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           Doubts have arisen about the adequacy of human language to

convey inerrant truth from God to man. These doubts are rooted in

an empirical epistemology, as elaborated by Hume, Kant, Heidegger

and others. Many theologians adopted such an empirical view and

found themselves unable to defend a biblical view of divine, inerrant

revelation. Barth was slightly more successful, but in the end he

failed. The problem is the empirical epistemology that first analyzes

man's relationship with creation. Biblically, the starting point should

be an analysis of man's relationship with his Creator. When ap-

proached this way, creation (especially the creation of man in God's

image) and the incarnation show that God and man possess an

adequate, shared communication system that enables God to com-

municate intelligibly and inerrantly with man. Furthermore, the

Bible's insistence on written revelation shows that inerrant divine

communication carries the same authority whether written or spoken.


*   *   *


As a result of the materialistic, empirical scepticism of the last two

centuries, many theologians entertain doubts about the ade-

quacy of human language to convey divine truth (or, in some cases,

to convey truth of any kind). This review of the philosophical and

theological origins of the current doubts about language lays a

foundation for a biblical view of language.




One recent writer stated the problem of the adequacy of religious

language in these words:


The problem of religious knowledge, in the context of contemporary

philosophical analysis, is basically this: no one has any. The problem of



religious language, in the same context, is this: can we find an excuse

for uttering these sentences we apparently have no business saying?1


The writer highlights two important aspects of the debate on the

adequacy of language. First, the problems of religious knowledge and

language arise primarily in the context of contemporary philosophical

analysis. Second, the problem of religious language is inherent in the

current skeptical view of religious knowledge: if we have no knowl-

edge of transcendent realities, how could we speak about them in any

meaningful way?2 What philosophical currents have led to such a

bleak view of the possibility of religious knowledge and language?



Hume's Empiricism

David Hume (1711-1776) believed that all knowledge is derived

from our sensations, referring to vision, hearing, feeling, smelling,

and tasting. Experience alone is the key to understanding one's

environment. Hume elevated experience as the measure of truth and

held that ideas or thoughts could be valid only if they have their roots

in experience.

This premise has important implications for our understanding

of intangible concepts such as cause and effect, theistic arguments, or

ethics. For instance, no one has ever seen a cause or an effect. All we

have seen is a succession of events that has been repeated several

times so that in our minds we come to connect them as cause and

effect. Since nobody can observe cause or effect in a literal sense, it is

impossible to know whether such concepts are true. One may only

suggest or speculate that such concepts are true about his experience.

Knowledge is thus strictly limited to experience. It does not

include speculation about experience. Concepts like cause and effect

are thereby relegated to the realm of speculation rather than to the

realm of knowledge.

Hume applies the same argument to Christianity, theistic proofs,

ethics (especially when dealing with absolute standards), and other

related concepts:


If we take in our hand any volume--of divinity or school metaphysics,

for instance--let us ask Does it contain any abstract reasoning con-

cerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental


1 D. R. Broi1es, "Linguistic Analysis of Religious Language," Religious Language

and Knowledge (ed. R. H. Ayers and W. T. Blackstone; Athens, GA: University of

Georgia Press, 1981) 135.

2 Cf. L. Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (trans. O. F. Pears and B. F.

McGuinness; London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1961), 6:45, 6:522, 6:44, 6:432.



reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then

to the flames: for it can contain nothing except sophistry and illusion.3


This position is called "empirical skepticism": any concept that

does not immediately rest on experience cannot be the subject of our

knowledge. Hume would not actually deny such intangible concepts.

Cause and effect are helpful categories in discussing our experience,

but the closest we come to knowledge is to assert that such categories

are probable.4 And while the concept of probability can be helpful, it

cannot be described as settled knowledge. Though it may be helpful

to digest the weatherman's nightly predictions, one grants them little

status above that of informed speculation.


Kant's Metaphysical Dualism

The problem with Hume's philosophy is that knowledge is not

just limited; it is, in fact, impossible. How could knowledge arise

from sensations? Our perception of a chair is no more than various

impressions like the color brown, a particular shape, and a hard or

soft feeling. These impressions are combined into the image of a

chair. But what makes us select only those sensations that pertain to

our perception of the chair rather than one of the dozens of other

impressions we are receiving, such as the room being stuffy, the smell

of food, the phone ringing, etc.? It would seem that the mind has an

important part in arranging all these sensations so that our world

becomes intelligible. "Knowledge presupposes the recognition and

comparison of causal, spatial and temporal relations, and much

more. None of this, however, is provided by the senses. They give

only tastes, odors, color patches and so on.”5

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) attempted to resolve this difficulty

by appealing both to the human intellect and our experiences. His

basic conclusion was that the mind had certain innate categories, such

as space and time, by which the sensory data could be organized and

arranged, and which thus made knowledge possible.6

This theory does not escape all of the difficulties of Hume's

empiricism. Concepts like causality and necessity are now part of the

mind's makeup and help us to explain our world. But Kant's cate-

gories of the mind only help to organize and arrange the sensory

data; they are of no help in thinking about the metaphysical world.


3 D. Hume, Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (Indianapolis: Bobbs-

Merrill, 1962), sec. 12, pt. 3, quoted in G. R. Habermas, "Skepticism: Hume," Biblical

Errancy: An Analysis of its Philosophical Roots (ed. N. L. Geisler; Grand Rapids:

Zondervan, 1981) 32.

4 Habermas, "Skepticism: Hume," 32.

5 D. W. Beck, "Agnosticism: Kant," in Geisler, Biblical Errancy, 57.

6 Ibid., 59.

24                          GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL


Consequently, a concept of God is beyond our sensations and ex-

periences as well as beyond our mind's makeup. Even though knowl-

edge of experience is now possible, we are still unable to have

knowledge of metaphysical realities.

Kant, however, pursued the issue further. Being a religious man,

he wished to establish a rational place for God in his system. For

ethics, this insistence on rationality meant that any acceptable ab-

solute standards had to be derived from the following maxim: "Act

only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will

that it should be a universal law"; that is, you should do as you want

everyone else to do. This is called the "categorical imperative." From

this kind of reasoning, Kant envisaged that one could arrive at all

other great metaphysical ideas, like freedom, God, and immortality.7

These concepts, though, cannot be known; they are speculations in

considering the practical way of life.8

For Kant, then, reason was sufficient to discover all the vital

truths that orthodox Christianity derived from revelation. Revelation

became superfluous. Kant's insistence upon the rationality of ethics

and religion left no place for divine revelation. Even so, reason could

only speculate about metaphysical realities, but it could not attain

absolute knowledge in this area.

