"God Spoke: On Divine Thought In Human Language"

God Spoke:

On Divine Thought In Human Language[1]


Fr. Edward Rommen


God, who at sundry times and in diverse manners spoke in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son

—Hebrews 1:1



The whole notion of divine thought or speech brings us face to face with the difficult questions of uncreated being, knowledge, truth, and created being. For if we are to speak of divine thought, we will have to posit a personal uncreated being in possession of and able to contemplate (think) some content (knowledge), to which we will have to ascribe the appellation truth, or better yet, absolute truth. And if we are to speak of a transfer of divine thought to the human mind, we will have to explain how created beings can access absolute truth without forfeiting the transcendence of its uncreated source, and how, once it is acquired, that truth can be transmitted from one created being to another.

Such a project bears all the marks of impossibility. Yet, in spite of the idea’s apparent incomprehensibility, we are told that God does “speak.” The Psalmist insists that God uses creation itself to speak, albeit without words (Ps. 19). Prophets confidently proclaimed the “Word of the Lord.” The Gospels teach that Christ incarnate embodies the very Word of God addressed to all of creation (John 1:1-4). We are encouraged to commune with God in unceasing prayer, even when words fail us (Rom. 8:26). And, most amazingly, Christ desires to continue speaking through human language to all nations (Mt. 28:19).

With a view toward understanding what it might mean to say that God “spoke” and that He continues to do so in history, I should like to 1) examine the ontological bond between God and creation, which makes language necessary; 2) review the nature and purpose of language and its relationship to thought and speech; 3) consider the ontological and linguistic effects of sin; and 4) explore the opportunity afforded by divine remediation.

1. Being as Communion: On the Necessity of Human Language

1.1. Divine Being as Communion Itself

The assertion that God has “spoken” should not be taken to imply that language is a necessary element of divinity. Obviously, an uncreated, noncontingent, personal entity existing in perfect triunity does not need a means of communicating that is dependent on vocalizations, grammatical structures, and the like. All that is required for the inner Trinitarian exchange of divine thought is the essential communion that exists between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Because the three Persons of the Trinity are of one essence, they share unmediated participation in every aspect of divine being—all knowledge, every thought, and all truth.

The fact that the Son and the Spirit are of the same essence or substance as the Father implies that divine substance “possesses almost by definition a relational character.”[2] It is only in the Father-Son-Spirit relationship that God fully and eternally exists as uncreated divinity.[3]  For God to be means that He must be in relationship.[4] In other words, the very substance—the ontological essence—of God can be conceived of as communion.[5]

1.2. Created Being as Contingent Communion

Given the ontological significance of God's being for all existence, created beings can only exist in communion with God, i.e., they possess being itself only as it is granted by the creative will of God and, because of that contingency,[6] their existence is of necessity a being in relation. If a created being were nothing more than a cognitive potentiality—divine images or thoughts of the world[7]—it would possess no substantial reality and it would make little sense to speak of its being at all. But because divine thought has been concretized, the resultant created being must be viewed as being in relationship, i.e., dependent upon that in which it participates.[8]  In other words the ontological potential of created being can only be realized if it participates in the life of communion with God.

That, of course, raises the question of just how a created, contingent, personal entity is to participate in the life of an uncreated, noncontingent, personal entity. A certain degree of communion exists simply by virtue of the created being's existence. Yet, one would expect much more in the case of personal beings—exchange of thoughts, knowledge, desires, emotions, expectations, etc.

If the scope of communion with God were limited to that which is experienced by single beings, that might involve either the direct mediation of being and knowledge by the agency of what some of the Fathers call the energies of God,[9] or, as we shall see later, the possibility of communion provided by the presence of the logos in the Eucharist.  Either way, there would be no need of speech or language. For in the one case, the individual mind (nous) would be able to perceive and participate in the energies and, illumined by the Holy Spirit, contemplate eternal glory, and commune with God—as with Christian mystics who insist that prayer can progress to a communion with God beyond words.[10] In the other case, the real (material and historical) presence of the logos in the Eucharist would mediate being, life and knowledge[11] actualizing communion for the participant.[12]

