Language Requires a Rational Mind

From Dispensational Publishing House; used by permission. Read the series so far.

Dispensationalism & the Literal Interpretation of the Bible, Part 2

A third component of the image of God in man is morality. This has to do with powers which inform one of right and wrong and enable him to act accordingly. A fourth aspect is spirituality. This is the capacity for fellowship with God, to understand and participate in spiritual things, the capacity for eternal life, and the like.

A last capacity in the image of God has to do with physical considerations.

There seems to be a physical dimension to the image of God since man did indeed have a body as a result of being created in the image of God (Gen. 2:7). One way of understanding this is in the sense that Adam’s body anticipated Christ’s body in the incarnation. God made Adam’s body after the blueprint or pattern for the enfleshment He had determined for Christ. The triune God was incorporeal before the incarnation; all the persons of the Trinity were spirit beings. Physical factors regarding God at the time of creation were largely anticipatory. God, however, undoubtedly was a Christophany (a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ) when He walked daily in the garden (Gen. 3:8), and no doubt was also on Day Six when he made man’s body “from the ground” (Gen. 2:7).

In Biblical thought, beginning in the Old Testament, the body is a necessary ingredient in the human personality. It is the vehicle for the other aspects to function and express themselves, including the use of rational propositional speech. The human is a self composed of a material and an immaterial aspect in a unified, ontological, individual personality. Human beings are not thought of in terms of two or three clearly distinguishable parts but in an essential monism that is only theoretically divisible.

Language Requires a Rational Mind

Language is the product of the mind.* Logos proceeds from nous. This is seen in Genesis 1 as applicable to God (He spoke things into existence, called them good, etc.) and in Genesis 2 to man (he named the animals and woman). Man is a self-conscious being, therefore he is a speaking being; he is capable of syntactical word associations that are propositional and thus intelligible. Thinking (rational thought) does not begin until man is objective to himself. Since man replicates God on a finite level, his speech is patterned after God’s “speech,” especially His speech to man.

Language (words) proceeds from the essential unity of thought and speech. The Biblical idea of “word” incorporates both thought and speech. Thought is actually inward speaking, and speech is really audible thinking. Intelligible speech is simply the sensibly perceptible announcement of inward speech. I.e., it is inward speech verbalized by vocal chords and heard by ears. Personal, rational beings cannot think apart from language. There are always words by which thought is thought.  That is why there is no Biblical truth to the idea of “thought inspiration” (or “dynamic inspiration”) from God to which man supplies the words. All revelation or communication of information from God is propositional and all inspiration is verbal.

Language was possessed and used spontaneously by the first man Adam in naming the original animals (Gen. 2:19-20). The “kinds” of air-breathing land animals were objects to the senses of Adam but his mind penetrated and perceived the size, shape, traits, mannerisms and all the distinctives of each one, and he used language to express those characteristics meaningfully. The names corresponded to the natures or characteristics of the animals. This shows the high intellectual and rational capacities of unfallen Adam. He could perceive each characteristic of each animal, store all of them in his memory bank and, after he had seen all of the different animals (probably in the hundreds if not more), instantly recall each characteristic, distinguish in his mind each animal from the others on the basis of these characteristics and give names that distinguished one animal from another corresponding to its own characteristics, all in a matter of hours on Day Six!

(Part 3 posts tomorrow.)

* Franz Delitzsch, A System of Biblical Psychology (Baker reprint, 1977), p. 209ff.

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swalker's picture

So if to be human requires in all conditions both body and soul, then when Jesus died he had to have a new body or his whole body did not rest in the grave but only a part of his body did.  If his whole body did not die, he did not die as parts of our bodies die constantly.  If he was given a second body, this new body must be united with the second body at the resurrection or we now have an empty body either on earth in heaven. If when we die there is disembodied moment between our old bodies and new bodies, then there is moment that under the definition of monism we are not human. If there is no moment between death and life then there is no way to distinguish the two states.  I don't think this works at all on rational grounds. And then we need to talk about the souls under the throne, what Paul means about the tent, God animating Adam, and so forth. 

ScottS's picture

I agree with Dr. McCune's view of God's design for mankind.  I refer to it as a bi-partite unity (two parts designed to be in unity). Dr. McCune may answer you differently, but I agree that your observation is correct that "there is [a] moment under the definition of monism we are not human." I just disagree with you that this does not work "at all on rational grounds." The separation of the two parts intended to be in unity is the tragedy of the penalty of death. God had to break the unity He had designed for mankind between material/immaterial in order to separate the spiritual (immaterial) from the old, corrupted physical (material) body that still houses sin, even in those people that have had the spiritual renewed (Rom 6:6, 12; 7:17-18). Death is not a "natural" thing, but a penalty for sin (and part of the remedy for it).

When a human dies, that human is no longer a human and no longer "imaging" God on Earth as originally designed. Of course, livingsinful humanity is no longer imaging God on Earth as originally designed either; so in a sense, we are not even now as "human" as we were originally intended to be by God. Yes, the immaterial part of a person continues on past death, but until it is reunited to the coming resurrection body, a spiritually powered body (1 Cor 15:44), death is just another phase of humanity being less of what God designed humanity to ultimately be because of sin. This is why we do not refer to dead people, such as George Washington, as still "human"—he was human, but no longer is human, post death. This separation of the immaterial from the body it is housed in is what indeed is a major aspect to "distinguish the two states" between life and death. It is also what makes the resurrection to be making one alive again (Rom 8:11; 1 Cor 15:36).

But the "personality" is housed in the immaterial (else God would not be three Persons Himself, since all three were only immaterial before One incarnated). So what makes one a person exists still in this disembodied state after death, but that person is not the totality of what God intended. Of course, some do argue there is a "body" given people between death and resurrection, which partly depends on how one interprets 2 Cor 5:1-5. I take that to be referring to the resurrection body, which does not get immediately bestowed upon death.

So that is how I view the resolution of a bi-partite unity. But additionally, if one views a human as dichotomous or trichotomous, then there is still a point at "death" in which the "humanity" is lost, unless one does not view the physical body at all as part of humanity. The only distinction of McCune's monism (my bi-partite unitarianism) is that God designed and intended humanity to exist as a being with both a material and immaterial aspect, and not to exist with those parts separated from each other.

Scott Smith, Ph.D.

The goal now, the destiny to come, holiness like God—
Gen 1:27, Lev 19:2, 1 Pet 1:15-16

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