Re: personal revelations

From: George Murphy (
Date: Sat Feb 22 2003 - 12:53:55 EST

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    Rich Blinne wrote:
    > George Murphy wrote:
    > > If again I may interject, Graham didn't say "no language" but "no sacred
    > >language." The same gospel can be proclaimed in Hebrew, Greek, Old Church Slavonic &c.
    > >& its "covariance" is even wider than the possibility of linguistic translation. There
    > >are different theological ways to express the gospel, different "theories of the
    > >atonement" &c. This is not to say that anything goes, but we simply aren't tied to one
    > >way of communicating the gospel.
    > > The Word is, fundamentally, Jesus Christ, & the gospel is, in Luther's phrase,
    > >_was Christum treibt_, what "pushes" or "promotes" Christ. That may almost always have
    > >a linguistic component, but such a component isn't always the most important feature.
    > >
    > >
    > >
    > If what he means is that there is no "official" language for Scripture,
    > fine. What I would like to know, however, is how you got the covariance
    > is wider than linguistic translation. The evangel is by definition a
    > message -- literally good news. Thus, to say that the linguistic
    > component is not the most important feature of a message I find
    > bizarre. This reminds me of when Richard Gere at the Oscars told
    > everybody to have "good thoughts" for the Tibetan people in order to
    > stop their oppression by the Chinese Government. I seriously doubt
    > without an explicit linguistic communication with Dong Chou Ping that it
    > would do any good.

            1st I should say that my main purpose isn't to argue for mysticism. God
    normally works through means - Word & sacraments - to bring salvation, & my own Lutheran
    tradition has always been wary of "enthusiasm" (_Schwarmerei_), the notion that God
    gives the Holy Spirit directly. At the same time it has spoken of a "mystical union" of
    believers - i.e., those who have received the Spirit through Word & sacraments - with
    the Trinity. There is a Christian tradition of silent prayer & Paul says that even when
    we don't know what to say, the Spirit prays for us (Rom.8:26). As to how God deals with
    the "good thoughts" of Buddhists I leave God to decide - but I doubt that he simply
    ignores them.
            2d, the sacraments can be understood (as Augustine said of baptism) as "visible
    words." God's word makes water more than ordinary water & bread & wine more than
    ordinary food, but it is a serious mistake to think of the physical elements as just
    minor additions to, or illustrations of, the spoken word.
            3d, what I mean by theological covariance being wider than linguistic
    translation is that there are different theological formulations of the gospel. There
    is indeed "one faith" (Eph.4:5), but there are different theologies - different ways of
    thinking about & expressing the Christian faith. The gospel can be proclaimed with the
    language of Jesus paying the debt for our sin, or defeating the powers of sin & death,
    or providing an active example of love which transforms our lives (to note briefly just
    3 "theories of the atonement.") In any given situation, for a given audience, one may
    be better than another.
            I have dealt with this in greater detail in an article "What Can We learn from
    Einstein about Religious Language?" in _Currents in Theology and Mission_ of August
    1988. This was written pre-word processor so I can't send copies electronically but
    will be glad to mail them to those who are interested & give me snailmail addresses.


    George L. Murphy

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