Post 102 / The Next Language
August 10, 2022
“[To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.] The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.” [Psa 19:1 KJV]
When we look to the heavens we are aware that entropy is at work dissipating things at the speed of light as they zip from what even the ungodly acknowledge as a common starting point. The heavens speak to an origin and by implication a mighty Originator but not as clearly to a destiny.
Not surprisingly we see the same forces at work in creation here on earth. I’m not going to make this multidisciplinary but will stick to the issue of language. Languages, like the stars, point back to a common origin and bear the evidence of the clock as they move toward diversion and dissipation. Like the stars they show creative genius but in this case also show the influence of human interaction. No matter how quickly a language changes it still bears the evidence of being orderly and following the rules. It has always amazed me that every language that is subject to the free and arbitrary influence of individual users is none-the-less not lawless.
As languages move toward diversity we frequently run into the debate about whether catering to every language doesn’t accelerate the race to dissolution. Our language helpers run into this debate frequently when working in a language cluster and trying to decide what to record and what not to record.
This debate is fanned on a national level in Nigeria by forces like Islam who insist that every person must speak either Arabic or Hausa. If you look at the distribution of the languages in Nigeria it is quite significant. The languages flourish everywhere except in the strongly controlled North and Northwest. Most of those languages have been obliterated by Sharia Law. The Islamic answer to unity is obliteration of indigenous language.
When the language investigators have this discussion in the context of a language cluster the opinions usually are predictable. If you are asking the regional king or political leadership they prefer to only cater to their own language. Language diversity is seen as a dilution of political power. If you ask any of the numerous language varieties that are included in this language cluster, the desire is almost always toward their own variety being included in the recordings. When they listen to recordings in the neighboring languages on 5fish you can almost tangibly feel the dynamics of what one linguist called “holy envy” speaking out. They want those messages for themselves. And, ultimately the decision about whether or what to record is driven by the people themselves. If they want the Gospel in their own language that is why we exist. We can offer them that tiny speck of dignity and meaning and order in a universe of noisy static.
The same linguist that coined the phrase “holy envy” went on to say, “I really appreciate the effort you [GRN] invest in trying to understand the situation and consider implications. And I want to say here that the time to produce audio Scripture is now. People need it and people want it and lots of individuals benefit greatly from every single verse. So, thank you for your great ministry!”
The question as to whether this really affects division or unity in a language family cannot be definitively answered or observed immediately, but my opinion and that of others is that nothing is going to greatly affect the powers that cause diversity in language. What can be affected are the prejudices that drive us apart. Paul dealt with this a lot in his day. The Gospel has the power to make us one and to pull very different persons together in love. The underlying theme of the book of Romans was dealing with the tension between Jewish and Gentile believers inside the church.
“So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.” [Rom 12:5 KJV]
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” [Gal 3:28 KJV]
Only in Spirit-filled members of the Church do we find the answer to gender, class, and race-driven prejudice and division. Those sociological forces are largely what drive diversity in language and culture.
Unlike the cosmos, whose destiny seems open ended, I believe God’s great redemptive process and culminating Kingdom is to bring all things together in Christ.
“But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.” [1Co 8:6 KJV]
“That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him…” [Eph 1:10 KJV]
Thus God has revealed that He is bringing “together in one ALL things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth: even in Him.” When we pray, “Thy will be done as in heaven so on earth,” we are praying for a new heavens and a new earth that we can hardly imagine. At the core of the throne room will be a multitude from every kindred and tongue and tribe and nation united in worship.
“And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation…” [Rev 5:9 KJV]
Everyone from every language is singing a new song and by implication they are doing it in unison using a new language. This is the death of Babel.
Now, isn’t that real unity? And it can’t happen without the Gospel.
Larry DeVilbiss | Executive Director
Global Recordings Network USA
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