Kant's philosophy, like Hume's, has no room for religious knowl-

edge beyond that of speculation. But Kant, unlike Hume, found a

place for religion in his system through his categorical imperative. His

religion is not a revered religion, but an ethical one.9


                              THEOLOGICAL IMPLICATIONS

Nineteenth Century Liberalism

Many nineteenth century theologians, following Hume's skeptical

views, rejected the supernatural. God, Christ, angels and many other

concepts of the supernatural are not immediately subject to our

senses of hearing, vision, touch, taste or smell. Therefore, so these

theologians reasoned, we cannot really know anything about the

supernatural; all we have is speculation. These men came to see the

world as a closed continuum without any supernatural beings or


Naturally, the idea followed that we have no divine revelation. In

a closed continuum God could not have intervened to create any


7 Ibid., 6l.

8 Cf. C. van Til, The Protestant Doctrine of Scripture (N.p.: den Bulk Christian

Foundation, 1967) 54.

9 In biblical exegesis a corresponding shift has been noticed, "from Luther's explicit

christocentrism to ethicocentrism" (Beck, "Agnosticism: Kant," 67).



written, revealed record. "In a closed system. . . any idea of revela-

tion becomes nonsense."10 The emphasis shifted accordingly from

God's Word to human witness. The Bible became only a record of

man's experiences of the divine; and rather than revealing God, the

Bible dealt with man's reactions to what he perceived to be divine.

Although man's experience with the divine is important, it is inade-

quate to serve as the basis of a theistic worldview.

The next logical step was to forsake the Bible altogether. How-

ever, theologians generally avoided this radical step by rejecting as

authoritative any human influences in the Bible while holding on to

what traces of divine influence they could find. The Historical-Critical

school represents this movement. The focus of exegesis became God's

activity in history rather than his word about these activities. Doc-

trine was inferred from the historical record rather than being derived

from God's statements about that record. Although God was not

conceived of as intervening directly in history (as witnessed by the

denial of miracles11) he apparently could still have some effect.12


Barth's Neo-Orthodoxy

It seems that one of Karl Barth's main concerns has been to

recover a biblical concept of God. In order to do so, he returned to

some concept of revelation; although it was not in agreement with the

biblical concept. He also recovered a sense of God, in that God was

supposed to speak through the Bible.

Yet, his effort was crippled from the beginning, because he

founded his theology on the Kantian and Humean premise that

knowledge is derived from experience.

We cannot conceive God because we cannot even contemplate him. He

cannot be the object of one of those perceptions to which our concepts,

our thought forms and finally our words and sentences are related.13


Furthermore, under the ban of Kantian metaphysical dualism, he

stated: "God cannot be compared to anyone or anything. He is only

like himself."14 That is, God is wholly Other, totally different from


10 F. A. Schaeffer, He Is There And He Is Not Silent (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale,

1972) 63.

11 Habermas, "Skepticism: Hume," 31.

12 S. Obitts, "The Meaning and Use of Religious Language," Tensions of Con-

 temporary Theology (ed. S. N. Gundry and A. F. Johnson; Chicago: Moody, 1976) 107.

13 K. Barth, Church Dogmatics (London: T. & T. Clark, 1936ff.) II, 1:186 (140). All

references to Barth's Church Dogmatics as given are cited in G. H. Clark, Karl Barth's

Theological Method (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1963). The number in

parentheses refers to this work.

14 Ibid., II, 1:376 (146).



ourselves. He is completely removed from the sphere of sensory

experience. Consequently, man cannot attain to a true knowledge of


Barth's view of language proceeds from this emphasis on experi-

ence. Language, he argues, as sinful and perverted man uses it, is

limited to this world.16 Any attempt and intention to speak of God is

impossible, because "God does not belong to the world. Therefore he

does not belong to the series of objects for which we have categories

and words."17  And, of course, without concepts and words, we

cannot speak of God.

Despite his heavy emphasis on the limitations of language, Barth

makes a desperate attempt to allow language to speak of God.

Theological language, "whatever the cost, must always speak and

believe that it can speak contrary to the natural capacity of this

language, as theological language of God's revelation.”18 How can

language on the one hand be so limited that it cannot possibly speak

of God, while on the other hand the theologian must believe that,

"whatever the cost," this language can speak of God? The answer

seems to lie in a mystical view of language. In its normal use,

language refers to the objects of our experience; but in its theological

use, it points to some greater reality beyond itself. A dogma seems to

refer to an inner meaning that is not itself a proposition, although

this inner meaning is referred to by a proposition. Barth most

emphatically refuses to identify the inner meaning of a dogma with

the plain meaning of the proposition, which is considered merely an

impersonal, objective truth-in-itself.19 The Bible no longer contains

propositional truth, but rather becomes the vehicle through which

"the prophets and apostles and he of whom they testify rise up and

meet the Church in a living way.”20

Barth's attempt to move toward a more biblical religion than

what liberal theology offered was noble. However, by granting some

of the premises of liberalism, he compromised his position from the

very beginning. What we have left is not a biblical religion of


15 0n this basis Barth later denied that man was created in the image of God (G. H.

Clark, "The Image of God in Man," JETS 12 [Fall, 1969] 221).

16 Barth, Church Dogmatics, I, 1 :390 (119).

l7 Ibid., I, 2:750 (117).

18 Ibid., I, 1:390 (120).

19 Ibid., I, 1:313 (135). See also Clark's comments on Barth, Karl Barth's Theo-

logical Method, 129.

20 Ibid., I, 2:582. See also J. W. Montgomery, "Inspiration and Inerrancy: A New

Departure," Bulletin of the Evangelical Theological Society 8:2 (1965) 63-66. Note the

similarity to Kierkegaard's rejection of objective divine truth in favor of subjectivity,

discussed by N. L. Geisler, "Philosophical Presuppositions of Biblical Errancy," in

Inerrancy (ed. N. L. Geisler; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979) 327.



revelation, but a system of religious beliefs that contrasts to an

extreme degree man's finitude and God's transcendence. As a con-

sequence, man cannot really know God in the traditional sense, so

Barth takes recourse to existentialism; rather than choosing for

revealed religion, he chooses the path of irrationalism.21


Some Twentieth Century Developments

Barth's idea of revelation is closely related to Kierkegaard's idea

of truth as subjectivity instead of objective knowledge.22 It is the idea

that there can be "no absolute expression of truth in propositional

form.”23 In contemporary theology this idea takes various forms.

