The word “God,” as it appears in our English version of the creed, is Deum in the Latin of Ambrose’s letter of 390, a genitive form of Deo. Although, if tradition is accepted, its original form would have been the Greek word, Theos. All of these terms beg consideration, as none of them originated inside of divine revelation. Though Theos appears in the text of the New Testament, it was a re-appropriation from pagan origins. The same held true for our English transliteration. In the Old English, both “God” and “good” were one word, god. And because English is a Germanic dialect, and the source of our word, “god,” we find use of Luther’s explanation on the German root, Gott:
We Germans from times of old also call God by the very name ‘God,’ [Gott] derived from the word good [gut], because He is an eternal foundation which gushes forth nothing but the good and from which flows all that is good.
The significance of this linguistic re-contextualization of pagan terms for deity seems, in spite of its claim of ecumenism, to render our English version, transliterated by provincial synod, a Eurocentric statement.
After all, the Gothic tribes had long identified themselves as descendants of the gods by the same root word (goth/gott). Imagine the perspective of the Mongol peoples, relative to this terminology, so recently engaged in recurrent wars against the Ostrogoths. To their minds such a creed would be unthinkable. And even the Latin and Greek corollaries, Deo and Theos, are derived of the same Indo-European root, Tywos or Tiu, otherwise known provincially among the Northern tribes as Thau, Tyr, or Thor. So, even in its original form, and even if drafted by actual Apostles, the core terminology of the creed is, as we speak it, distinctly European. Though White neo-churchmen may, as a matter of their broader denial of peoplehood, ignore this fact, it does not go unnoticed by Christians of other races.
This reality has caused no small problems in matters of missions and translation for use amongst non-Europeans. In the case of the Arab peoples, for instance, they insist that Allah is their standard and basic word for true deity. Despite all protestation on the part of orthodox Christians, translators (Wycliffe publishing, among others) have lately conceded to the Arab world’s argument, transcribing Bibles and study resources with the term Allah in the place of God.1 While we find that name, with all of its baggage of moon worship, monism, and historical Jihad against Christendom, wholly incongruous with the identity of the one true God, the Arab world sees in our objections only Eurocentrism and “racism” (whatever that means). In cases of such linguistic incompatibility, orthodox Christians have supplied those cultures more appropriate words from our own lexicons. But this adds to the insult and adds steam to claims of “colonialism.,” all of which further impedes any possible sense of continuity or claim of a common faith between our peoples.
So, what are we to say of this? Is our rejection of Allah as an acceptable approximation of God/Deo/Theos (our own folk terms) some form of arbitrary prejudice and hypocrisy on our part?
Not at all. On the contrary, if, as tradition has it, the creed originated amongst the Apostles, their use of the Greek Theos, following the New Testament’s repeated usage of the same, clearly makes it a fit instrument. And as we’ve said, that term is acknowledged as a derivation from the oldest Indo-European (the likely language of Japheth) word for “God,” which found its way into all the subsequent European tongues, in one form or another, “Deo” and “deity” included.
In his fourth century commentary on the creed, Rufinus of Aquileia defined God thus:
“God,” so far as the human mind can form an idea, is the name of that nature or substance which is above all things.2
We likewise find St. Anselm’s famed ontological argument following this definition, describing Deo as “that than which none greater can be conceived.” This, then, is an affirmation of the Germanic word, Gott (and the English, God), which we recall Luther defining as “the good from which flows all that is good.”
For our history testifies:
The German religion . . . of ancient times gradually fell from the simple adoration of one invisible Deity. . . . [T]he worship of the heroes took refuge with the fugitive Norwegians in Iceland, where were preserved the sacred books of the Edda, in which . . . even the first doctrine of existence of the one invisible God, are again recognizable among the ingenius fables of the heroes. According to these books, the most ancient god is Allfadur, the invisible and eternal Creator and Preserver, the Father of the Universe . . . who will one day destroy [the lesser gods] and the present world, and create a new one in its stead. The three Nornen [fates] . . . are regarded as continually proceeding from him. . . . Allfadur alone reigned over the boundless void.3
As Providence would have it, European man, even in his paganism, seems to have retained words and forms by his bardic traditions, and peculiarities of psychology underlying them, which harken back to the Noahic religion of old. These concepts and archetypes have proven much more facilitative of the Christian covenant than have the cultural tropes of other peoples. Of course, Alienists cavil that this amounts to saying the White race is without need of grace. But this accusation only demonstrates their heterodoxy, because their definition of grace precludes God’s election and the means of preconditioning by which He draws men unto Himself.
