Discussing
How grammar influences your faith

John Van Sloten

Esther Aspling
March 26, 2013

It reminds me of that saying, "don't put off tomorrow what you can do today."
Jesus didn't make a 5 year plan, He acted today, in the moment.

http://forthisisthetime.blogspot.com/

TimF
March 26, 2013

Great job, John. You remind us that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Heb. 13:8), and that we who are chronological/sequential beings have trouble understanding what that means in the sense of eternity and God's eternal nature.

Cheers,
Tim

KoryPlockmeyer
March 26, 2013

Thanks, John. We were just talking about that talk the other day. I would also be curious to think more about what it means that God chose to reveal himself in two very different languages (Greek and Hebrew) with two very different ways of looking at the world (simplistically, Eastern and Western). Doesn't that in and of itself speak to a God who transcends our cultural worldviews and ways of dividing the world?

John Van Sloten
March 26, 2013

thanks Tim... you're so right, we're all struggling with CSD (chronological/sequential disorder).

John Van Sloten
March 26, 2013

So true Kory. Add in an infinite number of creational languages that God speaks (star, theoretical math, brush stroke, touch, rhythm, hydrology, and emotion, to name a few) and we end up with a God who is totally out of control.

Jonathan Downie
March 26, 2013

As a linguist myself and a researcher, I am not convinced by the original claim. So many other factors could be affecting behaviour. We could just as easily say that Chinese people save more because they have a less materialist (buy now!) culture than because of language. Similarly, unless we are going to go down the road of linguistic determinism (which would limit God as well as our understanding of God), it would seem somewhat naive to assume that we have trouble understanding some concepts simply because of grammar.

Do we have problems understanding the now and not yet of the Kingdom? Sure! Can we link this inextricably to English grammar? I am not so sure. After all, it's not as if Mandarin prevents the future being represented; it just represents it differently to English.

Language is powerful but it is never the sole explanation for everything.

Jonathan Downie
March 26, 2013

Throw in the language mix at Pentecost and it might even seem that God is perfectly comfortable with being represented in a wide variety of languages and sign systems.

TimF
March 26, 2013

And all at the same time!

TimF
March 26, 2013

Great insights, Jonathan. You philologists rock!

John Van Sloten
March 26, 2013

great thoughts Jonathan. thanks.
Propositions; they help make a point, but moment you make them, you risk overstating.

Jan VanKooten
March 26, 2013

While I read your tho'ts, I did resonate -- Ecclesiastes 3:11, always inspirational and comforting, came to mind: "He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end." We are eternal beings, but we don't understand well what that means for the here and now. Knowing that God is eternal and that time is one of His gifts to me has relieved some of the dis-ease of that dichotomy. I delight in the past/present/future-ness of God and am blessed to have Him in all of my time(s).

Jonathan Downie
March 27, 2013

Actually, I am a conference interpreter and interpreting researcher: I wanted to do something I could get paid for. ;-)

My professional (and research) background makes me high sceptical of those who say "language determines this" or "grammar determines that". After all, I work between languages every working day and I use the word "between" deliberately. The very fact that interpreting and translation exist and work (most of the time) suggests that linguistic determinism of any kind is highly problematic. The fact that language professionals can point to differences in approach between all sorts of the different cultures (political, national, corporate etc) means that we can't pretend that we all see things the same way.

So, you could say I am cynically open-minded. I doubt that language is the only factor but I don't doubt that there are factors that mean that different people understand things in a different way.

John Van Sloten
March 27, 2013

"My times are in your hands..." Psalm 31:15

Joel Schreurs
March 29, 2013

Good thoughts, John. I finally read "Slaughterhouse Five" a while back, and got to wondering if maybe we are, in a sense, Chronologically Displaced persons (Was that the phrase?). In the risen Christ, God's future has come crashing into the present. By his Spirit, that future has been made available to us. Even as we live in the present, we are future people (or at least are supposed to be.)
(Then again, I think of Paul's letters to the Corinthians. IMy Bible commentaries say that had a problem with "over-realized eschatology"...which I think means that they were a little *too* future oriented)

John Van Sloten
March 30, 2013

Your words (Joel) reminded me of something I read years ago; that we often think of time as the past pushing us into the future, when in fact (from a faith based perspective) the future is actually pulling us forward. God is drawing us to himself.

Hdssh
April 18, 2013

I suggest it goes much deeper than grammar. I work with graduate students and am constantly aware that their conceptualization skills are seriously constrained and conditioned by vocabluary. I think this applies equaly to our relationship with God ... if we struggle to find the words to articulate our faith our relationship is weakened. The more and better we can express ourselves, so the more we give substance to our inner realizations.

http://hdssh.weebly.com

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