Some would hold that revelation is not incompatible with proposi-

tional truth but that the most important aspect of revelation is "God

giving himself to us in Jesus Christ.”24 But for most writers the choice

is between the person of God and propositions about him.25 Yet

others, repulsed by the idea that our speech makes God into an

object, hold that any speech about God is illegitimate.26

The separation of the subjective understanding of truth from the

objective reality to be understood gives rise to a similar dichotomy

between God's words and his acts. God's words, we are told, do not

convey information either about the world or about himself, pri-

marily because supernatural words cannot occur in an experiential

type of knowledge.27 The attractive suggestion is made that the Bible

is "not propositional and static, but dynamic and active; its focus is

on acts, not assertions.”28 While there is an element of truth here

(that the Bible is dynamic, cf. Heb 4: 12), it would be wrong to


21"It is not surprising that Dr. Karl Barth's slogan Finitum non capax infiniti [the

finite cannot comprehend the infinite] went together with a denial. . . of any rational

understanding of revelation" (E. Mascall, Words and Images: A Study in Theological

Discourse [New York: Ronald Press, 19547] 104, quoted in G. H. Clark, Language and

Theology [Phillipsburg: NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1980] 95).

22G. H. Clark, Religion, Reason, and Revelation (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and

Reformed, 1961) 76.

23 See Montgomery, "Inspiration and Inerrancy," 53.

24 J. H. Gill, "Talk About Religions Talk," New Theology No. 4 (ed. M. E. Marty

and D. G. Peerman; New York: Macmulan, 1967) 103.

25 See Geisler, "Philosophical Presuppositions of Biblical Errancy," 330.

26 H. Ott, "Language and Understanding," in Marty and Peerman, New Theology

No. 4, 142. Yet another form of the objection is that language cannot express absolute

truth, because it is "conditioned by its historical development and usage" (see Mont-

gomery, "Inspiration and Inerrancy," 53; see our discussion later in this article).

27 See. C. F. H. Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority (6 vols.; Waco, TX: Word,

1976-1982), 3:248.

28 See Montgomery's analysis in "Inspiration and Inerrancy," 52. Pinnock shows

the influence of this thinking when he states, "At the core of the biblical conception is

revelation as divine activity" (Biblical Revelation [Chicago: Moody, 1971] 31).



minimize God's statements while exclusively emphasizing his acts in

history .29

Bultmann and Brunner have further developed Barth's mystical

view of theological language. Language about God is not merely

propositional truth but is instead symbolic of the greater reality to

which it refers.30 Their program of demythologizing biblical language

would presumably bring one closer to God.31


Heidegger's Irrational Mysticism

Heidegger takes the concept of knowledge based on experience

to its logical extreme. For him, any kind of language is mystical, not

just theological language. Kant had argued that knowledge of reality

was only possible through the categories of the mind. Since we

cannot know things apart from these categories, Heidegger maintains

that we cannot know things as they are "in-themselves." So no true

knowledge of reality as it is "in-itself" is possible.

The result of Heidegger's philosophy is that not only are meta-

physical realities beyond the scope of our knowledge, but so are

physical realities. Earlier, divine realities constituted the ineffable

reality that is encountered rather than heard or understood, but now

everything we see and experience is really ineffable. To put it in more

Heideggerian terms,


language becomes mystical message from the ineffable voice of Being.

The unsayable cannot be said, only felt.32


Or, according to Van Til's interpretation, "there is a kernel of

thingness in every concrete fact that utterly escapes all possibility of

expression.”33 Thus, all of language, not merely theological language,

is reduced to a function other than conveying cognitive knowledge.

At least two important corollaries of this philosophy should be

mentioned. First, as we hinted, knowledge is no longer the organiza-

tion of empirical data into true propositions. This would only amount

to "substituting a small segment of verbalization for experiential


29 R. K. Curtis, "Language and Theology: Some Basic Considerations," GordRev

1:3 (1955) 102.

30 See N. L. Geisler, Philosophy of Religion (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1974) 230.

31 A. Dulles, "Symbol, Myth, and the Biblical Revelation," in Marty and Peerman,

New Theology No.4, 41.

32 See H. M. Ducharme, Jr., "Mysticism: Heidegger," in Geisler, Biblical Er-

rancy, 223.

33 C. van Til, "Introduction," in B. B. Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of

the Bible (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1948) 19.



knowledge.”34 So, while propositional knowledge may be public since

many people can agree with it, the new concept of experiential

knowledge is private since each person's experiences differ, if ever so

slightly, from the experiences of others. "No two people see anything

alike in every respect.”35

A second corollary of this thoroughgoing relativity in language is

that the study of a text no longer needs to be a consideration of the

intentions of the author as expressed in the affirmations of the text;

rather the text is one object among many in our environment. The

text now becomes autonomous and its meaning depends on the needs

of human existence at any particular time.36 A multiplicity of mean-

ings results which cannot be checked except by the existential truth

each meaning carries for a particular person.37




Following empirical philosophies, theologians have often con-

sidered truth more and more as a subjective event. This has dan-

gerous consequences. If propositions merely point to some greater

reality which itself cannot be expressed in propositions, then how can

we know anything about that reality? If we can have a genuine

experience of that reality, it would seem that we could assert at least a

few objective truths about it in propositional form.

A more serious problem is this: since experience cannot be

expressed in propositions, how can we know whether it is true or

false? This seems impossible to determine.38 We seem to have no

means by which to distinguish an experience with a greater, evil

reality from a similar experience with a good reality. Clearly, the

theory that knowledge is based on experience is not a very satis-

factory solution to the philosophical problem of knowledge.

With regard to theological language, the proposed choice be-

tween the person of God and propositions about him is a false

dilemma. It is not a question of either/or but rather of both/and.

Revelation is God revealing himself--sometimes in propositional


34 Curtis, "Language and Theology," 99.

35 Ibid., 100.

36 Ducharme, "Mysticism: Heidegger," 212. Note the similarity with the distinction

sometimes made between devotional Bible reading and biblical exegesis.

37 At this point a brief analysis of Ayer's Language, Truth and Logic and some of

Wittgenstein's writings could be helpful, but it exceeds the scope of this article. Suffice

it to mention that the basic problem remains the same, an epistemology that wants to

derive all knowledge from experience alone.

38 Clark, Religion, Reason, and Revelation, 86.



truth, sometimes in personal acts (e.g., Isa 6:l-8)--but always for the

purpose of our trusting the person of God.


The disjunction between faith in a person and belief in a creed is a

delusion. . . . Trust in a person is a knowledge of a person; it is a

matter of assenting to certain propositions.39


As long as propositions take us beyond dry creedal conformity into a

relationship with a living person, there is no real person/proposition


One may well conclude, then, that the attempt to explain theo-

logical language in terms of empirical knowledge theory is an utter

failure. Without reference to the biblical concept of divine revelation,

theological language will either crash on the rocks of rationalism or

evaporate in the mysteries of irrationalism.




The failure of modern philosophy to defend even the possibility

of theological language reinforces an important principle: that "Chris-

tianity is based on revelation, not experience.”40 Therefore, instead of

refuting sceptics on their own grounds or building a philosophy of

language on their philosophical premises (as theologians have tried

and failed), biblical data will be used to paint a biblical picture of

religious language.

