This is the second article in a twelve-part series that develops a theology of language by examining what the Bible says about this topic.
Language is fallen. At the time of Genesis 11:1, the entire world shared one common language. That language enabled people to work together to build the Tower of Babel, which was an attempt to make a name for themselves. Genesis 11:6 records God as saying, “…Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them” (ESV). Because of his displeasure, God confused their language so that their attempt to glorify themselves would fail. The builders of the tower were motivated by pride. Their pride was a result of mankind’s first sin, which is recorded in Genesis 3. That sin caused mankind to fall away from God, and human language has been affected by that sin. God attributed the acts of the tower builders to the fact that they had one common language. The diversity of languages in the world can serve to remind us of one of the effects of sin. Another example of the fallen nature of human language can be found in James 3:6-8. In those verses James says that “…the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness…no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (ESV). These verses are an example of the negative power of language and assert that there is much destructive power in evil speech.
Later in this series we will note several of God’s guidelines for language to help us evaluate if our language is pleasing to God.