Friday, April 9, 2010

Theological Speech in the First, Second, and Third Person

It seems reasonable to say that, for the church, in creaturely relation to the triune God, there are three primary modes of personal speech. In reverse order: the third person, that is, the sermon, proclamation about God as subject; the second person, that is, prayer, talk to God as object; and the first person, that is, the Word of God as subject and object, the divine self-communication of the eternal Logos become flesh, and the witness to that Word in the word of Scripture.

Salvation, then, would involve -- or, better, would itself be -- the Spirit's work of disciplining and healing our use of the third and second person by the first, such that, moving back out, our talk to and about the Father would be both determined by and enveloped in the one Word of God, Jesus Christ.

Every work claiming to do Christian theology -- claiming, that is, to talk truthfully about the triune God -- must, therefore, as the incurable act of speaking in the third person, never be divorced from speaking in the second person -- that is, praying -- if it seeks to be faithful to its subject and object, and finally can only be judged by constant and perpetual submission to the speech of the first person, which is the crucified and risen Lord, as witnessed to in and by the biblical texts. To do otherwise, to separate one voice from another, is explicitly to step outside of the discipline of theology, and indeed to step outside of the community of the church, for only in the latter does the former find its coherence, impetus, accountability, and confirmation.

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