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"God Talk" and the Problem of Otherness

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
April 2, 2022 12:01 am

"God Talk" and the Problem of Otherness

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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April 2, 2022 12:01 am

Because we were created in God's image, we share common ground with Him. Today, R.C. Sproul considers the adequacy of human language to describe God.

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Today on Renewing Your Mind. How does God communicate with us. How can he reveal anything, through any means to us if there's absolutely no point of contact between us. If we are utterly dissimilar beings. What possible ground of communication could there be 20th century theologian cardboard said that God is other than us, meaning that there is no point of similarity between God and man. We created in the image of God today on Renewing Your Mind, Dr. RC Sproul continues his series on classical apologetics by proving that God made us with the ability to know that I continue now with our examination of apologetics and were looking at the crisis in language with respect to God talk in our last session I talked about the problem. Pantheism posed for meaningful discourse about God and we saw the reaction in the 20th century.

In an attempt to reconstruct the supernatural, and we saw the introduction of this concept that God was holy.

Other. This was popularized by the theologian Karl Barth, who also gave a massive critique in his lifetime against what's called natural theology which is an attempt to learn something about God from deductions drawn from nature. Barth was opposed to the intrusion into theology of categories of reason. He's one who, as we mentioned before, with respect to the law of non-contradiction said that unless a Christian or until a Christian is able to affirm both poles of a contradiction, that person has not yet reached maturity. I would revise that inside one a person is able to firm both poles of a contradiction, that person has finally reached insanity but in any case, and his antipathy against reason and against natural theology. He also leveled a radical assault against a concept that was deeply rooted in Christian history, particularly as it was articulated by St. Thomas Aquinas, which concept is called the analog he dentists.

Now this Latin phrase analog you and this is a technical term but it's one that's critical for this whole discussion because what it means is analogy of being and Karl Barth.

I pack that said that there is no analogy of being between God and man because God is holy. Other he completely transcends us so that he's totally different from us another try to illustrate the problems that this poses for Christianity. Let me tell the story. My favorite illustration. This of an experience I had several years ago in Canada where I was talking with the faculty of a particular Institute there that opposed natural theology and rationality and saw in my theology too heavy of a dependence on St. Thomas Aquinas on Aristotle on logic and the like. And while we were having this discussion, they made the statement to me.

I was speaking by myself, with their entire faculty in one of the deleting theologian said to me we have a problem with your view of natural theology, and so on.

Because we believe that God is holy.

Other I said okay. If God is holy other. How do you know anything about and that he immediately responded justice. Karl Barth had responded earlier that we know God, not through rational speculation or deduction but we know him through revelation that this transcendent God reveals himself to us and I said well match again how this he reveal himself to us and they responded by saying what he reveals himself to us through history, through the Bible and preeminently through Christ.

I said I don't think that I'm getting through to you people. Maybe I'm just inarticulate and not framing the question the way I ought to what I'm trying to get from you is how a being who is completely different for me, for whom there is no analogy of being between me and this being how he can communicate anything to me about himself. How can he reveal anything, through any means to us if there's absolutely no point of contact between us. If we are utterly dissimilar beings. What possible ground of communication could there be, and finally the lights came on and this theologian literally hit himself and afforded like that in certain, maybe I shouldn't of said that God is holy other supernatural act because as soon as you say that you open the door. The skeptic who comes in and says to you that your language about God is meaningless because the philosopher understands the point at which is making to you that if there is no similarity between God and man than there is no common ground. No possible forum or Avenue of communication.

When we try to explain that further so you saw the movie years ago with Paul Newman and it called cool hand Luke where Luke was the Christ figure in the film. By the way somebody's creative imagination, but throughout the movie they had problems with her being in the chain gang and so on, and their statement was made that we have a is a failure to communicate and it became one of the key lines in that movie. Well, what is necessary for communication is some common ground for people to have discussions if you go to a foreign land. If you go to Russia and you don't know anything about the Russian language in the person you meet over there does nothing about the English language you have a hard time communicating to quickly tie your hands and you can draw pictures or anything you listen to the words and the words you sound like gibberish to you and yet into Russians talk with each other. They know exactly what each one is saying because they both speak the same language. While I say I speak the same language with you who are Americans that may or may not be true. Remember Winston Churchill's comment that the Americans and the British are two people separated by a common language like that but I talked to you and I say that this man here in the front row is sitting on a chair and you I think have a pretty good understanding of what I mean by saying that he is sitting on a chair because you understand what the word chair refers to how do you understand the meaning of the word chair.

