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In the Beginning Was the Word: Language, A God-Centered Approach

In the Beginning Was the Word: Language, A God-Centered Approach
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Poythress, Vern Sheridan


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Listen to an episode of Christ the Center entitled A God-Centered Approach to Language. (Reformed Forum)

Publisher's Description

Language is not only the centerpiece of our everyday lives, but it gives significance to all that we do. It also reflects and reveals our all-sustaining Creator, whose providential governance extends to the intricacies of language. Writes Vern Poythress, "God controls and specifies the meaning of each word-not only in English but in Mandarin Chinese, Hindi, Italian, and every other language. When, in our modernism or postmodernism, we drop him from our account of language, our words suddenly become a prison that keeps us from the truth rather than opening doors to the truth. But we will use our words more wisely if we come to know God and understand him in relation to our language."

It is such biblically informed insights that make In the Beginning Was the Word especially valuable. Words are important to us all, and this book-written at a level that presupposes no knowledge of linguistics-develops a positive, God-centered view of language. In his interaction with multiple disciplines Poythress offers plenty of application, not just for scholars and church leaders but for any Christian thinking carefully about his speech.

416 Pages
Published November 2009

Book Details

416 Pages
Publisher: Crossway/Good News Publishers
Publication Date: November 2009
ISBN 10: 1433501791
ISBN 13: 9781433501791

"This book represents a lifetime of theological thinking about the significance of language: about God’s involvement with language, the nature of language itself from phonemes to literary genres, and the diverse ways humans interact with one another, and with God, through language. Here one finds not only a biblical but a systematic theology of language built on the insight that human language reflects the triune God, sometimes in surprising ways. And Poythress includes significant appendices analyzing language in postmodernism, translation theory, speech acts, deconstruction, and more"
- KEVIN J. VANHOOZER, Blanchard Professor of Theology, Wheaton College

"Poythress does not merely claim that the discipline of linguistics allows a place for God, or that a theistic worldview provides useful context, or that engagement in such studies is somehow useful to Christians. Rather, he comes right in your face with the claims of Christ: God is not merely a possibility, not merely a conclusion, but the starting point for any understanding at all. The present book on language shows that the foundation of human speech is the speech between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, so that without God meaningful language would be impossible. This book is essential for anyone who would pursue an understanding of language. It is also a great help to those troubled by contemporary challenges to the very possibility of meaningful communication"
- JOHN M. FRAME, Professor of Systematic Theology and Philosophy, Reformed Theological Seminary

"This insightful book is the product of a lifetime of profound thinking about the amazing complexity of language as created by God to reflect his own character and give him glory. Poythress’s multiple perspectives on language will enable readers to understand the Bible more deeply and also to avoid the mistakes of various non-Christian theories of language"
- WAYNE GRUDEM, Research Professor of Bible and Theology, Phoenix Seminary

"Poythress’s detailed knowledge of both the Bible and linguistics, his creative ability to see connections, his determination to be true to God, and his engaging personal manner all come through in this book. I came away with a fresh appreciation for our creaturely dependence on the triune God, and renewed thankfulness to God for his remarkable gift of language"
- C. JOHN (“JACK”) COLLINS, Professor of Old Testament, Covenant Theological Seminary

"Poythress takes the reader on a theological adventure into the depths of language, showing that God’s gift of language reveals impor- tant things about humankind and about God himself. The complexities and sophistication of human discourse reflect the inherently communicative nature of God, in whose image people are created. The gifts of language and Scripture are testimonies to God’s love and are tools for sharing that love in every language and culture of the earth"
- RICHARD BROWN, International Translation Consultant, Wycliffe Bible Translators

"Poythress presents a compelling, textured biblical theology of human and divine commu- nication. By looking through the right end of the telescope, starting with God rather than human understanding, Poythress plumbs the depths of God’s role as guarantor and sustainer and as the locus within which meaning and interaction have their being. His treatment analyzes multitudinous facets of God’s role in language and how this role affects how we should understand and practice communication"
- CHRIS SIMMONS, Executive Director, The Gospel and Culture Project