Duality in Language

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Hello everyone. Today, I hope you’ll join me in looking a little deeper at the way we use language, and how our conversation might change to better reflect God’s involvement in our lives.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the linguistic implications of the two previous posts in my Praise and Prose series, which looked at the ‘primary and secondary causes’ of events (view the post here) and ‘dimensions of reality’ (view here).

For every human action or activity that takes place, there are a duality of causes.

Here are a few examples:

I had a toasted marmite bagel for dinner because:
1) God wanted me to
2) I forgot to get dinner out of the freezer

I’m having a cup of tea now because:
1) God wants me to
2) It tastes nice and usually lifts my mood

I’m going to have a shave and a shower later if:
1) God wants me to
2) I get a burst of motivation to do it

(Note that the same duality applies whether we’re talking about the past, present, or future)

The above examples encapsulate the idea that for every human action, it is orchestrated by God in the divine dimension, and we also have thoughts and feelings about it (controlled by God) in the human dimension. God is the primary cause, and we are the secondary cause. So, how can the language we use reflect these truths?

We don’t normally acknowledge God as the primary cause of our activity in everyday conversation. Instead, we commonly use expressions such as “chance would be a fine thing”, “I’ll take my chances”, “that was lucky”, “if I’m lucky” or “I can’t wait” to do a certain thing. None of these expressions acknowledge the truth that God is is the primary cause of our actions.

People of faith do a better job, with Christians sometimes saying “God willing” (which is, in Islam, “inshallah”), which is a good phrase and accurately reflects reality. We should always talk about future plans with the caveat “if it is the will of God”, and past events using expressions such as “It was God’s will” or “God willed it that…”, as such expressions acknowledge God as the primary cause of all events.

In contemporary speech, we very rarely use phrases such as “God is making me feel hungry” or “God wanted me to sleep in this morning” and yet these expressions are entirely logical and accurate. We tend to resist talking about God in our everyday conversation, possibly because our societal structures place great emphasis on personal responsibility, and also because we are frightened of making those who don’t believe in God feel uncomfortable.

I’m not suggesting we should oversaturate our language with God-speak. But by using language that brings God into our conversations, not only would we be speaking in a way that is more true to reality, but we would also be breaking down some of the untruths that are implicit in atheistic language (for example, an atheist might over-emphasise the role of the brain in human activity by using phrases such as “My brain can’t handle it” or “use your brain”, when the truth is, your brain does not control your thoughts, God does).

In summary, I feel that the language we use should acknowledge that there is both a primary and secondary cause of all human activity. We can achieve this by using phraseology which acknowledges God’s sovereignty over our actions. There is never any need to talk about ideas such as ‘luck’ or ‘chance’ in a world where God is sovereign over all events, and I believe these two words are largely redundant and could feasibly be removed from our vocabularies altogether.

Let us be bold in thinking about the way we use language, and how this could change in order to make our expressions more true to reality, and therefore more powerful.

With any thoughts or feedback on this article, feel free to email me via the Contact page. There is more to come in this series, so please consider subscribing if you found today’s post interesting. Thank you for reading.