Where Person Meets Word: Part 2 The Convergence Of Personalism And Scripture In The Language Theory Of Kenneth L. Pike -- By: Pierce Taylor Hibbs

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 78:1 (Spring 2016)
Article: Where Person Meets Word: Part 2 The Convergence Of Personalism And Scripture In The Language Theory Of Kenneth L. Pike
Author: Pierce Taylor Hibbs


Where Person Meets Word: Part 2
The Convergence Of Personalism And Scripture
In The Language Theory Of Kenneth L. Pike

Pierce Taylor Hibbs

Pierce Hibbs is Associate Director for Theological Curriculum and Instruction in the Theological English Department at Westminster Theological Seminary.

I. Introduction

Because the Trinity plays a principal role in Reformed theology, we must always be asking ourselves how it shapes our understanding of human behavior in general, and of theology in particular. Knowing this, Van Til was adamant that the self-contained ontological Trinity be our interpretative principle everywhere, that it be the basis of all human experience and knowledge.1

A seemingly endless queue of theologians, both inside and outside the Reformed tradition, have already outlined the implications of the importance of the Trinity for theology proper, and for anthropology—with Van Til close to the forefront. But the Reformed tradition in particular continues to benefit from studying the relationship between language and the Trinity. As such, the work of Kenneth L. Pike provides a rich reservoir of insight from which we might draw in learning more about how we image the triune God in our communicative behavior. And by studying what contributed to the development of Pike’s Trinitarian thought, we not only validate Van Til’s teaching on the pivotal place of the Trinity in all human experience and thought; we also learn more about how we can understand the Trinity in relation to general revelation.

In Part 1 of this article, after briefly discussing the Trinitarian associations of Kenneth L. Pike’s language theory, we examined the personalism underlying it. We noted that Pike’s brand of personalism, not to be confused with the broader personalism movement, was a response to general revelation.2 In considering

particular manifestations of personalism in Pike’s work—language as a phase of human behavior, the emic and etic perspectives, and form-meaning composites—we found that he desired to leave room for the personal nature of reality as ultimately mysterious, since it is grounded in the triune person of God.

However, this in itself cannot explain Pike’s Trinitarian approach to language, for general revelation, as Bavinck and Warfield remind us, does not include the Trinitarian God of redemption. Something else must have converged with Pike’s personalism to lead him to his Trinitarian approach. This something was none other than the Word of God—hence the title of the article: ...

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