It may be objected that such a presuppositional approach in-

volves circular reasoning.41 But the choice is not between one ap-

proach that is circular in its reasoning and another that is not. It

should be evident from this review of modern philosophy that once

one assumes knowledge to be exclusively experiential, he will not be

able to defend propositional revelation. This in turn implies that

knowledge is only experiential--which is circular reasoning. The

choice is, rather, between sets of presuppositions.




The Bible never directly addresses the question of whether God

can meaningfully speak to man. It is assumed as self-evident that God


39 Ibid., 102. Notice also that the Bible rules out the concept of existential or

subjective truth, because it frequently refers to "hearing" or "understanding” terms

which would be irrelevant on the modern view, according to W. J. Martin, “Special

Revelation as Objective," in C. F. H. Henry, Revelation and the Bible (Grand Rapids:

Baker, 1958) 66.

40 Clark, Language and Theology, 141.

41 M. E. Taber, "Fundamentalist Logic," The Christian Century, July 3, 1957; 817.



can intelligibly communicate with the human beings he created.

Likewise it is assumed that man can understand and interact with the

God who made him.42 As these assumptions are uncovered exegeti-

cally, we will address the issues often discussed under the heading of

"philosophy of language. "


The Starting Point of a Biblical Philosophy of Language

As has been suggested, one of the Bible's assumptions is that

God can speak to man because he created him. In other words, God

must have endowed man with adequate faculties to respond to and

interact with his Creator. One of the most prominent features of the

creation of mankind is that God created them "in his own image"

(Gen 1:27). This text (and related ones) brings out some important

guidelines for a doctrine of the image of God in man without directly

defining it.

Gen 1:26, "Let us make man in our image, according to our

likeness," uses the two terms Ml,c, and tUmD;. It appears that both refer

to a visible image or at least something that can be visualized, while

tUmD is the more abstract of the two.43 The Hebrew construction is

most likely a hendiadys and would therefore function as a form of

parallelism,44 so it is best to take the latter term as intensifying the

former. Thus, we should not distinguish rigidly between the two

terms.45 The resultant meaning is that "man, the end point, can be

recognized as being an adequate copy of the God who made him, the

starting point.”46

It would be hard to make much of the different prepositions

used, - B and - K. While the clause in Gen 1:26 reads vntvmdk vnmlcb it

reads vmlck vtvmdb, in Gen 5:3; the prepositions remain in place, but

the nouns have changed positions. The difference in the use of these


42 See J. I. Packer, "The Adequacy of Human Language," in Geisler, Inerrancy,

208-11 for a brief analysis of the kind of language the Bible uses. He shows that

biblical language is a normal language, no different from daily speech except in the

topics it deals with.

43 T. Craigen, "Selem and Demut: An Exegetical Interaction" (unpublished term

paper, Grace Theological Seminary, 1980) 5, 11.

44 P. F. Taylor, "Man: His Image and Dominion" (unpublished Th.D. dissertation,

Grace Theological Seminary, 1974) 62-63.

45 L. S. Chafer, Systematic Theology (8 vols.; Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1947),

2:161; C. L. Feinberg, "The Image of God," BSac 129 (June-August 1972) 237; C. F.

Keil and F. Delitzsch, The Pentateuch, vol. I (trans. J. Martin, in Biblical Commentary

on the Old Testament; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971); H. C. Leupold, Exposition of

Genesis, vol. I (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1942); and Taylor, "Man: His Image and

Dominion," 71.

46 Craigen, "Selem and Demut: An Exegetical Interaction," 24.



prepositions is negligible.47 Both of these prepositions can mean

"after," but it would be clumsy to interpret this as if man is the copy

of an image of God, "after our image and likeness." Rather we should

take this to mean that man himself constitutes the image of God.48

Furthermore, Gen 1:26 mentions the image of God in man and

man's dominion in one single breath. This should not, however, lead

us to conclude that dominion is part of this image:

Man must exist before dominion can be invested in him and. . . man

has authority because of the truth that he is made in the image or

likeness of God. The authority is not the cause of the image or likeness,

but the image or likeness is the ground of authority.49


The next two verses (vv 27-28) identify the image as part of man's

essential makeup, whereas dominion is an office conferred upon him;

the image is created, the dominion is commanded. The image is the

foundation of man's dominion.50

Thus, according to Gen 1:26-28, man himself is the image of

God in the sense that God is the pattern after which man was made;

God is the archetype and man the ectype. As a result man has been

granted dominion over the earth.

In light of this, it would be erroneous to follow the common

procedure of determining the content of the image of God by

discerning what characteristics differentiate man from animals. If

God is the archetype, then a more biblical approach is to examine the

divine image in relation to God, not in relation to the rest of


Accordingly, a biblical philosophy of language (as well as a bib-

lical epistemology) should begin by analyzing the Creator-creature

relationship and only secondarily the relationships between creatures

and with the rest of creation.52 This is strikingly different from the

philosophies of Hume and Kant which began by analyzing man's

relationship with created things and sought to explain any relation-

ship with the supernatural in terms of the observable relationships

between man and things.


47 Ibid., 19. Cf. also L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,

1941) 204; J. Calvin, Commentaries on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis (trans.

and ed. J. King, reprint ed.; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979); Keil and Delitzsch, The

Pentateuch; and Leupold, Exposition of Genesis.

48 Taylor, "Man: His Image and Dominion," 71-72.

49 Chafer, Systematic Theology, 2:162.

50 Feinberg, "The Image of God," 239; Keil and Delitzsch, The Pentateuch;

J. Piper, "The Image of God," Studia Biblica et Theologica 1 (March 1971) 20.

51 Cf. D. Cairns, The Image of God in Man (London: Collins, 1973) 118.

52 Even then man's relationship with his fellows is more important than his

relationship with the rest of creation (cf. Gen 2:18).



It may be objected that, in a fallen world, God no longer serves

as an archetype to whom man is reliably comparable. The human

capacity for a relationship with God has been crippled by the effects

of the fall. Sin obviously hinders our relationship with God. So how

could we base a philosophy of language on this doctrine of the image

of God and analyze a Creator-creature relationship marred by sin?

This admittedly is a difficult task. But the continuing importance

of the doctrine in several areas of human conduct must not be


The first human birth in history is recorded with the words,

"Adam. . . had a son in his own likeness, in his own image" (Gen

5:3). The terminology used in this verse is almost equivalent to Gen

1:26 (which may have been what Luke had in mind when he wrote,

"Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God," Luke 3:38). This passage

establishes the fact that the pattern for the creation of man is

perpetuated in human procreation.53 Many expositors hold that this

passage teaches that fallen human nature is transmitted from one

generation to the next.54 Although one may agree with this statement

in the light of further revelation (e.g., Romans 5), the passage itself

does not address this issue. The repetition of the terminology of Gen

1:26 in 5:3 refers the first human birth back to the creation process

and shows that the image of God in Adam is recreated in Seth

through human procreation.

