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Whether You Can Read This Or Not . . .

September 29, 2007

My old pastor when I lived in Indiana, PA, Mark Altrogge, has been writing on his son Stephen’s blog recently (Stephen is a good friend of mine as well), and it has been good to read his writings. He writes about God’s providence in choosing what language we speak and read.

If you can read this, in God’s Providence, you were either born in an English-speaking nation or have been able to learn English. Because we speak English, we have access to the Bible and the gospel. Many have never heard the gospel or God’s word because no translation exists in their tongue. How blessed we are to have God’s word in the English language.

English was the language of many of the Puritans and great Christian teachers. I have been blessed so much from reading works like The Precious Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs, The Mystery of Providence by John Flavel, Sin and Temptation by John Owen, The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes. Not to mention works and messages by Charles Spurgeon, Thomas Watson, John Bunyan, Jonathan Edwards and others who wrote in English.

And think of all the contemporary preachers and teachers who write and speak in English who have benefitted our lives. I’ve been so blessed by men like C.J. Mahaney, John Piper, Jerry Bridges, R.C. Sproul, and many others. If God had seen fit in his providence to have me speak another language, I might not have had access to the works of these men.

This is a kindness from God, but I also started thinking, “What do we do with the great teachers we will never read or hear in their native tongue? Reformers like John Calvin and Martin Luther have to be translated, for example. Many of us cannot read them in their native language, and while we can read translators, we cannot know what they originally wrote. Augustine wrote in Latin, and the Bible was originally written in Greek and Hebrew. While we have good translations, English does not map very well with Greek at certain points, and the tenses and meanings of certain passages often have to be explained to us. Our English minds sometimes have trouble relating to concepts in the original language that have trouble being translated.

In addition, what do we make of contemporary preachers we cannot understand? There are no doubt many Chinese, Korean, German, and Spanish preachers who we know nothing of, because we cannot understand them. So what do we make of this?

I believe that this too is God’s Providence to us. It reveals that there are things that we as finite creatures cannot know. God has chosen to reveal himself to us through this language, and has given us many advantages. We can thank God for his provision, and pray for those for whom he has yet to reveal his provision to. The Word says that there will be people from every tribe, tongue, and nation in heaven, so it is only a matter of time before God reveals who he is to nations with no Christian witness, no Bible in their language, and little or no literacy. Praise be to God that he will provide for all peoples in the way he has provided for the English speaking ones!

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