"In the beginning was the Word."

If there is no such thing as the secular, perhaps human words must be both accurate and univocal when used to describe the Divine. Perhaps it is our (wilful) ignorance of the full and true meaning of human words that stops them from being useful in our quest to understand the nature of God. For example, perhaps the statement "God is love" is a perfect description of God but we are too fearful and hateful to allow ourselves to accept the meaning of the word "love" even though, and perhaps because, it comes from our own divinely created imagination and creativeness.

So, perhaps, in stead of trying to understand, without words, the God we do not presently see, or see only as through a glass dimly (a futile task), we should seek to understand the full meaning of those words that describe God that are in our very possession.



  1. “Understanding love” may well be an impossible task. I can understand that I am loved, I can understand that I love, but understanding love is another task.


  2. Seriously, this is a deep challenge.

    First, these words that “we should seek to understand” were originally chosen by human beings as only “the best we could do” to describe the indescribable. So, we begin with words which are – in themselves – compromises with the ineffable Truth (and, ergo, traps or even obstacles to discovering the REAL Truth).

    Secondly, I am not sure that “the full meaning of those words that describe God” is ever wholly accessible to us because we are culturally conditioned in our use of words. (e.g., use of the word “Lord” is not only patriarchal and mildly misogynistic, but it is, in fact, psychologically and sociologically incomprehensible to a democratic American who has absolutely no cultural experience of anything like a “lord”.)

    [I had a wonderfully sassy 80-year-old parishioner who used to say with some frequency: “Look! We are told to ‘love your neighbor’, but if we do, they call it ‘adultery’ or ‘fornication’.”]

    As one who is something of a linguist and has spent 26 years studying Julian of Norwich’s Middle English, I can witness to the shifting of meaning of a word in as short as a century.

    I still smile when I encounter the Middle English word “buxom” which in XIII c. meant “obedient” or “compliant”, but by the XV c. meant “plump” or “comely”, and by today (in America) means “having large breasts”.

    Look at the word “substance” which in the 13th century meant “the purely spiritual essence of a thing”, by the 16th century had come to mean the OPPOSITE: i.e., something physical (and probably “gooey”).

    I agree with your Thought-of-the-Day, but I think it means a lot more hard work than most imagine.

    (Sorry for such a dreary scholarly approach….)

  3. Thank you, John Julian. If I was a scholar I would probably claim that I was imagining a third way in the Duns Scotus/Aquinas debate as (falsely) represented by by Radical Orthodoxy. Part two of this thought, in which I create a new post-liberalism, will follow 🙂

  4. As one who is something of a linguist and has spent 26 years studying Julian of Norwich’s Middle English

    Now I’m wishing I spent the last 26 years doing this.