Purgatory: The Greatest Doctors Go There

The Concept of Mind

The Concept of Mind (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: A portrait of Noam Chomsky that I too...

Jacques Derrida

Jacques Derrida (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Naom Chomsky

(This is a follow-on from Deconstruction: Onederringjew’s glorious route to nowhere).

The problem for interpretation, translation and communication that Derrida poses is whether it is possible to ever know what one’s mother tongue is made of through all the pulling and tearing at her syntactic joints and semantic flesh (Johnson 1985). Can the mother tongue (the source language) ever communicate her meaning through translation into another language (the target language). The problem lies deeper than the differences between languages; it lies in the mother tongue itself. How many times have you not confronted someone who speaks the same mother tongue as you –  your mother? – with “what do you mean!” The blogosphere may justifiably be described as the bogosphere : your bog and my bog; which is one of the reasons – very minor – why my blog user name is “bography.” (See my B(i)ography of truth).

What do you think is the primary function of language? Unless you’re smoking something or are the greatest linguistic scientist of all time, you will probably reply “communication” or something to that effect. But what does the greatest linguist1 and one of the ten most quoted people of all time say? The central function of language is not communication but expression (Chomsky. 1979. Language and Responsibility. Sussex: Harvester Press). “Expression,” of course, means self-expression. And Chomsky (like Derrida), of course, is Jewish. As my mother would have said of Derrida and Chomsky: they are greste dokteirim “great doctors,” but lacking one thing, the main thing; they’re not medical doctors.

Self-expression usually entails a purging. For Gilbert Ryle, this purging reaches into the very bowels of his mind – into the “ghost in his machine.” At the end of his introduction to “The concept of mind” (1959), Ryle says: “Primarily I am trying to get some disorders out of my own system. Only secondarily do I hope to help other theorists to recognise our malady and to benefit from my medicine.” Ryle’s main reason for writing is to purge his system. I suggest that this urge to expurge is also true of Chomsky and Derrida.

“Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of thy name: and deliver us, and purge (כפר kaphar) away our sins, for thy name’s sake (Psalm 79:9).”

“How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge ( katharizō “catharsis”) your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:14).

1“Linguist” has two meanings: the non-academic meaning of “someone who knows (how to speak) several languages, and the academic meaning of someone who is a specialist in the linguistics (linguistic science).

The Lamb that was slain: How can you reject such a great salvation?

Paris Reidhead has been a great joy and inspiration to me. His “Ten Shekels and Shirt” is the greatest sermon I have ever heard. Here is an excerpt.

“You see, salvation is not in a plan, salvation is not in scripture verses, salvation is not in ordinances or a scheme of theology, salvation is not in decision, salvation is not in the pronouncement of an evangelist or a pastor. Salvation is a person. This is the cardinal truth of our day. Salvation isn’t from a person only, but salvation is a person. You understand therefore that salvation is Christ. He is our life; he is our salvation. He didn’t die to send it. He died to become it. The Lord Jesus died therefore to set his people free. Now can you see the folly of a person who says I don’t want to go to hell when I die but I’m quite content to be in bondage to the world; to its aims, to its goals to its interests, to its rewards….Can’t you see what a total contradiction of terms this is. How unthinkable it is. No wonder the writer of Hebrews says: ‘How can we escape if we neglect so a great a salvation.’ And God’s salvation intended deliverance not only from the penalty of our sin and from the certainty of hell, but included deliverance from the power of the world, its grip and its hold and its hold upon us. It included deliverance from the flesh, the personality, the nature, the traits of the individual. It included deliverance from the power and control of Satan himself and the demons of darkness. And for a person to say, “Well, all I want from Christ is to go to heaven anyway. Why, it’s unthinkable, its inconceivable. It can’t be; it just can’t be that anyone can discern the grace of God, and the mercy of God, and the love of God manifested in the essence of his Son to set His people free and go on in bondage when He has already paid the price for their deliverance.”

Paris Reidhead is one of the greatest preachers of the 20th century. I also agree with almost all his theology. The piece above needs to be heard. However, even without Reidhead’s wonderful voice and delivery, the words are very powerful. There is just one point on which I differ with him, which is an important one. This difference lies in his last sentence, where he says that a person (a saved person?) can willingly remain in bondage to the world when he knows that Christ “has already paid the price for their deliverance.” Reidhead, a Wesleyan, uses a stock text of Arminians/Synergists (those who hold that a believer cooperates with God in becoming born again/saved) to show that it is possible to be saved and fall away: ‘How can we escape if we neglect so a great a salvation’ (Hebrews 2:3). In the monergistic view (Augustinian/Calvinist) Hebrews 2:3 is – as synergists would agree – referring to apostates. The difference between the synergistic and the monergistic views is that for the former, an apostate is someone who truly believed but fell away, whereas in the monergistic view, an apostate merely professed to believe but really didn’t. As Lewis Johnson puts it: “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?”  What does it mean to neglect?  A failure to appropriate the truth that we have professed or to apostatize; to say we have believed but not really believe and then to turn from it, to become cold to the truth that we say that we have believed.”

“They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us” (1 John 2:19).

The most moving part of “Ten Shekels and a Shirt” is at the end where Reidhead describes two young Moravian missionaries who leave the world for good to go and live on a leper colony. Once you’ve heard their fervent cry – through the visceral timbre of Reidhead’s marvellous voice – how can you reject such a great salvation? (See this excerpt on youtube) – a question both Wesley and Calvin can legitimately ask; after all, it’s in the Bible:

“LAMB THAT WAS SLAIN RECEIVE THE REWARD OF YOUR SUFFERING.”