1.3 Created Beings in Communion

Having been created in the image of God, the relational aspect of created being includes the possibility of communion with beings of like substance. Indeed, since there is a plurality of created, personal beings, being in relation might reasonably be expected to entail some form of substance sharing—an inner-creational communion analogous to inner-Trinitarian communion. That being the case, it becomes obvious that, as important as the above-mentioned individual modes of communion are, they do not, in and of themselves, enable one created entity to participate in the being of another created entity. It is certainly true that joint participation in the Eucharist, which itself mediates being, life, and knowledge to the individual, does create a form of communion (I Cor 10:16-17)—a Eucharistic community. But even during the celebration of the Eucharist direct—mind-to-mind—mediation of knowledge and experience between participants does not take place. And yet, in order for communion to be realized, it is precisely that kind of inter-personal participation, which seems so necessary. If created beings are expected to be in communion with one another, there must be some mechanism for transferring that, which is known by the mediating agency of the logos[13] from one created being to another. Here we must turn our attention to the God-given faculty of speech—the faculty that makes the concrete expression of thought by means of language possible. As I will illustrate in the pages that follow, the faculty of speech is not simply a mechanism for inter-personal transfer of information, but the very instrument needed to establish relationships—communion.

2. Thought, Speech, Language: On Facilitating Communion

In order to facilitate communion between created beings, language must possess several discrete capabilities. At the very least, it will have to serve as an agent for transforming human thought into verbal and/or written symbols (words) that are capable of carrying those thoughts into the world outside the mind in which they were generated.[14] These symbols must necessarily be robust enough to retain the content of those thoughts in the process of transiting the exterior world and reentering another mind, where they offer up whatever content they still possess, thus enabling the second mind to engage the source.[15] Without some such transference of thought, created beings[16] could never consciously participate in communion with one another. If, for example, it were not possible for one person to know how another understands and experiences the Eucharist, how would they know that they are participating in the same activity—how could they know whether or not they were in communion with one another?

As I see it language, then, reflects the uniquely human[17] ability to communicate ideas, emotions, and desires, by means of voluntarily produced symbols.[18] The basic components of this faculty include: (1) thoughts generated by the mind; (2) symbols and combinations of symbols to which meanings or interpretations are assigned in order to mediate thought; and (3) a means of communication utilizable for a wide variety of social interaction.[19]

2.1 Thought: The Speech of Interiority

Thought is the product of the mind (nous) and, as such, is limited to personal (hypostasized) beings or entities. In general terms it contains and expresses the knowledge, intention, motivation, and desires of these beings.[20] More specifically, human thought also includes all knowledge acquired by means of participation in the uncreated being of God (through the Eucharist, the Holy Scriptures, etc.) and through communion with other created beings.

This internal world of thought is, of course, not to be equated with ordinary language, since it is possible to think without words or speech. Some recent research indicates that thought is actually a kind of “mental graphics system, with operations that rotate, scan, zoom, pan, displace, and fill patterns of contours.”[21] The graphic-like representations underlying thought contain vast amounts of information and are processed by a kind of internal speech—a mentalese of interiority[22]—which is used to mediate thought internally by the assignment of word-meanings[23] and then externally by structured arrangements of signs.

2.2 Speech: Internal and External

There are, then, two spheres of speech: an inner, purely meaning- and semantic-based speech that we use for ourselves (privately); and an external speech, which, because it has a phonetic component, can be used for others (inter-personally). While both forms are rightly called speech—thought connected with words[24]—internal speech is distinguished from external speech by several characteristics. First, the meanings assigned to words (symbols)[25] internally tend to incorporate the sum of all associations aroused by that word.[26] Rather than admitting to a single meaning, each word-meaning actually encompasses a complex whole comprising many layers of meaning, some of which are more stable and precise than others. While the most stable layers become primary, inner lexical meanings, every layer—however dynamic or unstable—figures into the word-meaning complex. There is, therefore, no such thing as a word (symbol) without meaning(s), since the assigning of meaning is itself a function of thought and because meaning is a criterion of “word”—its indispensable component.[27]

Second, these word-meanings are combined (agglutinated) using an internal set of rules in order to form structured statements (sentences), the vocalization of which can be used to communicate with other persons.[28] One of the fundamental challenges related to externalizing internal speech stems from the fact that these internal word-meaning combinations are so saturated with sense that transferring them to overt speech requires a multitude of words.[29] In fact, any attempt to communicate internal word-meanings to another person via external speech forces a kind of truncation, since only a small portion of the meaning—usually primary lexical meaning(s)—can efficiently be put into words. Internal speech is, therefore, not simply an “interior aspect of external speech—it is a function in itself”[30] which, to a large extent, deals in pure meanings. Although the internal language of thought might vaguely resemble ordinary language, people do not actually think in English or French or German. Of course, “it could be that English speakers think in some kind of simplified and annotated quasi-English.”[31] And yet, if created beings are to commune by participating in each others thoughts, it would not be unreasonable to expect their respective versions of mentalese to be more alike than are their spoken counterparts. In fact, I should like to think that Pinker is right in suggesting that they are actually identical—that human beings share in a kind of universal mentalese.[32]

