Friday, November 19, 2010

A Universal Grammar

One of the things I do when I’m not writing or scaring people at shooting ranges is my studies on Representational Research.

Basically, it involves the triadic structure of the Godhead, of reality (the part you see, the part you don’t see, and the links between the two), and even of language.

We communicate information through three methods – the iconic (through the senses such as sight), by indexing or pointing, and linguistically.

Quit yawning, I’m about to get to the relevant part, the part about writing.

You see, the Bible depicts all kinds of communication, and not all of it is through words. Some of it is iconic. You learn from seeing something: The Israelites were told to pile up rocks from Jordan’s depths to commemorate the crossing of that river. And that would provoke questions, the linguistic part where the parents would explain the rocks. The same thing took place every Passover: The bitter herbs and salt water and unleavened bread teach.

I’m always amazed at the passage in Psalm 19 that says:

The heavens declare the glory of God;

the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Day after day they pour forth speech;

night after night they display knowledge.

There is no speech or language

where their voice is not heard.

Their voice goes out into all the earth,

their words to the ends of the world.

Look at the language words: declare, proclaim, pour forth speech, voice, words.

Here’s what I’m thinking. This psalm shows that the inanimate skies communicate. What do they communicate? About God, who He is and what He does. (Romans 1:20). And they do it in a way that supercedes English or Chinese or even the Hebrew or Greek in which the Bible was originally written.

There must be a universal grammar, we might say, for communicating the things of God. Something that can carry the message even without words, across cultures, into hearts.

How much more precisely do words carry that message!

I hear people talking all the time about trying to catch market trends in writing. Nothing wrong with that.

But the novels that end up communicating to people at a level like the resplendent night sky, in the universal language of God, with deep eternal truths that feed the souls of readers – that’s what I want to write, don’t you?


Wendy Paine Miller said...

Feed the souls of readers--yes!

Your post makes me think how we are so quick to ask for signs from God. He's giving us signs all the time.

I think so much comes back to how well we learn to pay attention.

Beautiful post.
~ Wendy

daveleau said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Footprints From the Bible by Cynthia Davis said...

"But the novels that end up communicating to people at a level like the resplendent night sky, in the universal language of God, with deep eternal truths that feed the souls of readers"-beautifully put.
"Preach the Gospel at all times, when necessary, use words" St. Francis of Assisi

daveleau said...

What you describe is why I returned to a deep faith from a weak faith during my college years. It would have been so easy to tip over the edge and forget God like so many teens do. But, God called me back to faith in Him through his universal language. I call this universal language God's general revelation, as opposed to His specific revelation found in the 66 books of the Bible. God's general revelation so strongly cries out for a Creator. Without the general revelation God gave us, His special revelation could be easily called a simple myth by those with weak or no faith and understanding of Him, like those found in Rome, Greece, Phoenicia or Egypt.

I agree - beautiful post.

Latayne C Scott said...

Wendy, I agree. In fact, the Romans 1 passage I referenced says that the facts about God are "plain" to anyone of any culture and any time.

Cynthia -- Thank you for mentioning that St. Francis quote. I love it!

Dave, I didn't know that about how your faith was restored. God be praised.

Lori Benton said...

Latayne, glad you mentioned Romans 1. That was resounding in my heart as I read your post. Love this deep thinking!

And yes. That IS what I want to write. :)

sally said...

Great post. Psalm 19 is one of my favorites. It moves on to word revelation (law, statutes, commands...) which always makes me feel rich when I read it. But I do love how the heavens utter their speech across language barriers. I love that even the poorest of creatures can look to the heavens and know that God is loving and beautiful and powerful. The trees have been changing colors for the last two weeks in Georgia and I've been watching nature singing God's glory.

Rosslyn Elliott said...

Beautifully said! We can aspire to it, even if we never reach that level.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post, Latayne. And what an amazing photo. Have you seen Louie Giglio's "Indescribable" DVD? It's beyond amazing. Our son shared the DVD with us the Christmas before he died. We watch it again and again -- especially when we need to be buoyed -- and we share it with anyone who will spend an hour with us.

Bonnie Way aka the Koala Mom said...

Wow, great post. I hadn't thought of the words in that verse quite like that before. Yet God is so communicative. Writing for today might result in a novel that is a bestseller today and forgotten tomorrow. Writing the truth might mean your novel is lost today, but treasured in future generations.

Latayne C Scott said...

Lori and Sally, don't you find that even though Scripture spells some things out specifically, they spark new insights that come just from our reactions to those words? I LOVE it when that happens.

Rosslyn, you made a good point. If we could ever achieve that level of communication, we wouldn't have to write at all! :)

Latayne C Scott said...

Sharon, I haven't seen that video. Maybe you could send up a link?

But I do love this video, which I've watched dozens of times and still makes me shiver:

Latayne C Scott said...

Koala Bear Writer:

You're speaking a great truth there. One Bible example I use of the worth of persisting even though you may never see fruit is that of Daniel. Apparently the record of his life and work wasn't widely distributed until many years after his death.

Megan Sayer said...

You know the funny thing I'm hearing echoing here, deep in the subtext, in the mentions of the skies and the beauty of creation and in the stories of the Israelites piling up the stones: Show, don't Tell.

God IS a writer, after all. I love that.

Latayne C Scott said...


He's ahead of us in all of this!

Mary said...

My focus from day to day can become so narrow that it takes something like your amazing post to remind of the wonderful workings and ways of the Lord. Your post helped me to widen and elevate my vision for today. I pray that the necessary, ordinary tasks of life never overshadow the complexity, beauty and perfection of God and His design.

Ellen Staley said...

Beautiful post, Latayne, and everyone's responses have been so informative.
If anyone still hasn't seen the Louie Giglio series Indescribable, it's also called How Great is Our God and is in 5 parts on youtube. Below is part one. The other parts will list next to the video.

But don't stop there.

To get the rest of the picture of how are God handles the smallest of things, also watch the following, also by Louie Giglio, entitled 'Laminin'.

Our God is truly amazing.

Latayne C Scott said...

Mary, I am grateful to God for this forum where I can declare His excellencies!

And Ellen, thank you so much for the links. I hope to watch them this weekend.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Laminin!!! Thank you for posting the link, Ellen. I didn't know it was "out there." I do hope you'll all watch. It's fascinating and amazing and uplifting and put things in their proper perspective.

Angie Dicken said...

Sometimes I catch myself over-explaining the things of God that I'd like to show through my characters.
This post is such a great reminder to let the things of God explain themselves...using the creation He has given us, using the emotion He also created perfectly for our expression.
As writers, we have so much we can reveal through our imagery. We are creatures of God and our hearts will resonate with His universal grammar without our explanatory words.Don't know if I am making any sense!

Anonymous said...

Angie, you made perfect sense to me. Either that or we're both weird in the same kinda way :)

Sharon, Laminin! I know about it! So cool!

Latayne C Scott said...

Woops. That was me Latayne on the last comment. Hit "Publish" before I put my name in!

Mike Tea said...

A wonderful anf wonderfully thought-provoking post Latayne. Just read it to my wife and we were so blessed by the breadth of vision you brought here.

Latayne C Scott said...

Thank you, Mike -- and good to see you here.