Translation's Key

Translation's Key

As I thought more about last week's blog, the question came to mind, 'What keeps our translations from being arbitrary?'. If no language corresponds exactly to another language (or even bigger to reality), how do I know that this is a mouse and that is a rat? I don't know that a completely undisputed answer for this question can be given. It gets into the questions of language and theories surrounding knowledge, those are philosophical waters into which I do not have the ability to wade too deeply.

Nevertheless, on a theological level the question persists, 'How can I know that a predication I make of God is true?'. How do I know what I am saying when I say, 'God is love.'? If all our language is analogical, how do we know that the analogy we are using is the correct one? There has to be some sort of key we can use to unlock language in such a way that allows us to make predications about God. Yet, as creatures, how can we speak of the Creator?

These questions are vexing and near impossible to answer unless we believe in the Triune God of the Bible. Bavinck considered these problems and addressed them in his time. He saw the only alternatives to the God of Bible as deism or pantheism. In deism, a vast gulf is created between God and the world. God becomes an abstract being and there can be no relation or knowledge of God. In pantheism, God comes into the world, but the ability to distinguish between God and not God disappears, and he becomes as unknowable as if he were far off. The ability to differentiate between my life and the life of God, between who I am and who God is disappears. Therefore pantheism, does not allow us to know God either. Yet, what we see in the Bible is that God can be known; he can reveal himself. He can do this because in the Triune life God perfectly reveals himself to himself in the persons of the Trinity.

God can perfectly communicate himself in his inner life, and that then flows into the way in which he communicates himself to the world. The paradigmatic revelation of God is the person of Jesus Christ. We read in Hebrews that:

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. - Hebrew 1:3

In Colossians Pauls says:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. - Colossians 1:15

Because in the Triune life God perfectly communicates himself to himself, when the Father sends the Son, we have univocal (exact) expression of who God is. In Christ, we see exactly who God is. Kevin Vanhoozer says:

The doctrine of the Trinity is not abstract speculation but the church’s response to the revelation of God in history and Scripture. We best come to know other persons not through charts that list their personality traits, properties, or vital statistics, but by listening to stories about what they have said and done, or, better yet, by watching them in action. The gospel is an account of something God has said and done. Hence the key insight behind the renaissance of Trinitarian theology: God’s nature must not be deduced from anything other than the narrative of his own revelatory and redemptive acts.

He goes on to explain that the Gospel reveals God to us:

The God of the gospel is not a generic deity but has spoken and acted in concrete ways, revealing his identity in history with Israel and ultimately in the history of Jesus Christ.

When saying that language about God is an analogy, there is the obvious concern that we are saying true things about God. The beauty of the Gospel is that it shows us that God is able to communicate and has communicated himself to us. He does this perfectly and supremely in Christ.

Thus, all of this comes together when I am looking at revelation asking the question, how does this relate to Christ who is the revelation of God? It is only as I see Christ in revelation that I know who God. As I pray for the Lord to guide me, the Spirit to opens my eyes that I may see Christ and in seeing Christ, I know who God is.

God is not unknowable. He reveals himself perfectly in the Triune life. He revealed himself to creation perfectly in the person of his Son. We come to know God because he can and has revealed himself in his Son.

Looking to Jesus

Looking to Jesus

Lost in Translation

Lost in Translation