You could say that landlubbers and boaters don’t talk the same language. One says ‘rope’ while the other says ‘line’. One says ‘bow’ and ‘stern’ while the other says ‘front’ and ‘rear’. But both surely agree on basics; boats float and planes fly, water is wet and the wind can move things. You could say that physicists and philosophers don’t talk the same language. One speaks in terms of tangible and measurable realities while the other thinks of more abstract ideas. But both agree on basics; falling water generates power and ideas are powerful.
However, there are two groups of people between whom we see a rapidly growing chasm. These two kinds of people have not only stopped talking but they also lack a common mode of communication. No matter what the topic, representatives of these two groups seldom reach consensus. The first of these two categories is people who believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and in His message to mankind, the Bible. The second comprises people who advocate secularism, vigorously reject God, and regard His Book as primitive, superstitious, and possessing little contemporary relevance.
There are three reasons that explain why communication between religious and secular usually breaks down. First, they lack a common language; second, they share no common logic; and finally, they do not agree on values.
In Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, we find this line,
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
This was funny because Carroll, whose real name was Charles Dodgson, was a religious Christian for whom words had specific and generally accepted meanings. However, like Humpty Dumpty, secularists tend to assign new meanings to words like choice, fair, family, greed, and others. This results in fewer and fewer words being available for common discourse and robs the debate of a common language.
Shared logic also collapses at the edge of this cultural chasm. Biblically-committed folks tend to thank God for the good they experience and tend to see themselves as largely complicit in their own misfortunes. Thus, they know that making foolish decisions in the areas of male/female relationships and money usually produces unhappiness. Secular-leaning individuals tend to seek reasons for their unhappiness outside of themselves. With no common logic, these two groups are incapable of even discussing, let alone agreeing on, prescriptions for the many ills plaguing society.
Bible-believers, drawing their ideas from the “Good Book,” tend to think that God and family are the first resources to turn to in times of trouble. Meanwhile, secularists unhesitatingly turn to government to right everything they perceive as wrong.
Finally, and most seriously, there is no agreement on values. With no common view of values, there is pressure to view our opponent as not merely wrong, but evil. Obviously this obliterates all chance of discussion. Bible-believers naturally regard as wrong those actions described in the Bible as sin or otherwise discouraged. This includes excessive government taxation (I Samuel 8:17), sexual immorality, and failing to earn one’s own living. On the other hand, secularists, who like most humans, wish to live within a framework of morality, are forced to seek things not mentioned in the Bible to define as wrong, and equally certainly they must redefine sins as virtues. Thus, many in this group view smoking a cigarette as a more grievous moral failing than cheating in an exam. To many on this side of the cultural divide, climate change is a terrible evil, while homosexual behavior is condoned. These represent two different and utterly incompatible viewpoints. No wonder real communication is difficult.
What is the solution? Take a look at this verse and its context:
And Israel (Jacob) said to Joseph (his son), ‘At this time I can die after I have seen your face and you are still alive.’
The implication is that until Jacob saw Joseph’s face, he did not know that Joseph was alive. But the final three verses of the preceding chapter (Genesis 45:26-28) reveal that Jacob already knew that Joseph survived.
What could seeing Joseph’s face possibly add to Jacob’s knowledge about his son’s fate? Ancient Jewish wisdom reminds us of two facts:
(i) The face is a window into the soul. This is why the Hebrew word PaNiM (face) is the same word as the Hebrew word for innermost deep, PeNiM.
(ii) Our souls are impacted by the company we keep and the things we do.
This helps to make sense of Jacob’s statement. Of course Jacob already knew that his son Joseph was physically alive. His other sons told him and they showed the wagons that Joseph sent for him. However, what Jacob did not know was whether after twenty-two years away from his family, Joseph was still a God-fearing descendant of Abraham or whether he had become an Egyptian secularist. Once Jacob gazed upon his beloved son’s face, he knew the answer.
Living a secular life filled with hostility towards God and his Book leaves a mark upon a person just as living a life in passionate embrace with God leaves a mark. It certainly should transform a believer’s face into a serene and compassionate reflection of God’s love. (Be wary of those who tell you they are religious but who look surly and grumpy.)
It is true that landlubbers and mariners don’t share a language and neither do physicists and philosophers. However, mariners can invite landlubbers to experience ocean sailing and physicists can invite philosophers to experience the wonders of the laboratory. Can believers and secularists similarly interact? It’s worth a try. The initiative will have to come from believers. The indispensable ingredient they’ll need is a repertoire of Biblical insight to defeat the secular vision of the Bible.
In this challenging arena of cross-cultural communication, I have always depended upon non-threatening but mind-boggling insights from the Lord’s language. I have successfully shared with initially hostile secularists some of the spine-tingling lightning flashes in Hebrew that anyone can enjoy.
For the good of some of the relationships in your life and in the lives of those around you, won’t you please equip yourself (and others) with a copy of Buried Treasure: Life Lessons from the Lord’s Language. It is filled with stunning sparks of spiritual truth that I have employed for decades in helping people make the first halting steps towards God. I pray it serves the same service for you.
English, Spanish, Italian, Hebrew, French, Chinese…Not just any language – It’s the Lord’s Language!