A second passage in Genesis is more problematic:

     (1) Whoever sheds the blood of man,

               (2) by man shall his blood be shed;

     (3) for in the image of God has God made man (Gen 9:6).

The first and most debated question is whether phrase (2) refers to the

institution of human government or to a designated avenger of blood.

The context, however, does not decide this issue, so "the argument. . .

is based on silence.”55

A second question, often overlooked, is whether phrase (3) refers

to phrase (1) or (2) or both. If it is taken as referring to the second

phrase, then the conclusion would be that man has the right to punish

murder, because man as the one who punishes is made in God's

image and is therefore clothed "with the judicial function appertain-

ing to kingly office.”56 It is unlikely, however, that the image of God


53 Chafer, Systematic Theology, 2:167.

54 Calvin, Commentaries on the First Book of Moses; Keil and Delitzsch, The

Pentateuch; Harold G. Stigers, A Commentary on Genesis (Grand Rapids: Zon-

dervan, 1976).

55 J. J. Davis, Paradise to Prison: Studies in Genesis (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1975).

56 M. G. Kline, "Creation in the Image of the Glory-Spirit," WTJ 39 (Spring

1977) 265.



is the foundation of man as judge. The imago dei is usually men-

tioned in contexts that are concerned with personal ethics and not

with judgment per se.

In verse 5b God demands an accounting from each man "for the

life of his fellow man." The manner of this accounting is indicated in

verse 6, phrases (1) and (2), while the reason for God's demand is

given in verse 6, phrase (3). Thus, God's demand for an account of

human life is based on the divine image in man: murder destroys this


Capital punishment is not, in essence, retaliation for life de-

stroyed or harm done; it is the punishment for one who blasphemes

God by destroying what God expressly made in his image. Man's

possession of the image of God continues to have profound moral

implications even in a fallen world.

Similar moral implications are evident in Jas 3:9. Hiebert points

out that the perfect tense used in "men, who have been made in God's

likeness" indicates a present result of a past event.58 "The connection

is simply that one cannot pretend to bless the person (God) and

logically curse the representation of that person (a human).”59

1 Cor 11:7 is somewhat more difficult. Paul identifies the man as

"the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man." It

is not immediately clear why only the man is identified as the image

of God. Paul has been explaining that Christ is the head of every man

who, in turn, is the head of the woman (v 3). In vv 8-9 he refers back

to Gen 2:21-24 and "uses the mode of Creation to prove simply that

God intended men and women to be different.”60 The difference is not

whether both men and women are created in God's image (the text is

silent about women in this respect), but rather whose glory men and

women are.

In our context, it is best to take do<ca in the objective sense of

that which "honors and magnifies" God.61 Thus, the passage teaches

that "a man, who is the image of God, reveals how beautiful a being


57 Calvin, Commentaries on the First Book of Moses; Keil and Delitzsch, The

Pentateuch; Leupold, Exposition of Genesis.

58 D. E. Hiebert, The Epistle of James: Tests of a Living Faith (Chicago:

Moody, 1979).

59 P. H. Davids, The Epistle of James, A Commentary on the Greek Text, in The

New International Greek Text Commentary (ed. I. H. Marshall and W. W. Gasque;

Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982); Hiebert, The Epistle of James.

60 J. Murphy-O'Connor, "Sex and Logic in 1 Cor 11:2-16," CBQ 42 (1980) 496.

61 F. W. Grosheide, Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, in New

International Commentary on the New Testament (ed. F. F. Bruce; Grand Rapids:

Eerdmans, 1953). See also A. Feuillet, "L 'Homme 'Gloire de Dieu' et la Femme 'Gloire

de l'Homme,'" RevBib 81 (1974) 172, and F. Godet, Commentary on the First Epistle

of St. Paul to the Corinthians, vol. 2 (trans. A. Cusin; Grand Rapids: Zondervan,



God could create, which makes him the crown of creation, the glory

of God. A woman, on the other hand, reveals how beautiful a being

God could create from a man.”62

Paul highlights a man's relationship to God by mentioning not

only glory but also the image. But when he discusses a woman's

relationship to a man, he cannot simply repeat that "she is the image

and glory of man" because a woman is not made in the image of man.

Yet he does not want to say that "a woman is the image of God and

the glory of man," because he is singling out a woman's relationship

to a man. Thus Paul drops the concept of image and only states that

"the woman is the glory of man." He leaves understood that a woman

is in the image of God, while he points out man's close relationship to

God by expressly referring to the image.

Clearly, the doctrine of the image of God is far from irrelevant in

a fallen world. It adds significantly to our understanding of human

procreation (Gen 5:3), capital punishment (Gen 9:6), human relation-

ships (Jas 3:9) and orderly conduct in the church (1 Cor 11:7). These

observations certainly allow the doctrine to play a significant role in a

biblical philosophy of language.


Human Language Legitimately Refers to the Supernatural

Inquiring into the doctrine of the image of God points to the

primacy of the Creator-creature relationship. Therefore, man's exis-

tence in the image of God is first of all to be seen in light of God's

presence. Man's existence takes on a moral dimension and is first of

all a theological fact, only secondarily an existential reality. The fact

that man exists is secondary to the fact that God has created him.

The Genesis account itself supports this concept. God on several

occasions pronounced his creation good. On the sixth day, after

creating man in the image of himself, he pronounced it "very good"

(Gen 1:31). This establishes a "profound moral significance to man's


1957). R. C. H. Lenski (The Interpretation of Paul's First and Second Epistles to the

Corinthians [Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1937]) interprets do<ca as "reflection" but this has

little support from other sources (see Feuillet, 163). Others have taken the term as

indicating "supremacy" (J. Moffat, The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, in The

Moffat New Testament Commentary [London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1938]), but this

is also unlikely, since the term either carries a subjective meaning, such as "opinion,

belief, conjecture," or refers to the objective reality of "reputation, glory, honor"

(Feuillet, 163). In addition, the Hebrew word dvbk corresponds to the Greek do<ca,

which also indicates a meaning other than reflection of supremacy (Ibid., 164).

62 Grosheide, Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians. Cf. D. R.

DeLacey, "Image and Incarnation in Pauline Christology-A Search for Origins,"

TynBul 30 (1979) 18-19, and Feuillet, "L'Homme 'Gloire de Dieu' et la Femme 'Gloire

de i'Homme,'" 178.



appearance as the divine imago-bearer.”63 Before the creation of the

world the persons of the Trinity "communicated with each other,

and loved each other (John 17:5-8, 21-24).”64 With creation, God

broadened the circle of communication to include mankind. This

communication implies "a human capacity to grasp and respond to

His [God's] verbal address.”65 If man utilizes his capacity for com-

munication in "articulately and intelligently responding" to God's

call, he brings glory to God in his own unique way.66

Any attempt to define the content of the divine image must take

account of these facts. "The ability to know and love God must stand

forth prominently in any attempt to ascertain precisely what the

image of God is.”67 The role of reason in this matter is hotly debated.