2.3 Language

While the concept of inner speech—thinking and meaning assignment—helps us conceptualize the way in which an individual created being processes that which is known by the mediating agency of the logos, it is speech's external expression—language—which holds the key to understanding how that knowledge can be transferred from one created being to another, thereby enabling communion. As I have already indicated, “each person's brain contains a lexicon of words and the concepts they stand for (a mental dictionary) and a set of rules that combine the words to convey relationships among concepts (a mental grammar).”[33] “Knowing a language, then, is knowing how to translate mentalese into strings of words and vice versa.”[34]

What I find compelling here is that the process itself as well as its basic parameters[35] seems to be universal. According to Noam Chomsky, they “constitute a framework for thought and language and are common to the languages of the world… Though words may not match precisely across languages, the conceptual framework in which they find their place is a common human property.”[36] Accordingly, all languages could be viewed as “composites of a finite number of more elementary factors.”[37] Thus, different combinations of a relatively small number of linguistic building blocks, governed by a universal set of grammatical rules, could easily result in a large number of human languages.[38]

These underlying linguistic similarities—universal grammar—should not come as a surprise, if, as I have suggested, the primary purpose of the human language faculty is to facilitate communion between created beings. In fact, it is reasonable, on this view, to expect that human languages, in spite of all their differences, would turn out to be commensurable. Thus, if two different languages are built from the same basic components, “with only the proportions and arrangements being different,”[39] then we can easily posit algorithms for transforming/translating one into the other, which would facilitate the effective transfer of thought from one created being to another.

3. Estrangement: On the Ontological and Linguistic effects of Sin

Although the human language faculty was given for the purpose of facilitating communion between created beings, its intended function has been severely disrupted by the fall into sin. It is in this connection that we face the limitations and dangers inherent in created beings left to their own devices—a state of affairs on which human beings have so tenaciously insisted. Determined to escape contingency by claiming to be their own ultimate point of ontological reference, human beings have succeed only in trading one form of contingency for another. Positing their own being with reference to themselves rather than to the uncreated being of God, they have abandoned the contingency of participation, which would have brought fully realized being, truth and communion, in favor of a self-referencing contingency—a choice which results in death, fallacy, and isolation. The fall, then, consists in a refusal to participate in the life upon which created existence depends, the tragic result of which is a relational rupture with ontological and linguistic consequences.[40]

3.1. Communion Lost: The Ontological Consequences of Sin

The very idea of having to submit to or acknowledge the being of God is a direct challenge to the autonomy assumed (or insisted upon) by self-referencing creatures. Cut off from life-giving communion with God, self-contingent beings feed on themselves and must, necessarily, degenerate and die. It is only by the grace of God that these beings do not simply blink out of existence. Yet, during the brief existence that they are afforded, they stubbornly rely on their own limited resources, unwilling to learn from the knowledge mediated by the logos, unable to realize or even to recognize their own place and potential within creation—post-communal (or a-communal) human being and life is thus reduced to mere existence.

The refusal to submit to dependency results in the fact of created existence assuming priority over being in any relation. Self-referencing creatures are no more likely to relate to other created beings than to their creator—at least not until they attempt to secure their own ontological identity. In this state, the notion of individuality becomes so overwhelming that the rest of the world appears as nothing more than a plethora of “objects” whose ontological status the individual may or may not choose to acknowledge. Until others are recognized, however, communion remains impossible. And yet, absent communion, every other existing entity remains a provocation, a potential challenge to one's self.[41] What then remains of communion or even the desire for communion, if creaturely existence is degraded to being in opposition?

3.2 Communion Lost: The Linguistic Consequences of Sin

In this fallen context, the God-given faculty of speech, which was to have facilitated communion, is actually used to resist communion. It loses much of its intended effectiveness, is idolized, and is even turned against the creator. This is not meant to suggest that language itself is evil. However, if created beings reject being in relation, then the faculties possessed by virtue of having been created in the image of God are, like the creature itself, come to be divorced from the knowledge and the energies that were intended to inform their application and enable their use. As a result, the human faculty of speech, like every other faculty, is degraded, becoming contingent on the limitedness of self-referencing beings. It is not difficult to imagine ways in which language can be pressed into the service of being in opposition.

