1. God transcends all humans and all their artefacts; and

  2. almost all revelation occurs within human languages, which are in a definite sense human artefacts;

  3. isn't it the case that Divine Revelation must necessarily be “incomplete” to some extent in order to be carried by a limited medium such as the human language?

edited as per suggestions

  • 2
    "falsified" is an inappropriate word for the context in which you place it - it means "proven to be false (i.e. incorrect)". Words like "incomprehensible","misunderstood" or perhaps the phrase "incompletely transmitted" would be more appropriate. Jun 15 '14 at 18:07
  • 1
    I'd favor "incomplete". God certainly does not reveal everything about Himself to us. He reveals what He considers appropriate for us to know, especially what will be conducive to our salvation. Jun 15 '14 at 18:24

If God, were only transcendant, perhaps there would be something to what you're saying, But Orthodox (in the wider sense of the word) Christian teaching is that God is both transcendant (we can't know Him fully) and Immanent - he is 'close' and fully able to communicate to his creatures clearly (at least to their level of comprehension).

Orthodox Christianity would further qualify your second premise as God initially gave language to man when he created him in his image (cf. Genesis 1:26-29). Subsequently, human languages were confused and multiplied by God's direct agency as well (cf. Genesis 11:1-9), so there is a sense that language's are not 'purely' human artifacts at all. It is true, that since Babel, languages have multiplied further with cross-pollinations and evolutions - this process may have lead to further confusion between humans, but it is not a limiting factor in God communicating what He chooses to communicate to mankind - as he is both omniscient and omnipotent.

With regard to revelation, we can not know everything there is to know about God with our mortal limitations, but what God chooses to reveal to mankind, He also has the capacity to make clear - as He is the Master of all language. (cf. Acts 2)

  • 1
    Lol, I've always confused "immanent" with "imminent" so that wikipedia link helped a lot: "Not to be confused with Immanant, a term in mathematics, or imminent, a word meaning 'soon to happen'." Kind of thought when people spoke of an immanent God they meant a god who is "imminent" in the sense of not existing yet but will come into existence any moment now. But doing a bit of googling, I see that's probably because I lot of people misspell it. Jun 16 '14 at 3:57
  • @davidbrainerd to confuse matters further, there's also eminent - which, when spoken with different accents can sound similar too. Jun 16 '14 at 5:58

In a word: no, especially to your question number three.

Allow me to put my answer in the form of an argument, one which Jesus himself used on many occasions.

If God has no problem or difficulty whatsoever communicating within the infinite Godhead of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and does so with no falsification, no limitation (self-imposed or otherwise), and no translation, why would he face any limitations in communicating his truth to finite human beings?

This argument is what I call the "how much more" argument, and it can also be expressed in formal logic, in algebra, and in who knows what else. For example,

  • If A > B, and C < B, then A > C.


  • If A is greater than B, and C is less than B, then A is greater than C.

In slightly different words, then,

If God has no difficulty communicating perfectly on a purely spiritual plane within the infinite Godhead of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, then he should have no problem communicating on a human level using a finite form of communication.

In terms of A, B, and C:

  • Divine communication is A

  • Human communication is B

  • The falsity factor of human communication (via written and spoken symbolic language) is C

Put them altogether and you have,

If divine communication is superior to human communication because human communication has a "falsity" factor, whereas divine communication is perfect and without the possibility of a falsity factor, how much more would God be able from His standpoint to communicate perfectly via an imperfect language. In other words, God, with his infinitely superior communication skills, combined with his perfect knowledge and familiarity with the imperfections of human language, has no problem avoiding those imperfections even when using such an imperfect medium.

To use a quaint--albeit outrageous--analogy: If God could shave the antennae off a fly by using the Rock of Gibraltar, could he not also perform the same job using a miniature razor?

In the very same way, God actually delights in using imperfect, weak, and fallible human beings to bring glory to himself. Paul puts it this way:

"For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves . . ." (2 Corinthians 4:6-7 NASB).

In other words, if God has no problem in bringing glory to himself by virtue of who he is in all his transcendent otherness, why would he have a problem bringing glory
to himself through fallible, finite, imperfect, and fragile clay pots like you and me? The answer: He wouldn't, and he does! That's simply the nature of his surpassing greatness.

  • If you go and sit an think about it then you have proved that A>B>C and A=B=C. The math you use has no place in an otherwise good answer +1=>0. Jun 15 '14 at 20:20
  • I don't think the logic works. God can communicate within the Godhead because there are no limitations. Human communication is limited. If the Godhead had limitations and human communication didn't then the logic would work, but that's backwards.
    – curiousdannii
    Jun 16 '14 at 1:24
  • @curiousdannii: I guess we're both having trouble with each other's logic! My answer is not the answer of a logician. Perhaps I should've simply quoted a few of Jesus' statements which use the "how much more" locution. For example, Jesus' teaching on the futility of being anxious. If God feeds sparrows and clothes the lilies of the field, how much more will He feed and clothe His children, who are of much more value than flowers and birds. That sort of thing. Yes, human communication, and more specifically symbolic language, is a highly imperfect medium for human thought. Jun 16 '14 at 2:25
  • OTOH, God is what you might call supra-lingual; He has no need for language, but there is nevertheless communication going on within the Godhead. Perhaps it "the tongues of angels" to which Paul refers in 1 Corinthians 13. Frankly, I do not know. I have a feeling it's something akin to pure thought which obviates a medium. Human language by contrast is mere child's play for God. If He can confuse human language at Babel, surely He can inspire His prophets and apostles to record His word accurately (w/out "falsity"--in OP's words) in a mere three languages (viz., Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek). Jun 16 '14 at 2:38
  • I like your answer but it is somewhat counter-intuitive. The obvious limitation is not on the part of God obviously, but on the part of language. If language is limited when describing transcendent truths, can transcendent truths be mediated through it without changing them somewhat, rendering them incomplete, and yes in some sense false?
    – theodoulos
    Jun 16 '14 at 19:29

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