These preconditions of the heart are “the good soil” spoken of in the parable of the sower (Lk. 8:8) and the quality of noble-mindedness attributed to the pre-conversion Bereans (Acts 17:11). Contrast this with the apparently post-conversion Cretans, regarding whom Paul quotes Epimenides, saying, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, idle gluttons” (Tit. 1:12). So it is no surprise for us to find Christ concluding the parable of the sower by saying, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Lk. 8:8). The hearing, understanding, and earnest reception of the seed depends upon the precondition of the soil. And in this neither can we boast, for the condition of the soil, too, depends upon Him whom Van Til called “The All-Conditioner,” God Almighty.4 This is presuppositionalism writ large over the course of human history and the legacy of the West, because we are here addressing the preconditions to the intelligibility of human experience, especially as it pertains to divine revelation abbreviated in the creed.
Worse, the issue of finding appropriate substitutes for the word “God” isn’t the only dilemma: in Africa, early evangelists and Bible translators were struck by the insufficiency of all African languages for the purpose of communicating Christian concepts, for the tribes were found to have no word in any one dialect equivalent to “covenant,” “oath,” “bond,” “contract,” “pledge,” or “promise.” Under the circumstance of these linguistic shortcomings, our fathers’ translational work, relaying the Scripture in words which the African might understand, created written corollaries of the same (for the African had no written forms), and set about teaching the Black man to read his own languages. Therein our fathers’ remedy for the dearth of vocabulary was splicing together, or hyphenating existing African words to coin approximations of the biblical concepts. So the covenant was communicated using terms like “chained-to,” “tethered,” etc., which were all the language of slavery. As slavery had always been the most mundane fact of life to the Negro, his vocabulary was ample enough in that respect.
But the trouble went deeper still: the African’s problem wasn’t, at root, a lack of vocabulary, but a lack of the covenantal concepts themselves. There was a psychological vacancy back of the linguistic vacancy. This is why Christians in times past spoke of the languages of Ham as “heretic tongues”5 – not so much because they were the tongues of heretics, but due to the fact that the languages were themselves heretical and, to the same extent, of dubious reformability. Here again, Alienists will grouse that we (and the historic church) are denying the power of Christ to reform sinners. Nothing could be further from the truth. No, we’re saying that unless one has ears to hear, he cannot hear (Lk. 8:8), and God, the All-Conditioner, is He who gives men ears, and conversely, who also withholds them.
Along these lines, Augustine testifies:
Noah commends his sons Shem and Japheth in his prophetic benediction, since he knew, by prophetic insight, what was to happen in the far-distant future. Hence it was that he also cursed his middle son [Ham]. . . . [T]he historical fulfillment of these prophecies has come about in the posterity of these sons, the things which were concealed have been abundantly revealed. . . . Again, the name Ham means ‘hot’; and Noah’s middle son, separating himself, as it were, from both others, and keeping his position between them, is included neither in the first-fruits of Israel nor in the full harvest of the Gentiles, and he can only stand for the hot breed of heretics. . . . In contrast, Shem and Japheth, representing circumcision and uncircumcision, or Judeans and Greeks, in the Apostles’ terminology. . . . [F]or this, we may be sure, is now the time when “Japheth lives in the houses of Shem” and the wicked brother lives between them.6
He says the church ever understood Hamites to typify heretics, because they saw Providence to have well confirmed the perspicuous message of that prophetic text. This lineal-covenantalist perspective was the default view of Christendom in regard to the Hamite. When translators discovered this same pronouncement of Providence woven throughout all the Hamite tongues and that people’s psychology, it came as little surprise.
The Alienist of our day denies any significance in these things, daring even to dismiss as heretical Augustine’s classic covenantal view which he insisted to be the default perspective of Christendom; yet these judgments still assert themselves unmistakably today. No ex cathedra denunciations from Alienists will reverse the facts of history, nor will they undo the present reality that Africans, even if claimants of Christ, persist in behaviors and perspectives so alien to us that it stretches Christian ecumenism to the breaking point.
John MacArthur may not have perceived the implications of his recent words in regard to Charismatics:
These people don’t know the gospel. They don’t understand the gospel.7
He is of course right on the subject of charismatics, but even inside Roman Catholicism, charismaticism is the only Christianity to which non-Whites have proven open in any appreciable numbers. Within Romanism, all of the talismanic manias and carnal fetishisms are expressed more consistently, and with greatest intensity amongst non-Whites. The entailment is that biblical Christianity (Reformed Protestantism) has ever been, and remains still, “the White man’s religion.”