Language in the hands of fallen creatures can be used to give expression to and accomplish many of the passions;[42] angry words hurled at an opponent, scorn heaped on the disrespected, lies used to hide, sarcasm to belittle the weak. In the interest of establishing one's self, language is used to exert power, establish dominance, confuse, hurt, misinform, and intimidate (cf. II Kings 18: 26ff). A particularly insidious example is the gossip and verbal abuse transmitted via e-mail, where, hiding behind the near anonymity of the medium, people say things they would not dare say face to face—moving farther and farther away from even the possibility of communion. If language, in the service of sin, is used to explore the ontological status of another created being, it enables the one who wields it to shape opinions based on their own pre-understandings and perceptions, thus destroying the possibility of communion. When language is used to investigate divinity, its finite capabilities invent descriptions of divine being which are actually affirmations of human beings’ own ontology, producing a kind of pseudo-truth devoid of real knowledge and communion.

As communion and the state of individuals degenerate, the use of language itself becomes increasingly difficult—ineffective and inefficient. Take, for example, the problem of ambiguity, which arises out of the computational disparity between the mind (thought) and language.[43] Given the limitations of verbalized (or written) speech, it is not always possible for the listener to know which of several possible meanings a spoken (written) word might have. If true communion were to exist between language users, the intended meaning of a given word would be readily recognized. However, in the absence of communion, intentions are often hidden and ambiguity can be deliberately misused in order to gain advantage. The difficulty is also exacerbated by the expectation of some ill will or untoward intention—experience causes us to ascribe the worst possible meanings and intentions. With misunderstanding and linguistic abuse so prevalent, the limitations of language are exaggerated, just as the richness of language is abandoned in favor of lowest-common-denominator sterility. Far from facilitating communion, language is reduced to a relatively problematic transfer of information.

But, even as it becomes more difficult to use, its perceived importance increases.[44] Created beings unable to achieve communion say little, but generate ever more talk for fear of silence. Given the apparent indispensability of language, it is often idolized, its status raised from that of a communion-facilitating tool in the hands of created beings to that of an autonomous creator of meaning, context, culture, even being itself.[45] In what has to be one of the strangest twists of creation's fall, that which was created in order to mediate knowledge and facilitate communion is itself worshiped as a creator, thereby eliminating the possibility of communion and mediating the biggest lie of all.

Finally, I should point out that, because language is so closely related to communion and a sense of belonging, it is often used in an attempt to create a pseudo-communion, a creature-based unity at cross purposes with God's intentions. The most infamous example of this connection is the great project of Babel (Gen. 11). Joining forces based on their ability to communicate, human beings continued their rebellion, their refusal to submit to divine authority. In order to minimize the prospects of such events in the future, God disrupted the unity by confusing the languages—a small thing given the nature of language. He simply rearranged and reemphasized some of the elemental linguistic parameters, thereby triggering a proliferation of mutual incomprehensibility. Ironically the very faculty given by God in order to facilitate genuine communion now serves as a divine deterrent to contingent collaboration, not because language itself is in some way defective, but because self-referencing creatures reject being in communion.

4. Divine Remediation: Incarnation and Pentecost

In order for language to be restored to its intended use as an instrument of communion, several things must happen: 1) human nature must be healed of corruption, freed from death, and brought back into communion with the divine uncreated being of God; 2) the tainted human needs to be cleansed and forgiven of its manifold sins, renewing the possibility of communion in the process; and 3) the linguistic consequences of the fall and the divine confounding of human language must be reversed. The first two were accomplished in the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ, the third through the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

