Sjolander Road Fellowship

Declaring the God of Unconditional Love


the issue of language



One thing any linguist would likely agree on is the fact that the use of human language is frustratingly imprecise in many applications. When trying to describe an observation, an emotional response, or the reasoning behind a decision or action, the ability of language to convey the full scope of what has been seen, felt, or thought is extremely limited, even in the hands of a skillful speaker or writer.


To further complicate the fundamental challenge of communicating effectively in human language, humanity also deals with the multitude of different languages which exist around the world. Concepts, beliefs, and emotions which exist as common words and expressions in one language may not have a corresponding word or expression in others, which means that explaining those elements to someone of another culture and language heritage is exceedingly difficult, or even impossible. 


Linguists recognize over a dozen distinct language families within the total of those spoken in the world. Each family represents a group of individual languages thought to have developed from a common ancestral language. This would suggest that human language developed independently in a number of different locations and each independent development served as the seed for a different language family.


Those who view the Bible as an accurate historical account will likely propose that the multitude of languages is the result of divine intervention which caused a dramatic divergence from an original language common to everyone. See Genesis 11. Those of this persuasion see language diversity as God mandated.


Regardless of the mechanism, the point remains: as valuable and essential as human language is to our very humanness, the use of language is never completely effective in communicating. The more profound and esoteric the subject, the greater the difficulty in transmitting the required understanding in words which are mutually understood. Language may be the primary tool we humans have, but countless everyday situations demonstrate repeatedly that something better is needed if fool-proof communication is required.


In that regard, we ask this question- how would a Divine Being communicate essential truth to a human being, assuming that Divine Being was all knowing and all capable? Would He fabricate a multitude of human languages to add to the inherent challenge of using words to convey understanding? Would that divine Being restrict Himself to mere words, oral or written? If so, why? Are there not known non-verbal communications methods?


Interestingly, in the same Bible in which we encounter the story of the confounding of human languages (Genesis 11 again), we read in Hebrews 8 that God planned to instill divine knowledge universally without the use of language. Apparently, God recognized the deficiencies noted above and did not intend to rely on an ineffective means to disseminate what He wanted to convey to everyone.


Of course, this direct heart to heart transmission of knowledge, from God to mankind, stands in marked contrast to the evangelical mechanism favored and sponsored by the institutional church. Instead, they rely on select men to be the God instructors of others, using the only means available, human language. One must ask why God would want to use an ineffective means of communications when He has noted and defined a better way already. If evangelism is critical, why propose to pursue it with one hand metaphorically tied behind His back?


When one considers the issues outlined above, it should be amply evident that interposing human intermediaries between God, the source of divine knowledge, and mankind, those requiring that knowledge, is a lose-lose situation. All that is likely to result is mass confusion and agonizing frustration. I believe that accurately describes the present religious environment, at least as best I can describe it, being limited by mere words and my own personal language ability.