Clark argues that reason is the image of God, because morality and

fellowship both require the use of reason.68 This, however, would

only necessitate that reason is part, or at least a precondition, of the


Whatever else may be said about the exact content of the image,

it certainly implies a capacity for fellowship and communication with

God. As such it underlies all of revelation.69 The image implies

that "the communication system of God and that of man are not

disjoint.”70 This assures us of the intelligibility of God's revelation:

By dependence upon and fidelity to divine revelation, the surviving

imago assures the human intelligibility of divine disclosure . . . It

qualifies man not only as a carrier of objective metaphysical truth

about God's nature and ways, but more particularly as a receiver of the

special revelational truth of redemption.71


We must add that this is valid only if reason submits to and

fellowships with God, which presupposes a regenerate state (1 Cor


63 Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority, 2:126. See also Chafer, Systematic

Theology, 2:162, and Borkhof, Systematic Theology, 204.

64 Schaeffer, He Is There And He Is Not Silent, 16,65.

65 Packer, "The Adequacy of Human Language," 214.

66 T. A. Hoble, "Our Knowledge of God According to John Calvin," EvQuar 54

(January-March 1982) 8. Perhaps the fact that "God created man in His own

image. . . ; male and female He created them" (Gen 1:27) indicates that communi-

cation between a man and his wife is to be a reflection of the fellowship and

communication in the Trinity, especially since marriage joins a man and a woman, two

individuals, into one whole.

67 Feinberg, "The Image of God," 246.

68 Clark, "The Image of God in Man," 218

69 ISBE, s.v. "God, the Image of," J. Orr,2:1264.

70 K. L. Pike, "The Linguist and Axioms Concerning the Language of Scripture,"

JASA 26 (1974) 48.

71 Henry, God, Revelation and Authority, 2:130. See also Packer, "The Adequacy

of Human Language," 215-16.



2:11-12). Does this mean we understand God's language, the vehicle

of his revelation to us? Although God can certainly communicate

without language (e.g., through natural revelation, dreams, visions,

etc.), his saving communication to the non-apostolic, non-prophetic

believer takes the form of written revelation and thus involves God's

use of language. Although man is certainly different from God (he is

a sinner, he is finite, he is time-and-space-bound), his possession of

the image of God seems to ensure that God and man share enough

crucial attributes (the ability to reason, the capacity for relationship,

etc.) to make a shared language possible. Thus, not only is general

revelation possible, but also a special revelation involving language

that is intelligible to man. The basic likeness of intellect between the

divine and the human seems to provide for divine-to-human intelligi-

bility through language as well as other vehicles of revelation.

Empirical knowledge theory held that human language does not

naturally speak of God; that it cannot speak legitimately of the

supernatural. The Bible, on the other hand, paints a different picture.

Man is truly man as he responds to and fellowships with God. The

doctrine of the divine image in man implies that creature and Creator

can relate together and possess an adequate shared communication

system for that purpose. There can be little doubt, then, contrary to

much contemporary thinking, that human language legitimately com-

municates about the supernatural.72 Consequently, to speak about

God is not to "stretch" ordinary language as many linguists today

would aver. "What is unnatural is the 'shrinking' of language reflected

in the supposition that it can talk easily and naturally only of physical



Human Language Originated with God

One of the problems for modern philosophy and evolutionary

thinking is the origin of language. If words originated as conventional

signs for ideas or impressions that arose from human experience, then

it remains incomprehensible how the first of these conventional signs

could be understood.


The Biblical Adam and Eve, or the first two evolutionary savages,

would not have talked to one another. Adam would have selected a


72 This does not, of course, imply that man can exhaustively understand any

supernatural concept. All that is claimed is that God can use human language as an

adequate vehicle of divine truth; and man, in the image of God, has been created as a

moral agent, accountable to act on this truth which he is capable of understanding, See

also R. Nicole, "A Reply to 'Language and Theology,'" GordRev 1:4 (December

1955) 144.

73 Packer, "The Adequacy of Human Language," 214.



sound for tree, sun, or air, and Eve would have had no idea what it

referred to.74


If evolutionary theory were true, then, it is likely that Eve had no idea

what Adam was trying to communicate.

The problem is only further complicated when the biblical

account is fully considered. Some of the words in the Genesis account

may have been derived by abstraction from experience (though that is

hard to imagine), but to expect Adam to accomplish all this in one

day would be too taxing even for his superior capacities.75

Further analysis of the Genesis record yields important data

about the origin of human language. Genesis describes God as the

first language user, and "shows us that human thought and speech

have their counterparts and archetypes in Him.”76 God instituted

language as the vehicle of communication between man and himself.

Appropriately, the first experience of man described in Genesis is the

hearing of God's blessing and his command to fill the earth and

subdue it (Gen 1:28). Human language, then, originated not with

man's observation of creation but with man hearing God's voice.


Eternal Truth in Changing Human Language

The basis for today's linguistic and cultural diversity resides in

God's judgment at the tower of Babel. God purposefully diversified

man's language and as a result the people scattered over the whole

earth (Gen 11:7-9; cf. also 10:31). Since then, of course, languages

have continued. to diversify and develop, according to the degree of

isolation of people groups.

Observing the relationship between language and culture, some

have advanced the idea that language, as it changes and develops

within any given culture, cannot be the vehicle of eternal, unchanging

truth. Propositional revelation is not seen as absolute, universal truth,

but as relative to culture. Curtis supports this position by the obser-

vations that every language offers its "speakers and interpreters a

ready-made interpretation of the world" and that every language

changes over time.77 But Curtis supposes that once universal and

unchanging truth has become embedded in human language, this

truth must change along with the language.


74 Clark, Religion, Reason, and Revelation, 131.

75 It is true that one can distinguish a great variety in the levels of communication

of different species, from chemical to instinctive to cognitive. These levels, though, do

not necessarily imply evolutionary progress. They merely show that the various species

have an adequate communication system that enables its members to interact with one


76 Packer, "The Adequacy of Human Language," 214.

77 Curtis , "Language and Theology," 104.



But it is wrong to assume that a vehicle must alter its contents.

Our language is quite different from that spoken in biblical times, and

this certainly implies the need for sound exegesis to uncover the truth

couched in ancient language. But the biblical writers seem not to

consider this an insurmountable problem. Paul states in Rom 15:4

that the whole OT is relevant for our instruction. Even in Paul's day

that document was centuries old. Yet he did not see the slightest need

to adjust his claim about the usefulness of the OT.78

God's judgment at Babel directly addresses this situation:


It is God who is responsible for the linguistic diversity springing from

Babel, and it was obviously not his purpose to frustrate his own

"stream of true prophetic interpretation" which he introduced into the

world. (emphasis original).79


God evidently expects us to grasp and action his word. Therefore,

from the divine perspective, there is no great trouble in communicat-

ing divine eternal truth in changing human language.