4.1 Communion Restored: Incarnation, Death and Resurrection of Christ

In the incarnation of Christ, uncreated and created natures were reunited and the full potential of being as communion was demonstrated—human nature fully participating in and therefore possessing sanctifying communion with the triune God. Yet, it would take more than a demonstration to offset the effects of humanity's rejection of that communion—the corruption of its very nature, its being, and the inevitable result, death. What was required was far more than an attempt to assuage the offended honor of God and much more than an effort to still His anger. Before created beings could again participate in the life of divine communion, the curse of death itself had to be defeated. Indeed, the mystery of the cross is that Christ used the very consequence of human sin, death, to defeat death itself. There is, of course, an element of expiation (a canceling of sin) involved in what Christ did. [46] But this represents only one aspect of what was accomplished through Christ’s passion, for even death was not able to dissolve the divine-human union in Christ, and as a result of this “incorrupt” death,[47] Christ “imparted life to death itself.”[48] The redemption achieved by Christ on the cross was, thus, “not just the forgiveness of sins, nor was it man’s reconciliation with God.”[49] It was, rather, the final victory over sin and death, the abolition of corruption and mortality in human nature. It was, as the Paschal hymn teaches, Christ trampling down death by death. The triumph over death was subsequently actualized in the resurrection and “opens the ontological possibility of the general resurrection at the end of the ages”[50] as well as the possibility of created beings realizing, even now, their full ontological potential through participation in the life of communion with God. Christ’s resurrection is concrete evidence that the grip of death has been broken, that being in communion is again possible.

In the case of this healing of created nature no human appropriation is required. It has already been accomplished by Christ, and its concretization at the general resurrection includes all of humanity. In the words of Florovsky, “Nature is healed and restored with a certain compulsion, by the mighty power of God’s omnipotent and invincible grace. The wholeness is in a way forced upon human nature. For in Christ all human nature…is fully and completely cured from unwholeness and mortality.”[51]

But the “wholeness” that resulted from Christ’s death and resurrection, only establishes the possibility of communion. In order for communion—being in relation—to become a reality, the human will must be healed. And yet, “the will of man cannot be cured in the same invincible manner (as death); for the whole meaning of the healing of the will is in its free conversion.”[52] The healing of the will thus requires a voluntary abandonment of being in opposition and an equally willed submission to dependency on and participation in the life of the Trinity. Communion is restored only as a result of a genuine turning to God in life-long repentance, faith, and love—a process that has a clear beginning and a definite goal.[53] So, we have been saved by the work of Christ into which we enter by faith and repentance, as expressed in baptism and chrismation. We are being saved as we journey through life in repentance, obedience, and communion. On this journey the Church aids us through its sacraments (in particular the Eucharist), its teaching, and the communion of all the Saints. And finally, we will be saved when we are in full communion with God and reach the final goal, which some of the Fathers call deification.[54]

4.2 Language Restored: Pentecost

Once an individual begins to participate in the life of the Trinity the need for effective inter-human transfer of the knowledge mediated by the logos becomes apparent. On the one hand, this involves facilitating communion with other members of the Eucharistic community and, on the other hand, proclaiming the logos to those outside that communion. However, even though spiritually regenerated individuals might, among themselves, begin to make proper use of the speech faculty, they will still face the language degrading consequences of the fall and Babel—unless God Himself undertakes to reverse those consequences.

Indeed, the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was intended to do just that, to overcome the linguistic consequences of sin and to restore the possibility of a communion facilitating use of the human speech faculty and its attendant languages. As illustrated in the two hymns below, the Church views Pentecost as a reversal of Babel:

Once, when He descended and confounded the tongues, the Most High divided the nations; and when He distributed the tongues of fire He called all men into unity; and with one accord we glorify the All-Holy Spirit.[55]


Thou hast renewed Thy disciples with foreign tongues, O Christ, that they might therewith proclaim Thee, the immortal Word and God Who granteth our souls great mercy.[56]


In both hymns, the work of the Spirit is described as reversing the effects of Babel and enabling the disciples effectively to proclaim the Gospel. The first hymn speaks of a renewed communion with God, based not on a single, reunified human language, but on a supra-linguistic unity of doxological oneness in the Holy Spirit. This, of course, is most readily evident in the Eucharistic community, regardless of particular languages. In the second hymn we encounter the idea of an effective proclamation of the Gospel. Yet, there is no mention of a single language, but rather a renewal of the disciples with foreign tongues. It is, thus, the linguistically enabling work of the Holy Spirit, and not a reunified, single language that reverses the effects of Babel.

While Christ comes into the world as the Word sent and authenticated by the Father (Jn 12:49, 14:10 14:24), the actual application of that witness to the human situation is the work of the Holy Spirit.[57] The Holy Spirit is, of course, not the Word. However, it can be said that the Spirit facilitates the mediation of that Word by validating the Word and the Christian witness thereof.

This is illustrated at the Baptism of Christ, where He is confirmed in His role by the descending Holy Spirit (Mt 3:13, 4:1, Lk 4:1). St. John tells us that the Spirit will remind us of everything Christ has taught (Jn 14:26) and guide us into all truth (Jn 16:13). In a more direct statement the Evangelist equates the Word with the Spirit (Jn 6:63), explaining that it is the communion between the two that makes the Word so effective and why it leads to faith. St. Paul insists that it is the Spirit of God who validates that which has been received (tradition) as the true words of Christ himself (I Cor 7:10)[58]. It is this historical Word, which is given and, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, passed on to and actualized in successive generations, without alteration.

