“Grammar and Faith” by R.J. Rushdoony

I found the following article in Roots of Reconstruction by R. J. Rushdoony (1991) while I was hunting down information on something else. Being a writer and a teacher of writing, I always gravitate towards anything that smells like a Christian worldview of writing, language, words, and grammar, so this caught my attention. By the time you get to the end of this article you will have gotten a good strong whiff of the Christian-ness of grammar, but let that not convince you that it is thereby tedious, boring, dull, and colorless. Think in terms of Christ as the Word, the Speech. Think in terms of all things being created by His spoken words, and then find in this article the theory that “nature is not only matter and energy, but also information.” Then think in terms of the battle for meaning against the Darwinian goal of chance and purposelessness. Published first in Chalcedon Report No. 211, February, 1983. Found in Roots of Reconstruction, p. 1099-2000

R. J. Rushdoony

In an interesting report on Shammon’s theory of information, Jeremy Campbell: Grammatical Man: Information Entropy, Language, and Life, (1982)we have a return to a medieval definition of the word “Information.” In terms of this, information is the form, meaning, or instructive force or character within all things. In terms of this, “nature” is not only matter and energy but also information. One of the first points of attack this perspective takes is against Darwinian evolution (without abandoning evolution), because information is an anti-chance concept which recognizes a pattern in all things. It is not our concern here to dwell on the fact that there are very obvious connections between information theory and the ancient Greek doctrine of the idea or form. The theory re-establishes the place of meaning in the world in a particular form but is not thereby Christian. The theory is important to Christians, however, because of its clear recognition of the place of law and meaning in all things. Of particular importance are the implications of the theory for man and for speech. As Campbell says, “Grammar is an anti-chance device, keeping sentences regular and law-abiding. It is a systematic code applied at the message source” (p. 165). Underneath all languages lie universal abstract principles and rules, and these are “unconscious systems of rules” (p. 172). “Universal grammar is the innate, anti-chance device in the brain which restricts syntax in this way” (p. 177), and “Grammar can be thought of being like Kepler’s laws of planetary motion,” setting down the constraints which govern language (p. 179). Let us briefly examine some of the implications of this for Christian thought. In our day, the teaching of grammar is at a low ebb, and we have a nation of functionally illiterate youth. These are products of statist schools which are governed by a humanistic faith and the Darwinian world view. They are thus reared systematically into a religion of chance. There is, in the faith taught by the state schools, a denial of God and meaning, and an affirmation of chance. The validity of rules is denied, and grammar with it. In fact, the most recent dictionaries in many cases affirm this rejection of grammar and rules. The result has been a growing breakdown of language. The Christian Schools, on the other hand, begin with a Biblical faith, the triune God as Creator, and a universe of total meaning. They are thus by faith committed to a rejection of meaninglessness. It is natural and necessary for them to stress grammar, because by faith they are dedicated to a world of meaning. We should thus expect that, as their understanding of a faithfulness of the faith grows, Christian Schools will increasingly excel in grammar and all things else. It is the Christian who through Scripture is informed by the word of God, re-formed by Christ, confirmed by the Holy Spirit, and daily formed by the knowledge that this is a universe of total meaning whose Creator and meaning is His Lord. His faith is anti-chance, whereas the faith of the state schools is in chance and meaninglessness.

And now there are Christians striving to teach languages using the best tool kit yet, the Christian world-and-life view.


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