God's Perfect Accommodation to Human Language

Some theologians suggest that, in order to communicate with

man, God had to accommodate himself to man to such an extent that

his communication manifests the inevitable error and mutability of

human language. After all, we may argue that God originated lan-

guage, but he also allowed sinful man to be (sinfully) creative in

language.80 So is it not necessary for God to indulge this corruption?

Obviously not! When Moses asked to see God's glory (Exod

33:18ff.), he only saw God's back (v 23). The problem was not God's

ability to show his glory to sinful man, but man's capacity to behold

God's glory in full. God could not communicate his full glory to frail

creatures like man, because it would mean instant death. Similarly,

God condescends in his verbal communication with man by accom-

modating to man's finite capacity for understanding. The problem lies

not only with the limits of language, but also with the limits of the

human mind.

Later in history God showed his glory to mankind through

Christ in the incarnation (John 1:14). This involved some measure

accommodation without setting aside his divinity (Phil 2:6-8). But if


78 See J. M. Frame, "Scripture Speaks For Itself," in God's Inerrant Word (ed.

J. W. Montgomery; Minneapolis: Bethany Fellowship, Inc., 1974) 190.

79 D. B. Farrow, "The Inerrancy Issue in Methodological and Linguistic Per-

spective" (unpublished M.Div. thesis, Grace Theological Seminary, 1980), 130. See also

V. S. Poythress, "Adequacy of Language and Accommodation" (paper delivered at the

International Council on Biblical Inerrancy Summit II, November 1982).

            80 See Martin, "Special Revelation as Objective," 70.



Christ is truly the Word of God become flesh, then he did not

accommodate himself to human form in any of its sinfulness.81 Christ

did not sin (l Pet 2:22) and therefore his accommodation to man in

the incarnation is perfect, without sin, yet realistic since he was truly

a man.82 Similarly, God can accommodate to human language and

communicate eternal truth without admixture of error or corruption

as commonly happens when man uses the same language.


The Validity of Revealed Propositional Truth

Christ's incarnation has further relevance to a biblical philosophy

of language. Christ wholly accepted the truth of the OT. He fre-

quently referred to it with the phrase "It is written," indicating its

authority. "He relied on propositional statements to convey truth in

and of themselves and to convey it accurately.”83 Christ submitted to

the authority of the Scripture, interpreting it in terms of propositional

truth: "Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter

his glory?" (Luke 24:26). Thus, Scripture imposed a necessity upon


Christ also demonstrated his stronger view of Scripture when he

rebuked the Pharisees for their unbelief, since they did not believe the

things Moses had written about him (John 5:45-47). Christ's attitude

toward the OT was one of complete trust. He did not doubt that God

had spoken, and that he had spoken intelligibly. He believed that the

OT itself was God's word. His insistence upon the authority of even a

form of a word (Matt 5:18; 22:32) showed that he believed it to be

true down to the very words it employed.

In spite of this evidence, some believe that God could not

address us in terms of propositions that are true. But note further

that Jesus did speak in intelligible language:85 "the common people

heard Him gladly" (Mark 12:37). Clearly, several contemporary views

of religious language become problematic on the basis of the incarna-

tion alone.

Still others argue86 that to concentrate on Jesus' teaching is to

miss the point, because we are to be concerned with Jesus as a

person. Yet, our Lord himself emphasized repeatedly the necessity of


81 See Clark, Karl Barth's Theological Method, 120.

82 "Any linguistic theory that impoverishes language so as to separate man from

divine discourse must attack the authenticity of the person and work of Christ himself"

(Farrow, "The Inerrancy Issue in Methodological and Linguistic Perspective," 126).

83 C. Ryrie, What You Should Know About Inerrancy (Chicago: Moody, 1981) 77.

84 Frame, "Scripture Speaks For Itself," 188.

85 Clark, Karl Barth's Theological Method, 132.

86 See our earlier analysis of philosophical trends involved in this issue.



accepting his words if we love him.87 The criterion by which one

knows whether the person of Christ is accepted is to see whether his

words are accepted and obeyed. There is an intimate relationship

between propositions and the person of Christ: both are necessary for

true discipleship. Propositions are the impetus for discipleship. A

relationship with the person of Christ is the essence of discipleship.

Christ evidently never doubted that supernatural truth could be

conveyed by means of propositions. He believed that God uses

language to convey information, even about the supernatural world.


The Authority of Revealed Propositional Truth

Many have tried to divorce the authority of God's word from its

truthfulness. Barth, for instance, maintained that Scripture still had -

authority over the Christian's life, even though its propositions were

not regarded as inerrant. However, "Biblical authority is an empty

notion unless we know how to determine what the Bible means.”88

God cannot impose absolute demands on us without clearly stating

these demands. Therefore, the marriage of absolute authority with

propositional truth is unavoidable if one is to maintain a clear

perception of the nature of Christianity.89

Historically, Christianity has well understood these things. It has

always pointed to its written revelation as the authoritative source for

faith and practice. Paul (2 Tim 3:16) and Peter (2 Pet 1:20-21)

proclaimed the divine origin of these writings.90 If this record is

Indeed God's record, then It carries his truth, his authority, and his


But more than that, when one considers the biblical data it

becomes plain that the Bible itself never makes a distinction between

truthfulness and authority. Whenever God's authority is expressed, it

is connected with his word, whether spoken or written. A sampling of

some biblical statements will suffice to demonstrate the point.

Gen 26:5 says that God blessed Abraham "'because Abraham

obeyed me and kept my requirements, my commands, my decrees and

my laws.'" What are these requirements, commands, decrees and


87 Matt 7:24-29; Luke 8:21; 9:26; John 5:21, 38; 8:31, 37, 47, 51, 55; 10:27; 12:47-

50; 14:15, 21, 23-24; 15:7, 10, 14; 17:6, 8, 17; 18:37. Cf. also I John 2:3-5; 3:22; 5:2-3;

2 John 6; 2 Tim 6:3; Rev 12:17; 14:12. See Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority,

3:484, and Frame, "Scripture Speaks For Itself," 184.

88 Farrow, "The Inerrancy Issue in Methodological and Linguistic Perspective," 132.

89 P. D. Feinberg, "The Meaning of Inerrancy," in Geisler, Inerrancy, 285.

90 N. B. Stonehouse, "The Authority of the New Testament," in The Infallible

Word (ed. N. B. Stonehouse and P. Woolley; Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and

Reformed, 1.978) 107.

91 Frame, "Scripture Speaks For Itself," 195.



laws? It would seem that they refer to God's promises as in Genesis

12, 15, 17 and other places. Abraham, therefore, accepted God's

words and obeyed him.

