 Interest in the power of language theory has risen remarkably since Friedrich Nietzsche's observation that language is somehow involved with the process of knowing. 3 Ricoeur, Austin, Searle and others have since contributed much. Given the self-identity of Christian communities as textual communities it is not then surprising that theological interests have been piqued as well. 4 Hence, Anthony Thiselton considers the issue as one of the most significant developments in biblical hermeneutics. 5 I contend that an expanded understanding of language has the potential to enlarge the very ground upon which knowing God occurs. For not only does it bear meaningful messages, it also offers the meaning of itself. To better know language is to better know its Maker. Understanding how it behaves in front of, in, and behind texts funds a deeper appreciation of both what God says and who God is. Thus informed, Christian communities might become more than textual communities, instead becoming Sprachengemeinschaften in which the Spirit graciously enlivens the Word to greater glory with, by, through, and in, language. It should be now noted that my interests are primarily directed toward Christian communities generally hospitable to two pertinent presuppositions underpinning my work. First, I accept mystery as a reality, including the mysteries of a triune God and a bodily resurrected Christ. Second, I presume the inspiration of Scripture, that being the Holy Spirit's supervision of the formation, transmission, and reception of the scriptural texts, including ongoing divine presence in the lives of today's reader/speaker/hearer. Further, I acknowledge that my perspective is shaped heavily according to my experience in and migration away from American conservative evangelicalism. Given this tradition's ninety million adherents, 6 I find it both important and of personal interest to include some attention to its relevant assumptions. I do not pretend that my consideration will or can be objective, but I will endeavor to be fair. My discussion will begin unconventionally with a fictional narrative offered for the purpose of creating an interpretive atmosphere for the assertions that follow. I will then provide 3
doi:10.15664/bcw.v2i1.1980 fatcat:t33ysfcne5hl5je5lsj5qbt47m