The African’s brutish history, the lack of needed forms and symbols in his language, the predilections of his lineage, and the interplay among them have, not unlike the Arab in some respects, left him a man of “heretic tongues,” just as Noah foresaw, with that heart of “stony soil” of which Christ warned. The Alienist cries “racism” against these realities, but realities they remain, as all the preconditions which comprise the constitutions of men are subject to the holy prerogatives of Providence. Lineage, like all else, is teleological, and an avenue and instrument of predestination. In spite of his protestations, to the extent that the Alienist denies this, he has abandoned basic Calvinism, and in so doing, he has abandoned the fundamental doctrines of grace as well.
Though mostly Japhethites, Alienists take exception to God’s historical dealings with men, such as the Hamite typification of heretics, that they come to level the same recriminations at their Maker as bellowed by Arminius and Pelagius before them. Thus many become the very thing symbolized by the Hamite: heretics. So, in the service of their idol, “fairness,” many would forfeit their very souls.
Rufinus, throughout his seminal work on the creed, exults in the fact that this ancient symbol of the faith had been handed down to the churches through his “forefathers.” He doesn’t qualify this term as to say “fathers of the faith,” but communicates the plain sense that these holy things were handed down from his kinsmen of times past.
This word “father” is ancient amongst us. Derived of the old English fæder, it meant “father, male ancestor.” Both the word and its definition are nearly identical across the whole family of European languages: fader, fadur, feder, vader, faðir, fater, vater, athir, pater, etc. All are based upon the concept of paternal lineage, and etymologically speaking, the syllable, fa/pa, as seen in English words like “fame” (one talked about), “defame” (to speak ill of someone), “infant”/”infantry” (one who cannot speak), “fable” (a tale told), etc., all connote speech. This may be clearest seen in the Latin fari, which means, simply, “speak, tell.” A father, then, is a male ancestor who speaks to and for his posterity. This is the doctrine of federal headship written right into our language itself.
This web of correspondence did not arise in the Christian age, but well prior, as the very name “Japheth” (the biblical progenitor of the White race) was written of in pre-Christian Greek literature as Japater. This is an alternate iteration of Jupiter, which shows the Greek word pater (from whence we derive the words “paternity,” “patriarch,” and “parent”) embedded therein. Even in the case of its classical iteration, Jupiter, piter is found to be the old Persian (Indo-Iranian) word for “father” as well. Clearly, though these linguistic roots were laid under the circumstances of Noahic religion, through the very name of our father Japheth, they fell in the later times of paganism to revering our ancestor, Japheth, as a god (Japater/Jupiter). The remedy of these things was found only in the revelation of Jesus Christ, which did not abolish our tongues and tropes but, rather, redeemed them.
Albeit, this federalist theological conception of fatherhood which suffused European speech is itself regularly denounced as Eurocentric, because many other peoples have entirely different social structures in the family. In Africa, in New Guinea, and amongst sundry tribes the family structure is matriarchal. “Father” is a much more opaque concept amongst them than it ever was amongst European tribes. A case in point is the late Nelson Mandela, who was referred to by African Blacks by the Xhosa word, tata, their equivalent of “father.” But the word doesn’t really correspond to our conceptions of fatherhood, because they define “father” as “male, hard, and tough.” This is fairly well the norm amongst them, especially in the tribes least touched by colonialism. The fact is that the African’s native family structure is a mother living with one of her brothers raising the children of several different men. Though the children may not be the offspring of the man in the house, they are likely to speak of him as “father” anyway. But colonialism did much to restructure the African family according to the Christian model, so they have now had long exposure to the concept as we’ve always maintained it – although, as covered, they most often resent it as vestigial colonialism. This proves to be the case even amongst Blacks in America.
Plainly, this is not a matter of mere trivia. It is essential to understanding the Christian faith: unless one’s conception of a father approximates the biblical definition, one is incapable of understanding the fatherhood of God, for human fatherhood is the epistemological emissary of divine fatherhood. Reciprocally, only in light of the fatherhood of God is human fatherhood justified and redeemed. For in spite of modern secular anthropology, human fatherhood is preceded and established by the fatherhood of God. This is the holiness of the family – that it reflects and reiterates the divine economy and communion of the Persons of the Trinity. Though the epistemological furniture built into our language and folkways is a means of facilitating the spiritual concept in our minds, they actually rely upon the spiritual reality to which they point for their own existence and meaning.
- “Bombshell: Wycliffe Insiders Admit Allah Used in Bible Translations as ‘Cultural Bridge‘” ↩
- Rufinus, A Commentary on the Apostles’ Creed, §4 ↩
- Wolfgang Menzel, Germany from the Earliest Period, pp. 61-62 ↩
- Cornelius Van Til, “Why I Believe in God” ↩
- F. N. Lee, “Language, Folklore, and Communication” ↩
- St. Augustine, The City of God, book xvi, §§ 1-2 ↩
- John MacArthur, “Strange Fire Q&A: Answering the Critics” ↩