I wonder how many thousands, maybe millions of chairs you've seen in your lifetime. And every time you've seen objects such as these chairs in this room. You register in your mind a relationship between this object and its function in that little English word CH a R you develop an idea as Plato regarded it of chair nests from all these experiences of particular chairs that you have so that your understanding of the meaning of the word chair is based in the final analysis of your particular experience of chairs now know two people in this room have had exactly the same personal experience with chairs your experience with chairs is different from a your much younger than I am and I assume that you seem far less chairs than I have. You live in a different time where the styles of chair change from decade to decade than their chairs.

I'm familiar with from the 40s and 50s that you may not even recognize a chair and so we have a different background of experience of that word. So when I say chair you hear chair you hear something different from what I'm saying is your understanding of the word chair is derived from your personal experience of church and my understanding of chairs is derived from my personal expenditures and if those experiences are different. To the extent to which they are different. There's miscommunication or differing assumptions. However, our experience of chairs is so overwhelmingly similar that we are still even though we don't have an exact one to one correspondence of experience with respect to the word chair. The similarities of our experience of chairs are so close to one another so carefully. Approximate each other that any difference in understanding of the meaning of the term chair is infinitesimal and in this case, irrelevant. You know what I mean when I say chair so that we can carry on a meaningful dialogue and we can have a meaningful conversation where you basically understand what I'm saying and I assume you're sitting on the other day I was talking at the conference about divine transcendence and immanence in one of the peoples in this room right now. I am not going identify thought that she heard me say something when I was talking about eminence. She thought she heard me say M&Ms and that I was talking about the candy that melts in your mouth rather than your fingers. Why was that miscommunication possible because many times did she ever heard the term eminence from a philosophical or theological perspective probably never before that day. She had no experience of that word that her experience of it the first time she heard it was not all that dissimilar from mine. The first time I heard it when I spit my soup out on a table and not of been better off if I would've heard the professor say M&Ms than what I actually are and so when you get more esoteric words.

Stranger words less frequently used terms then that whole complex of familiarity begins to fall away and then we have difficulty communicating. As you may not know what I'm talking about. If I use technical terms that are not common, everyday terms that everybody else uses so we understand how language can fall down and break down when our familiarity with the words were using with each other also breaks the what does that have to do with God and apologetics. Again, if God is completely different from us. Then we have no common ground, a common familiarity and anything that he says to us about himself has no relationship to us if he's totally different if he says I'm omnipotent and we say will wait a minute. I understand something about omnipotence, I've never encountered an omnipotent being. But that word omnipotence.

If I can parse it and see that it means all-powerful and power is a word. I do understand because we exercise power. Our power is limited, but even though I have never experienced unlimited power, I can at least imagine what unlimited power might be like because I see gradations of power in this world where I live, and so when God reveals to us that he is powerful. I have some concept of power fullness, so that when he speaks to me and says that these powerful but I have a point of contact with, but that's only if there is some sense in which he is like me and I am like you not let me back up a little bit there little history lesson.

This issue of the meaningfulness and adequacy of human language to talk about a transcendent holy God was not invented in the 20th century. This issue went way back in the history of theoretical thought it was a question.

The St. Thomas Aquinas had to deal with as he was an apologist in his era, and Aquinas distinguished among three kinds of language. Three kinds of descriptive language which I've gone over in other courses at Lincoln air, but will look at it again here, he distinguished among first of all, you know, vocal or univocal language. Second of all he talked about the equivocal language or equivocal, and third analogical.

Now what is the difference among these three unit vocal language is language that describes things between two parties and an exact one to one identification that if, for example, my understanding of chair were exactly your understanding of chair we would have unit vocal communication one sound right. It's exactly the same identical equivocal language is language where the meaning of the term changes dramatically in the course of the conversation I illustrate this when I teach logic to my seminary students and teach them the fallacy of equivocation and I show them the fallacy of equivocation by proving that cats have nine tails remember the time I prove to you.

Roger that cats have 92 were to do it again. My first premise of my syllogism is this has eight tales greater that Roger never seen a cat with a tilted, they will only prove to cats have nine tails. No cat has eight tales right now.

Here's my question.

If I have two boxes appear and one box has a cat in it and the other box is empty the box here and boxer the cat in it. Here now and test your knowledge of arithmetic and mathematics.