Exod 24:7, "Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it

to the people. They responded, 'We will do everything the Lord has

said; we will obey.'" But notice that they had not heard the Lord

speak; they had only heard Moses read from a book. Yet the people

obeyed, because they knew that these written words carried no less

authority than if the Lord himself had spoken to them.92

Exod 24:12, “’ . . . the law and commands I have written for

their instruction.'" The instruction again is concerned with written

words. In this case, the Lord himself did the writing!93

Exod 31:11, "'They are to make them just as I commanded

you.'" Bezalel and Oholiab were to manufacture the appliances that

were to be placed in the Tent of Meeting. The plan according to

which they were to be made was given by God. If this plan was not in

plain, ordinary language, how could the workers have known what to

make? This kind of plan had to be fairly precise; otherwise there

would have been no plan at all.

Another important concept is the covenant. This was a written

document setting forth the terms of a treaty between a suzerain and

his vassal. In Israel the written document was to serve as a witness

against the Israelites (Deut 31:26). Other passages warn against

subtracting from this covenant.94 The emphasis is again on the

written word and its authority.

Deut 6:17 admonishes, "Be sure to keep the commands of the

Lord your God and the stipulations and decrees He has given you."

Here we see that God's people are called back to his written word.95

In Matt 5:18 our Lord said, "'I tell you the truth, until heaven

and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of the

pen will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is

accomplished.’" "The indissolubility of the law extends to its every

jot and tittle,”96 and is clearly interwoven with a written document.

Matt 22:32, " . . . 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac,

and the God of Jacob?' He is not the God of the dead but of the

living." The argument here depends on the very form of the verb "to

be." So God's word is clearly identified with the written record.


92 Frame, "Scripture Speaks for Itself," 186.

93 Ibid. See Exod 31:18; 32:10; 34:1; Deut 4:1; 9:10f.;. 10:2-4.

94 Deut 4:2; 12:32. Cf. Prov 30:6; Rev 22:18. See Frame, "Scripture Speaks For

Itself," 187 and E. J. Young, "The Authority of the Old Testament," in The Infallible

Word, 67.

95 Frame, "Scripture Speaks For Itself," 188. See Deut 4:1-8; 5:27-33; 6:24f.; 7:9-

11; 8: 11; etc.

96 J. Murray, "The Attestation of Scripture," in The Infallible Word, 22.



References can of course be multiplied, but the point is clear.

God's word is identified with the written record, and this written

record carries God's authority. To obey the record is to obey God; to

disobey the record is to disobey God.97 God's authority cannot be

divorced from his written revelation. This written revelation must be

clear to be authoritative. Hence, revealed propositions carry the same

authority as if God had spoken directly in an audible voice.



At the outset it was observed that the debate concerning the

adequacy of human language arose in the context of contemporary

philosophical analysis. The problem of religious language was in-

timately bound up with a skeptical view of religious knowledge. Our

discussion of Hume, Kant, Barth and others yielded the insight that

doubts about the adequacy of religious language were rooted in an

empirical theory of knowledge. This empirical basis of epistemology

did not leave room for meaningful religious language. Even Kant's

and Barth's attempts to restore some validity to religious language

essentially failed. Therefore, most philosophers and even many theo-

logians rejected religious language as an adequate vehicle of divine,

inerrant truth; they rejected the biblical view of revelation. However,

they were operating in the arena of philosophical analysis, not in the

arena of biblical reflection.

Operating within the biblical arena we uncovered no objection to

religious language. Instead, we found that without a doubt biblical

data supported inerrant, divine communication to man by way of

human language. God created man in his own image, so man has the

necessary faculties to communicate intelligibly with his Creator.

Language, therefore, can legitimately speak about the supernatural.

Moreover, God originated human language, even in all its diversity,

and uses those languages to communicate unchanging eternal truth.

God's accommodation to human language does not involve error and

so the truth and authority of propositional revelation are upheld,

whether the communication is verbal or written.

The Bible therefore, teaches that human language is an adequate

vehicle to communicate divine truth. As long as one submits to the

framework of biblical revelation, there is an adequate foundation

for biblical thinking about the role of language in communication

between God and man. In the face of the evidence discussed above,

only unbelief would turn from propositional revelation to some other

view of language, perhaps as dictated by currents in contemporary



97 Young, "The Authority of the Old Testament," 67.




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            200 Seminary Dr.

            Winona Lake,  IN   46590




||    Pope Shenouda    ||    Father Matta    ||    Bishop Mattaous    ||    Fr. Tadros Malaty    ||    Bishop Moussa    ||    Bishop Alexander    ||    Habib Gerguis    ||    Bishop Angealos    ||    Metropolitan Bishoy    ||

||    The Orthodox Faith (Dogma)    ||    Family and Youth    ||    Sermons    ||    Bible Study    ||    Devotional    ||    Spirituals    ||    Fasts & Feasts    ||    Coptics    ||    Religious Education    ||    Monasticism    ||    Seasons    ||    Missiology    ||    Ethics    ||    Ecumenical Relations    ||    Church Music    ||    Pentecost    ||    Miscellaneous    ||    Saints    ||    Church History    ||    Pope Shenouda    ||    Patrology    ||    Canon Law    ||    Lent    ||    Pastoral Theology    ||    Father Matta    ||    Bibles    ||    Iconography    ||    Liturgics    ||    Orthodox Biblical topics     ||    Orthodox articles    ||    St Chrysostom    ||   

||    Bible Study    ||    Biblical topics    ||    Bibles    ||    Orthodox Bible Study    ||    Coptic Bible Study    ||    King James Version    ||    New King James Version    ||    Scripture Nuggets    ||    Index of the Parables and Metaphors of Jesus    ||    Index of the Miracles of Jesus    ||    Index of Doctrines    ||    Index of Charts    ||    Index of Maps    ||    Index of Topical Essays    ||    Index of Word Studies    ||    Colored Maps    ||    Index of Biblical names Notes    ||    Old Testament activities for Sunday School kids    ||    New Testament activities for Sunday School kids    ||    Bible Illustrations    ||    Bible short notes

||    Pope Shenouda    ||    Father Matta    ||    Bishop Mattaous    ||    Fr. Tadros Malaty    ||    Bishop Moussa    ||    Bishop Alexander    ||    Habib Gerguis    ||    Bishop Angealos    ||    Metropolitan Bishoy    ||

||    Prayer of the First Hour    ||    Third Hour    ||    Sixth Hour    ||    Ninth Hour    ||    Vespers (Eleventh Hour)    ||    Compline (Twelfth Hour)    ||    The First Watch of the midnight prayers    ||    The Second Watch of the midnight prayers    ||    The Third Watch of the midnight prayers    ||    The Prayer of the Veil    ||    Various Prayers from the Agbia    ||    Synaxarium