Reading a book on Christian Curriculum yesterday, I ran across this sentence:
Grammar and language are indeed relative to a culture, but the fact of a degree of relativity does not make it necessary (nor sensible) to affirm a radical relativism.
I then ran across this meditation on covenantal ethics.
The covenant teaches that man is a conditioned creature. Only God is unconditioned, meaning unbounded by time or place. Man’s response to God must always be conditional. Man is bounded by God’s law, but he is also bounded by history. He must faithfully apply the law to historical circumstances. The covenant (the law as a whole, as well as the historical books of the Bible) provides us with the details of these historical circumstances. These details must be respected.
So here is the false dichotomy that I find both statements attempting to answer:
- Human knowledge is absolute and unchanging.
- Human knowledge is radically relative.
The Christian philosopher Cornelius Van Til addressed this problem by positing that human knowledge is neither univocal (absolute and unchanging) nor equivocal (radically relative). The former is a rationalist way of deifying human knowledge. The latter is an empiricist way of supporting radical skepticism. We can never know things in the way that God knows them–completely and exhaustively. This does not mean, however, that we cannot know anything.
CVT’s term for human knowledge is analogical. We think God’s thoughts after Him. This knowledge is conditioned and is occasionally relative to culture or history. However, it is guaranteed by an omniscient God.
A theological test case for this is in Genesis 2 where God first declares that it is not good for Adam to be alone verses before Adam names the animals and comes to that conclusion himself. In a universe with a sovereign God, there is no fact that man can ascertain that will not already be unified by God. This does not mean our ascertainment of that knowledge will equal God’s, but we should take comfort in the fact that our knowledge is secured by Him.
Now this is difficult work. It would be easier if we could apply always applicable rules to every situation OR simply make it up as we go along. This is particularly true of grammar. I should, as a teacher, neither affirm that Standard Written English was handed down from God nor pronounce all grammatical rules human constructs. Writing is a tool God used to reveal Himself. Insofar as we are using that gift, we should prize clarity and integrity. We should not bear false witness. Neither should we spread confusion. The aim of all writing should be to further our love for God and others. If that includes ending a sentence with a preposition, so be it.