Back in March of this semester, I had a fascinating conversation with a lady on my plane. As a theology student from a Southern Baptist seminary, as well as a traveler on a return trip back from Israel, I was equipped with subject matter that made conversation about Jesus easy, and the lady I sat next to had tons of questions. After some time I began to focus more on evangelism, and I asked her about her thoughts regarding God. Her response was so very typical of what I have come to learn to be a Post-Modern rejection of “God talk.” In Post-modernity, God-talk, or theology, is impossible, due to the inability of language to express the infinite. Language is finite, and as such cannot express what is by nature beyond the categories of thought and language. The lady I was talking to had drank deeply from the wells of Post-Modern philosophers, and expressed skepticism toward my own God-talk. She simply could not believe that anyone could talk of God because God was simply much too far above the limits of language.
I’m going to say something that may shock a few Christians. After my own studies in Post-Modernism, I have come to agree with the Post-Modernists: language is incapable of expressing God. I think the lady next to me was taken aback when I began to agree with her own position. God transcends human language, and language alone is incapable of signifying something that is beyond the reach of the human sign-system.
But then I began to explain to her why I believe Jesus is God: What human language cannot do, God did in the incarnation. You see, when Jesus assumed flesh, he took upon himself much more than our skin–he put himself within our own sign-system. Human language was assumed in the incarnation, enabling our signs to express what was beyond language’s reach, making it possible for us to express God truly (though not exhaustively). This truth is captured beautifully by the Theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar:
“Since God has in himself the eternal Word that expresses him eternally, he is most certainly expressible; and since this very Word has taken human form and expresses in human acts and words what it is in God, it is capable of being understood by men. . . The identity of Christ’s person in his two natures as God and man is guarantee of the possibility and rightness of the reproduction of heavenly truth in earthly form, and of its accuracy in Christ.
. . .The exact correspondence between the divine content and the human expression is inseparable from the person of the incarnate Word of God, being itself the effect of the incarnation. In other words the relation between the human and the divine in scripture finds its measure and norm in the relation between the divine and human natures in Christ. And just as the whole of Christ’s humanity is a means of expressing his divine Person, and this in turn being the expression of the Father, so each word in Scripture is a purely human word, but yet, as such, wholly the expression of divine content.”
If the incarnation did not happen, then no one can speak of God. God-talk is made possible by the union of God and man in the person of Jesus Christ. I did not convince the lady next to me on the plane, but I gave her something to think about. In the Incarnation, God expressed himself in a form that we could understand, and by doing so, demonstrated his love for us and thereby making it possible for us to love him back.