This testimonium Spiritus Sancti can also be seen in its continuation in present-day evangelism. When the faithful, in obedience to Christ's command, proclaim the Gospel, what takes place is not simply a repetition, not just an application, but also a renewed stating of the word—an actualization of that which is spoken—which, because of the Spirit's work, proves itself to be the word of God. Thus, it is the participation in the work of the Spirit of God, and not our linguistic skill, which enables us effectively to mediate what we ourselves have learned in our communion with the logos.


I have come full circle. God has indeed spoken. His thoughts are a part of the inner Trinitarian communion, which is the very essence of His being—being as communion. Some of those thoughts have been actualized in the form of created beings:

  • Whose being, contingent upon divine will, can only fully be realized by means of voluntary participation in the life of the Trinity mediated by the logoscontingent communion.
  • Whose speech faculty has been provided as an instrument of facilitating communion—being in relation.
  • Whose refusal to submit to contingency destroyed communion and degraded communication—being in opposition.
  • Who by turning to God in life-long repentance, faith and love can restore communion with God and the Eucharistic community.
  • Who with the aid of the Holy Spirit can, once again, participate in communion and the effective proclamation of the Word.

[1] Based on a lecture given at the 2003 annual meeting of the Arbeitskreis für evangelikale Missiologie. Cf. Klaus W. Müller Gott zur Sprache Bringen, Referate der Jahrestagung 2003 der Arbeitskreises für evangelikale Missiologie. (Nürnberg: Verlage für Theologie und Religionswissenschaft, 2003), 9-25.

[2] John D. Zizioulas, Being as Communion (Crestwood: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1997), 84. Zizioulas points out that by connecting the being of the Son with the substance of God, Athanasius develops the relational aspect of divine being as an ontological category, i.e., “that communion belongs not to the level of will and action but to that of substance.” Being as Communion, 85-86.

[3] Cf. Athanasius Contra Arianos I:20 “If the Son was not there before He was born, there would be no truth in God, which implies that it is the Father-Son relationship that makes God be the truth eternally in Himself.” Cited in Zizioulas, Being as Communion, 85.

[4] Speaking of the Cappadocians’ identification of hypostasis with prosopon, Zizioulas states that “this latter term is relational, and was so when adopted in Trinitarian theology. This meant that from now on a relational term entered into ontology and, conversely, that an ontological category such as hypostasis entered the relational categories of existence. To be and to be in relation becomes identical.” Zizioulas, Being as Communion, 88.

[5] Zizioulas asserts that “if God’s being is by nature relational, and if it can be signified by the word ‘substance’ can we not then conclude almost inevitably that, given the ultimate character of God’s being for all ontology, substance inasmuch as it signifies the ultimate character of being, can be conceived only as communion?” Being as Communion, 84. What Zizioulas means is “that communion is not added to the being of God, as something transitory, but is the being of God and as such is an eternal ‘being’ or reality.” Aristotle Papanikolaou, “Divine Energies or Divine Personhood: Vladimir Lossky and John Zizioulas on Conceiving the Transcendent and Immanent God” in Modern Theology, 19(2003): 366.

[6] There is no inner necessity, which makes creation necessary or inevitable. Whether it exists or not is a matter of God’s free choice and neither its existence nor its non-existence affects the nature of God. “The true reality of the universe is secured, in a startling way, precisely by its being unnecessary to God’s own being… The existence of the world is the miracle of the Divine Freedom.” Georges Florovsky, “The Idea of Creation in Christian Philosophy” Eastern Churches Quarterly 8 (1949), 55.

[7] “Gregory of Nazianzus, for example, speaks of ‘images of the world’ as thoughts of God…Only when He creates in time do they become ‘reality.’” John Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology (New York: Fordham, 1974), 131.

[8] Speaking of the patristic use of the terms “participation” and “communion,” Zizioulas asserts that “participation is used only for creatures in their relation with God, and never for God in his relation to creation…the truth of creation is a dependent truth, while the truth of God’s being is communion itself…this conclusion implies that reality or the truth of created existence…is dependent upon something else, in which it participates; this is truth as communion by participation.” Being as Communion, 94.

