Idiom of the Divine

The Bible is a unique book for at least two reasons.

Inform

First, the Bible is God’s intelligible communication to man. The words of the Bible react with all three parts of our soul and elicit a response from the whole person. Reading the Bible causes us know His purpose, love His purpose, and choose His purpose.

And yet, the unturned cake syndrome mentioned in Hosea is a real possibility. That is, we are burnt on one side of our being and raw on the other. We could spend hours studying and analyzing things like the Gnostic influence on the concept of the logos, and remain cold in our affections for Christ. We need balance.

Some of us romanticize reading and study so much that you might imagine we view test scores as the most trusty barometer of spirituality… On the other hand, some of us speak as if study and careful reflection are inherently poisonous, as if one cannot be both a devout Christian and a serious-minded thinker…

–Matt Smethurst

Without this balance, our faith will either “degenerate into superstition or harden into a rational religion (Hans Küng).”

But within this balance we need to realize that when the intellect has reached the edge of the theoretical abyss, subjective experience can take the plunge into reality. Paul was confident that we could “know the knowledge-surpassing love of God.”

Even if there are dim mirrors for the intellect to peer into, the heart is an illumined manuscript.

“But we all with unveiled face beholding and reflecting like a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord Spirit.” –2 Cor. 3:18

“Because the God who said, Out of darkness light shall shine, is the One who shined in our hearts to illuminate the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” –2 Cor. 4:6

Transform

In my last post, I quoted David Bentley Hart at length, making the point that, “What even a translator of genius can never give us is the original author’s true likeness.” But since that post had already swelled over a thousand words, I saved the punch line for today. A translator can’t give us the original human author, but he can certainly bring us God. Jerome couldn’t give us Paul, but Paul, even translated, can give us God.

All experience is already an interpreted reality, transmitted through the patient intellect’s docile apparatus of perception, composed by the agent intellect’s transcendental and formal power. The Ding an sich, the verum essentiale of a thing—or what have you—comes to us only through the mediation of senses and concepts, and through the elaborate encodings of culture and language.

Thus the soul’s primordial appetite for truth in itself, its orientation toward a horizon of perfect understanding and immediacy, has here only shadows—though often golden shadows—to feed upon. I suppose that is why perhaps the loveliest and most absorbing promise in Paul’s letters is that one day we will not only peer into a glass, darkly, but see face to face: The original author, having translated himself into a human idiom, will translate us into the idiom of the divine, without loss, confusion, or separation…

–David Bentley Hart

This, then, is the second unique feature of the Bible – it transforms, not simply informs. It has the power to make us the translation of the incomprehensible, the “idiom of the divine.” What we could never fully or rationally understand, we will become the expression of.

“Beloved, now we are children of God and it has not yet been manifested what we will be. We know that if He is manifested we will be like Him because we will see Him even as He is.” –1 John 3:2

8 thoughts on “Idiom of the Divine

  1. The translation of the text reaching us not merely to inform us but to transform what it reaches is amazing! May we daily be transformed (2 Cor 3:18) into His image through the Word transmitted, translated, and digested within us. Thanks for posting, I really enjoyed the thought here.

    • Thanks Merrill. This was a fun post to write. I wrote something similar in The Divine Romance and the Limits of Knowledge. I think it’s an interesting tension inherent in Christianity.

  2. I love that the Word is not just for informing us about God, but also for transforming us with the divine! I also love that Chicago bean.

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