Monday, October 17, 2005

The Power of Crying Out, (three proofs on the power of the spoken word) part 7

On p. 24, Gothard makes the case that "Spoken words have power," and he gives three proofs. First, he quotes Proverbs 18:21, which says, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue." He may mean simply that our words have consequences. For example, a witness to a muder trial can bring about either the life or death of the person on trial. A judge, by his spoken verdict, can bring about the same result. There's nothing supernatural about this sense of the tongue having power, but it's clear from Gothard's second proof that this is not what he has in mind. He thinks spoken words literally have some kind of inherent power in and of themselves. But such is not taught anywhere in the scriptures. The sense in which words do have power is found in James 3. It is with our words that we bless and with our words that we curse, and our words have consequences.

In his second proof, Gothard points out that although God could have created the world with his thoughts, he chose to use the words of his mouth. Apparently, he thinks the spoken words of God had the inherent power in themselves to create the universe, but such an interpretation has many difficulties. First, God is spirit. He doesn't literally have a mouth. Second, sound is, by definition, vibration through a medium. For sound to happen, then, there has to be some medium through which vibration can take place. There has to be some material to vibrate. But before God created anything, there was no such medium. So God could not have literally spoken words in the same sense that we speak words in order to create anything. Third, it was the power of God himself that created the universe, not the power inherent in the words. If it were the power of words that created the universe, then we would be able to create universes by speaking those same words. Since we can't, it's obviously not the words that have the power, but God.

In his third proof, Gothard points out that in a wedding, the bride and groom need to say their vows out loud so the witnesses can hear their voices, and so it is with God. But there's a reason witnesses need to hear the voices of the bride and groom that doesn't apply to God. The witnesses have no other way to witness the vows except by hearing the spoken word. Surely the God who searches the heart and knows all things does not need to hear our voices in the same way that human witnesses do. So his analogy doesn't work at all.

to be continued...
Part 8


At 10/18/2005 1:45 AM , Blogger Steve said...

interesting, I liked the part about sound not being possible before creation since there was no medium for the waves to travel through.

however, i would caution though that you're taking a very literal interpretation to every word in the Bible in order to make your case.

Does this imply, for example, that you believe the Earth was created in 6 days, and that given certain dating mechanisms, the earth is approximately 6000 years old, and that since there is no real mention of Dinosaurs in the Bible, god didn't see fit to mention them in Genesis when describing the animals he created (conveniently only discussing animals that currently existed rather than extinct ones)????

At 10/18/2005 2:23 AM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Quite the contrary, Steve. Gothard is the one who takes the Bible very literally. My argument is against his literal interpretation. I don't think words literally have power, and I don't think God literally spoke words to create the universe.

At 10/18/2005 10:23 PM , Blogger cellisangel said...

You make an excellent point, Sam:

It's not the power of the words that God spoke that created, it the power of God's being that caused creation...

I could say to my cat, "Do not be!" but she just looks at me dumbly and goes nowhere. If words in and of themselves had supernatural power, she would cease to be, right?

At 10/18/2005 11:16 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...

I dunno, Angie. You might have to say the words in Latin while pointing a wand at her.

At 10/19/2005 2:14 AM , Blogger daleliop said...

What if we changed the second "proof" to appeal to the fact that God actively chose to 'speak', whereas being all-powerful He could have used any method He wanted, for example, "thinking" the Universe into existence.

Even if it were not God literally speaking, the fact that it was recorded to us in that manner in Genesis implies that God's speaking bore some similarity to human speaking. The Bible also says that we are made in the image of God -- so our form of speech may very well be derived from God's "speech".

Continuing that argument, an author like Gothard could conclude that God may put greater preference on speaking one's desires, since, when He could have chosen any means possible, God chose to 'speak' when He actualized the greatest desire of all -- the Universe itself.

[Personally, I don't think this argument works, because it is quite possible that the purpose of Genesis recording the way God "spoke" was just the author's best way to get the message across of how God created the Universe. Perhaps it gave the text a more majestic and poetic quality, which there is when you read through it.]

At 10/19/2005 8:33 AM , Blogger ephphatha said...


Even if we grant that God's words had power, and it was the power of those words that brought the universe into being, that still can't be used as a precedent for us praying out loud. There are two reasons. First, just because God can make his words have power doesn't mean we can. Genesis tells us exactly what God said. If the words themselves have power, then we should expect the same effect when we say the words. But the fact of the matter is that nothing we say has that kind of power. I can say, "Let there be lemonade" all day, and nothing will happen.

Second, even if we grant that words have power, that is irrelevent to prayer. Prayer is when you ask God to do something. If it's the words that have power, then it's the words that bring about the effect, not God. When God said, "Let there be light," he wasn't praying to some other god above him.


At 10/19/2005 9:16 AM , Blogger daleliop said...

I think you might have misunderstood what I said.

I'm not saying that words have power in themselves; I'm saying that God may prefer spoken words in general, for whatever reason; one evidence of this is that in Genesis God chose to "speak" to will the Universe into existence, even though He could have done it in infinitely many ways. This shows that He may have some preference for speaking, in general (it does NOT show anything about the "power" of words, because God is all-powerful and persumably could have created the Universe to the same magnitude using any other "method").

Then I'm saying someone may try to draw the connection that this preference for speaking (in general) could apply to us "speaking" to God. For whatever reason, maybe God likes us to speak. Perhaps spoken word seems to imply more devotion than non-spoken word, in general. But all I am saying is that the fact God chose to speak in Genesis implies that speaking may some extra significance to Him.

At 10/19/2005 1:18 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Oh yeah. I did misunderstand you.


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