[9]  “It is according to St. Basil and St. Gregory of Nyssa that in the world only the Divine energies, the active forces of the Divine goodness, are manifested and operate; and it is only these energies which are comprehensible and accessible to us in our relations with God…Yet these energies are God Himself. The depths of the essence of God, dwelling in light unapproachable, are closed for us forever, But what is comprehensible of Him, God has revealed by His operations in the world. By them we can contemplate His eternal Divinity and power.” Florovsky, The Idea of Creation, 67-68. According to St. Gregory Palamas the energies are “deifying powers which proceed from God and come down to us, creating substance, giving life, and granting wisdom.” Triads, The Classics of Western Spirituality (Mahwah: Paulist Press, 1983), 94.

[10]Hesychasts, for example, sought to discipline their passions and enter into complete communion with God and “at a certain point, when the human being abandons the created sphere, where the mind is active, every movement stops. Prayer ceases. Here is perfection, the fulfillment of prayer.” Archimandrite Christoforos Stavropoulos, Partakers of Divine Nature (Minneapolis: Light and Life Publishing Company, 1976), 74. “They asked Abbot Macarius: how should one pray? The old man answered: There is no need to waste time with words.” Cited in John Meyendorf, St. Gregory Palamas and Orthodox Spirituality, (Crestwood: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1974), 18.

[11]Zizioulas, Being as Communion, 80-81.

[12]“The life of the eucharist is the life of God Himself…It is the life of communion with God, such as exists within the Trinity and is actualized within the members of the Eucharistic community.” Ibid., 81.

[13]If, as Ireneaus suggested, knowledge and communion are identical, (cf. Zizioulas, Being as Communion, 81) then we may need to expand our understanding of the scope of such agency to include the incarnation itself, the Eucharist (His body and blood), the Church (His body), the Holy Scriptures (His word), etc.

[14]See, for example, Ferdinand de Saussure’s speech circuit in Course In General Linguistics (Chicago: Open Court, 1997), 11-13.

[15]Saussure uses the term “sign” to refer to “the combination of a concept and a sound pattern,” signified and signifier. Ibid., 67. In doing so he “’phonocentrically’ privileged the spoken word.” Daniel Chandler, Semiotics: The Basics (New York: Routledge, 2002), 20. On the many other ways in which the concept of sign is used see Umberto Eco, Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986), 14-18.

[16]It may be possible to view communication as a process with no social or cultural dimensions, i.e., as a process by which “information is transmitted between two mechanical devices.” Umberto Eco, A Theory of Semiotics. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1979), 32. However, “human language is far more than a mere system of communication: Language is used for expression of thought, for establishing interpersonal relations with no particular concern for communication, for play, and for a variety of other human ends.” Noam Chomsky, Language and Problems of Knowledge (Cambridge: MIT Press 1988), 38.

[17]According to Chomsky, “language appears to be a true species property, unique to the human species in its essentials and a common part of our shared biological endowment, with little variation among humans apart from rather serious pathology.” Language and Problems of Knowledge, 2. See Steven Pinker The Language Instinct. How the Mind Creates Language (New York: Perennial Classic, 2000), 1-11.

[18]Edward Sapir defines language as “a purely human and non-instinctive method of communicating ideas, emotions and desires by means of a system of voluntarily produced symbols.” Language. An Introduction to the Study of Speech (New York: Harcourt and Brace, 1921), 8.

[19]Roy Harris, The Language Machine (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987), 22.

[20]Lev Vygotsky, Thought and Language (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1997), 252.

[21]Pinker, The Language Instinct, 63.

[22]Emmanuel Levinas. Totality and Infinity (Pittsburg: Duquesne University Press, 1969), 252.

[23]Vygostsky claims that “word-meaning” is the internal aspect of “word” and the basic unit of verbal thought; “thought is mediated by signs externally, but it is also mediated internally by word-meanings. Communication can be achieved only in a roundabout way. Thought must first pass through meanings and only then through words.” Thought and Language , 252.

[24]Vygotsky asserts that inner speech—thought—functions as a kind of draft for both oral and written speech. Thought and Language, 242.

[25]Cf. Ray Jackendoff, Languages of the Mind. Essays on Mental Representation (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1999), 55-57.

[26] When speaking of internal speech, some authors distinguish between the sense of a word and its meaning. “The sense of a word…is the sum of all the psychological events aroused in our consciousness by the word. It is a dynamic, fluid, complex whole, which has several zones of unequal stability. Meaning is only one of the zones of sense, the most stable and precise zone.” Vygotsky, Thought and Language, 244-245.

