24 February 2014

The Limits of Language



This is why I continue writing about the dangers of approaching personal relationships in secular terms.

What makes something secular? Is using a modern English translation of God’s word more secular than using the original Greek or Hebrew?  Is using English nomenclature not found in English versions of the Bible secular?  Is thinking in human terms instead of divine terms secular?  (Can one even think in divine terms?  How do you know?  How can one tell the difference between what constitutes human and what constitutes divine?)  I’m not trying to be flippant as I ask this, but I’m trying to point out the underlying assumptions and definitions of the assertion made above.

As is clear from 1 Cor. 11:3, man is inferior to God.  As is clear from Gen. 1:26-27, man is made in God’s image, though this is not to say that man is a carbon copy of God.  Further, it is self-evident simply from reading God’s word that God speaks to man in a language that man can understand because man is inferior to God and (probably) cannot understand God in perfectly divine terms.  In essence, God speaks to man in human terms so that man may have some understanding of divine knowledge.  Because of man’s position as one who is inferior and incompletely divine, man cannot know whether his knowledge from God is a) perfectly divine or b) perfectly complete.  As such, the belief that one can communicate completely in divine terms is unprovable because, from a practical perspective, such an assertion is unknowable, at least in the absence of direct divine revelation.

In keeping with this, it should be clear that it is impossible to perfectly distinguish between the secular and the spiritual, between the human and the divine.  One might have one’s own personal conjecture and beliefs, but personal conjecture is hardly a statement of objective fact.

So, to bring the point home, it is strictly impossible to avoid approaching personal relationships in secular terms because it is impossible to actually distinguish between the secular and the spiritual.  One can, of course, tell the difference between the secular and the religious, but religion is not spirituality, and religion, as a human institution, still thinks in human terms to some degree and is still subject to all the weaknesses and shortcomings of humanity.  As such, there will always be some degree of secularity in humanity’s attempt to discuss spiritual matters because humans are not completely divine, and humans do not possess complete divine knowledge.  Therefore, it is simply nonsensical to fight against discussing personal relationships (or any possible subject in the world) in secular terms since no human is Jehovah and therefore no human thinks or talks exactly like Jehovah.

Once this nonsense is stripped away, it becomes clear that the best thing to do is to communicate with people in terms that they will understand, without giving much regard for whether those terms are “secular,” “religious,” “spiritual,” or “Godly.”   It is presumptuous to assume that we who can only see through a glass darkly will be able to perfectly comprehend the majesty of divine truth if we simply use predominately or exclusively spiritual terms. The truth is that we all grope about in darkness searching for a glimpse of the light, dim though it may be, and it therefore behooves those of us who call ourselves children of light to spread the light in whatever terms we can instead of engaging in petty status games to prove our own piety and holiness.

* I should clarify that what I mean when I say that is nonsense is that this is something that cannot be refuted logically because it is simply a self-defined proof, and not a logical conclusion.