From: George Murphy (email@example.com)
Date: Sat Feb 22 2003 - 12:53:55 EST
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org http://web.raex.com/~gmurphy/
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