[27]Vygotsky cites Dostoevsky, who speaks of “a thought that will not enter words” and Gleb Uspensky’s peasant who, speaking of thoughts, complains that “it is as if they are all here, in my head, but cannot slip from the tongue.” Thought and Language, 252.

[28]This process is rooted in what Noam Chomsky called a universal grammar. On Language (New York: The New Press, 1998), 180-194; Language and Problems of Knowledge,61-65; Pinker, The Language Instinct, 74-75; Mark C. Baker, Atoms of Language: The Mind’s Hidden Rules of Grammar (New York: Basic Books, 2001), 44-45.

[29]Vygotsky observes that “a thought may be compared to a cloud shedding a shower of words.” Thought and Language, 251.

[30]Ibid., 249.

[31]Pinker, The Language Instinct, 73.

[32]Ibid., 73.

[33] Ibid., 76

[34] Ibid., 73.

[35]This term, used by Chomsky, refers to the basic building blocks of language—those elements which allow the user to make choices that affect the shape a particular language takes. Language and Problems of Knowledge, 67-68.

[36]Ibid., 32.

[37]Baker, The Atoms of Language, 22.

[38]Based on two principles: (1) the arbitrariness of sign; and, (2) the infinite use of finite media. Pinker, The Language Instinct, 75.

[39]Baker, The Atoms of Language, 23.

[40]Zizioulas, Being as Communion, 102.

[41]Ibid., 103.

[42]As used by the Fathers of the Church, the passions refer to all those attributes and abilities, which either have been turned to evil use, such as anger, hunger, lust, and fear, or have become part of human nature because of sin, such as greed, anger, gluttony, etc.

[43] Pinker, The Language Instinct, 69-70.

[44]Cf. Geoffrey Galt Harpham, Language Alone. The Critical Fetish of Modernity (New York: Routlage, 2002).

[45]There are many examples of this idolization of language. Consider the frightening image painted by Michel Foucault of humanity's face etched in the sand of a beach being washed away by the waves of language. The Order of Things. An Archaeology of the Human Sciences (New York: Vintage Books, 1994), 382-387. See also Richard Rorty's idea of contingent language, that “most of reality is indifferent to our descriptions of it, and that… the human self is created by the use of a vocabulary rather than being adequately expressed in vocabulary.” Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 7.

[46] There is considerable debate as to the exact meaning of the Greek word group to which such terms as expiation and propitiation belong. It has been noted that Greek usage outside the Scriptures involve an averting of wrath. However, some have argued for a specifically biblical (LXX and NT) usage “according to which it denotes expiation (the cancellation of sin), not propitiation (the turning away of the wrath of God).” Leon Morris. “Propitiation” in Baker’s Dictionary of Theology, Everett F. Harrison ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1960), 425.

[47] “In other words, though separated in death, the soul and the body remained still united through the Divinity of the Word, from which neither was ever estranged…This does not alter the ontological character of death, but changed its meaning. This was an ‘incorrupt’ death, and therefore corruption and death were overcome in it, and in it begins the resurrection. The very death of the incarnate reveals the resurrection of human nature.” Georges Florovsky, Creation and Redemption (Belmont: Nordland Publishing, 1976), 136.

[48] Jordan Bajis, Common Ground. An Introduction to Eastern Christianity for the American Christian (Minneapolis: Light and Life Publishing, 1996), 236.

[49] Florovsky, Creation and Redemption, 225.

[50] Symeon Rodger, “The Soteriology of Anselm of Canterbury, An Orthodox Perspective.” Greek Orthodox Theological Review 34(1989): 38.

[51] Florovsky, Creation and Redemption, 147.

[52] Ibid, 148.

[53] The New Testament clearly speaks of salvation in the past, the present, and the future tenses. See E.M.B. Greene. The Meaning of Salvation (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1965).

[54]Defined as a union or communion with God, which is so complete that it can be said of man that he is like God. Georgios I. Mantzaridis, The Deification of Man (Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1984), 21-22. Cf. 2 Peter 1:3, 4; John 10:34.

[55]Kontakion of the Feast of Pentecost. The Pentecostarion (Boston: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1990), 412.

[56] Lord I Call  verse of Vespers of Pentecost. Ibid., 404.

[57]Otto Weber, Grundlagen der Dogmatic (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1962), 2: 276-279.

[58]Ibid., 2:278.