How many more cats are in this box. Roger that are in this book one. Thank you very much. How many more cats tails are in this box. But in this book one, and how many cats are in this box. Zero I got no cat in this box and one cat in this box right so I have one more detail in this box and I have in this box. So I say here one cat has one more tail than what is it just simple matter of deduction. If no cat has eight tales and one cat has one more tail. The then how many tales does one cat to a day right taking one makes one nine so one cat than the conclusion by resistance logic is that one cat has nine tails now. I tricked you. What was the trick. What happened in this line of reasoning the meaning of this term changes in the middle of the discussion.

It means something completely different here. That means here and that's called the fallacy of equivocation illustrated this way a man goes to a theater to hear dramatic reading because back in the theater not say how was the dramatic reading and he says to me, it was a bald narrative, bald narrative, you mean the speaker in every here and said no that's not what you would understand in the main, you would understand in the main, that there was something lacking, perhaps some expressiveness or some Pondicherry lawn in the reading that anti-pizzazz and so we say it was bald. That's called an equivocal use of the term ball were normally when we use the term baldly mean the absence of hair from the head, but then we stretch it out way away from its original meaning to apply to a narrative, and here the meaning of the term changes dramatically so the difference between equivocal and equivocal is the unit vocal language has a very tight close similarity of meaning and exactitude and equivocal language is where the meanings change radically from person to person, but Aquinas said there is a middle ground of language which is analogical in the definition of analogical is that the meaning of a term changes proportionately to the difference in the beings that are being described said again that the meaning of a term changes proportionately to the difference in the beings that are being described in illustrate that demagogue was a dog to dog a good dog. I'm a good dog now and he tells me that his dog is a good dog, does that mean that your dog has a highly developed sense of the categorical imperative and acutely sensitive conscience about right and wrong is after me know. You don't think your dog sits around and worries about ethical propositions when you said your dog is good. You mean that he comes when you call these housebroken right, it doesn't like the mailman and the like. The if I say that Fred here is a good guy do I mean by that.

He comes when I: he's housebroken that he doesn't like the mailman on the life though obviously I mean something burn when I say that Fred is good from what I mean when I say my dog or your dog is good because goodness changes with respect to the difference of the beings here and then we go and we speak of the goodness of God, not God's goodness is like ours, but it's not identical.

It's even higher. It's even better. His goodness has no defects were our goodness is filled with the facts. So even though when I say that God is good. I'm not using the term good in a unit vocal sense I'm using it in an analogical sense.

Nevertheless, it's meaningful and it's made meaningful biblically because God creates us in his image that he makes us with the likeness so that God in creation gives to us the very grounds and possibility for us to have meaningful communication from that we can understand as far as God gave his language and infused it with meaning. Then he communicated with us using language in Scripture.

But as we read of the gospel of John.

He also gave us the word God became flesh and dwelt among us. Glad you joined us today for the Saturday edition of Renewing Your Mind.

Each week Dr. RC Sproul helps us apply reason to our faith in his series on classical apologetics called defending your faith is such an important study for every believer and we like to send you the complete series 32 messages at all for your donation of any amount to look at your ministries.

You can call us to make a requested 800-435-4343. You can also find us online at Renewing Your Mind.work were also including a bonus disc containing the MP3 audio files for the series, and a PDF of the study guide that God has additional reading suggestions study questions and an outline of each message.

It's a great tool for you if you plan to teach the series in your Sunday school class at church will send you all 12 discs when you call us with your gift of any amount at 800-435-4343 or you can give your donation online at Renewing Your Mind.word you'll find other helpful resources on apologetics on legionnaires YouTube channel. I went there and typed it apologetics and found a video by my colleague Nathan W. Bingham, we would say that first Peter 315 is really that go to verse when it comes to the subject of apologetics and is you think about various subjects. Whether it's the love of God, the gospel. I'm sure there go to verses that come to mind for you.

So when we think about the subject of apologetics.

First Peter 315, the Lucas classic is really is just the go to verse nothing before we look at our text, a question that's that's worth addressing is what is apologetics because as I was preparing for today one of my children asked me they said dad, why would we say sorry for being a Christian and is a really valid question because when you think of apologetics giving an apology. We often think of saying sorry, but that's not what we mean when we say apologetics you see the word apologetics comes from the Greek word apology at which is found in outgo to text first Peter 315 and there, it's translated defense to give a defense of the faith. So when we say were giving an apology.

You're not saying I'm sorry for what I believe you're saying this is why I believe what I believe you can find many more helpful videos in a wide variety of topics on our YouTube channel to search for Lincoln here next week will continue Dr. scroll series by debunking a common accusation that there are contradictions in the Bible.

Please make plans to join us again next Saturday for Renewing Your Mind


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