For a brief post: our language impacts the way we think. It impacts the way we think not because we have some ethereal ‘cognizer’ separated from the body, but because our brain is intimately connected to the body such that language causes us to think of and experience things we have bodily experienced in the past. Language is an embodied reality, both in embodiment making meaning possible and in language bringing forth new bodily realities. Further, as linguistic determinism, both in its hard and soft varieties, stipulates, language influences the way we think. So, as language impacts the worldview through which we see the world, our worldview is embodied with us, both in our memories of experiences of the world but also the way we are inclined to interact with the world around us. Language creates the embodiment of our worldview.
Consequently, language creates real experiences, particularly the more often we use specific type of language. When I hear the word “love” I often think of a woman who I deeply care for and I experience a sense of optimism and hope not just in my mind, but my body. Language forms our experiences, both in repeated similar experiences from the past and creating new experiences. Therefore, one of the principal causes of religious experience is our language. Our language determines how we experience our religion and faith. This is an unavoidable reality that we all deal with. This doesn’t mean, however, that ALL religious experience is reducible to language, or other ‘natural’ phenomenon. The word “love” may prepare someone to receive the recipient of their love, but if their beloved comes, the word prepares them for a non-linguistic experience of seeing and being near the person. Similarly, our religious language can form our experience, but it may also be preparatory in coming before the active, living God.
Yet, there is something we can never be certain of off-hand. Is my experience of God really me experience of the word ‘God’ that exists in my mind and embodied within us, or is my experience of God really the active, living God? It is impossible to directly reflect on this rationally and know with confidence, as our reason is endebted to our language, and so our reflection on our experience will inevitably be owing to language. You can’t directly analyze if one’s experience of God is from the living God. Consequently, we can not be sure by self-reference and introspection that we really experiencing God in addition to have an embodied experience of the language and thinking that we associated with God. We can recognize changes and transformation in our lives and we can trust that God is the one doing these things, but you can’t really tell by inner reflection if God is truly the one doing what you notice within yourself.
Therefore, in order to be confident our experience of God is really God in addition to our embodied worldview, we must discover and learn from God. Thus, the words of Christ and continuing in them are important for training us to experience the living God. It is only because Christ is the Word made flesh that we can have those words expressed by an embodied human being that we can receive these words in such a way that they embody us to be in communion with the Father as the Son is in communion with the Father. Jesus’ words, not our own language and thoughts about God extricated from Jesus’ words, are the necessary conditions for the embodiment of our worldview to reliable commune and comprehend the living active God, in our life.
In other words, if you don’t learn carefully from the Christ of the Gospels, you won’t readily recognize the work of the Holy Spirit in yourself and in the world. You may recognize wonders, like many did in John 2.23-25, and believe in the name of Christ, but one must continue in Jesus’ word to be free from our sin so that being free from slavery to sin one can readily recognize the activity of God in the world. Anything less than this and you may primarily be having a religious experience of one’s own language and worldview, a very real experience. You may perceive God’s works somewhere in the midst of this condition and maybe God will do something dramatic in your life, but unless God shows you signs and wonders, your religious experience won’t be formed to comprehend the greater fullness and subtly of God’s work in the world. It doesn’t mean God isn’t working in your life, but you may not be understanding the work of God in your life as accurately as you might think.
So, continue in Jesus’ words, which gives us the liberating truth that frees us to comprehend Christ fully in accordance to His type of sacrificial love He invites His disciples to embody, rather than simply knowing Christ according to power and authority, which Jesus routinely reminds the disciples does not define the way they should see Him, their relationship to Jesus, or their relationships to each other.