Carl F. H. Henry: A Theistic View of Language

Similar to his view of epistemology, Henry appeals to the Bible in order to ground his knowable concepts of God and the world, and also for the language it uses about them. One debated topic amongst linguists pertains to the origin of language. Following the trajectory of Gordon Clark, Henry believes because the Bible does not offer a definitive account on the origin of language that a theory of linguistic origins is speculative in nature. For Henry, the implications of this are as he says, “The notion that human language originated in sense experience—as many evolutionists claim—not only lacks scientific confirmation but also cannot explain the nature and function of language, nor does it account for the origin of the idea of God.” Henry like Clark, taunts theistic evolutionists who accept some form of Adamic creation yet tend to explain language as an evolutionary development.

Like both Augustine and Clark, Henry’s explanation of verbal communication is that a rational theistic God stands behind humanity in time and is the ground for all thought behind language. This does not mean God created all words; however, he did create some words. Instead, as Henry claims, “In the theistic view, language is possible because of man’s God-given endowment of rationality, of a priori categories and of innate ideas, all of which precondition his ability to think and speak. Since every mind is lighted by the Logos or Reason of God, thought stands behind language.” Furthermore, he adds, “The gift of human speech and language, in brief, presupposes the imago Dei, particularly rationality. Logic is indispensable to human thought and to human speech. Without the law of contradiction no significant speech is possible; even attempts to refute the law of contradiction would have to be formulated in intelligible language that presupposes it.” These two comments by Henry indicate according to a theistic view of language, due to the imago Dei, humanity was fashioned in such a way so that human beings could speak from the moment of creation, and there is an internal connection between thought, language, and the Logos of God.

In order to explain a theistic view of language, Henry develops twenty one different statements. These are not, however, to be taken as precise declarations like his fifteen theses. Instead, they consist of some very short pronouncements, while others are much more elaborate.

For a further explanation of Henry’s view of a “Theistic View of Language,” here’s a link to a PDF from my book on Carl F. H. Henry: A Theistic View of Language

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