Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Piper on Knowing Jesus

In Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, John Piper talks about a few ways we can learn who Jesus is. The first is by rigorous, painstaking, academic study. But this takes a long time as well as great devotion, not to mention the mental faculties to read and research the subject through the writings and findings of people who are a lot smarter than us (and try to prove it by making their writings completely unintelligible to the normal reader). He notes that there must be another way, since, "it would seem strange if God revealed himself in his Son Jesus Christ and inspired the record of that revelation in the Bible, but did not provide a way for ordinary people to know it."

The second, more universally accessible way, is through self-authenticating, divine truth, as he calls it. Piper basically claims that there is something about Jesus--his attitudes, thoughts, actions--in scripture that causes us to know who he was and is, without having had to learn it. He says, "it is like seeing the sun and knowing that it is light and not dark, or like tasting honey and knowing that it is sweet and not sour. There is no long chain of reasoning from premises to conclusions. There is a direct apprehension that this person is true and his glory is the glory of God."

Of course, many people read the Gospels and never believe. There are theologically liberal seminaries full of experts on these biographical accounts, yet these experts believe them to be but fables. Yes, the words and works of Jesus were and are self-authenticating, but it is a spiritual business to believe, and the Holy Spirit must open our eyes to see and experience what is real. This enabling to see reality for what it really is is quite important, because salvation doesn't depend on having correct doctrine.

Imagine that you were born blind, and that people had always lied to you and said the sky was yellow. If one day, some sympathetic person told you that everyone had lied to you, and that, in fact, the sky was blue, and for whatever reason you believed them over all the others, you still wouldn't really know what color the sky is until you saw it for yourself. After all, there are many people who confess with their lips that Jesus is the Son of God, but who don't know he is the Son of God. Knowing this truth means more than just saying the right proposition, it means that the Spirit of God has opened your eyes to SEE that He is the Son of God.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The War of the Words

Tonight I was lying in bed, unable to sleep, thinking a bit about my life. Oddly enough, I often think in three different languages when I can't sleep. My mind wanders endlessy through my past experiences, my hopes for the future, and random scenarios where I am a super-hero. And all in English, Spanish, or French. But one thing I have noticed is that I feel completely different when I speak Spanish than when I speak French.

When I speak Spanish, I feel like my heart is connected to my words. I feel what I say, and I say (or try to say) what I feel. Unfortunately, that process takes a lot of effort. The ability to speak Spanish comes at great effort, even when I was living in Spain. I was constantly thinking--conjugating verbs, using new vocabulary, seeing every word written down in my mind before it left my mouth. Sort of like a computer.

But when I speak French, it's completely different. I feel so unattached, that often I begin speaking and don't realize that I've started to say something that is too complicated to finish. So, I'll jump in on a conversation without hesitating, but will end up not finishing my phrase, or having to say it two or three times to get my point across. I don't feel like I accurately communicate my emotions in French.

My question is this: Does not feeling as connected to French automatically mean that I speak better Spanish? That's what I thought at first, but now I think differently. While I was in Spain, I remember thinking that I felt more Latino than American. I fit in better with my spanish speaking friends than I did with the Americans. I felt new avenues of communication, the emotive ones, in particular, open up, and I ran through them. The result was that when I didn't feel those same things while starting to learn French, I assumed that I didn't like French as much. Makes sense, right?

Oh, but language learning is a very complicated process, and one that involves every part of the human being--soul, body, and spirit. When I started learning French, I had something under my belt that I didn't have when I started Spanish, that is the experience of having already learned a foreign language. When I began Spanish, everything was new to me. Every word was vibrant and full of meaning, and each new phrase gave me a new, fuller understanding of reality. But when I started French, I had already experienced that process. Now that I was learning a third language, the words weren't as fresh, and the phrases were a lot less meaningful. I had romanticized Spanish in a way that I couldn't do with French. It would have been dishonest. Like going on a date with a girl and pretending that she didn't have problems like every other girl you've dated. Entering into French with another language learning experience behind me left me unimpressed, not that it isn't a beautiful language, but after all it is just a language like all others.

Second, French resembles English a great deal. And, in fact, I am just beginning to learn how much of the english language is borrowed from French. What this means is that I don't have to think nearly as hard to understand and speak French as I do Spanish. The sentence structure and words are close enough that most of the time I can take an older English word (one that is old enough that most English speaking people wouldn't recognize it) and Frenchify it in order to say what I want. Think King James Audio Bible read by Pepe Le Pew. The easier it is to speak, the less I have to think.

My last thought is really a combination of the previous two. Which language is more natural to me? Spanish, where I FEEL like I can communicate more clearly because of the effort I put into speaking, or, French, which is so close to my native tongue that I speak without thinking? If I were backed up into a corner I would say both, mostly because I really love Spanish, but in reality I think the answer would have to be French. I mean, how many of us think before we speak in our native language? How many of us say, "I really put my foot in my mouth" and feel the weight of those words because we are so concentrated on understanding the grammar of the sentence? None of us. That just means, "I said something stupid," or, "I shouldn't have said that." When looked at in this light, French is a much more natural language for me.

In Spain, I felt like I found a new aspect of 'me,' through learning the language. Here in France, I am learning that I'm the same old Mike Gorski, I just speak a little bit of a few extra languages. And my English is getting worse.