The Language Gap and God: Religious Language and Christian Education

by Randolph Crump Miller

Dr. Miller is Horace Bushnell professor of Christian nurture at Yale University divinity school. He is the author of The American Spirit in Theology (Pilgrim, 1974.)

Published by Pilgrim Press, Philadelphia and Boston, 1970. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.


ENTIRE BOOK The problem of communicating Christian teaching — especially the use of language in bible study. How can we say what we mean about God so that our assertions will be understood, accepted, and responded to?


  • Preface

    The influence of Western technological culture has infiltrated the thinking of educated people throughout the world. The categories of secular concepts are used to explain everything from repairing a bicycle to interpreting the scriptures.

  • Chapter 1: Language and the Gospels

    Different cultures interpret different events from different perspectives. How does one communicate a belief to a strange culture without introducing one’s own presuppositions?

  • Chapter: 2: The Challenge of Language Analysis

    ducation is so highly verbal that distinctions need to be made between models of language use that will clarify the issues and make intelligence a competent factor in religious thinking. There is more to Christian education than this, but no one can get far unless it is known how to use words and what they mean.

  • Chapter 3: God and Existence

    The writings of F.S.C. Northrop, Alfred North Whitehead and Charles Hartshorne and their assumptions about knowledge and metaphysics, with special attention to Whitehead’s aims of education.

  • Chapter 4: The Problem of Myth

    A discussion of the values of demythologizing, especially for children. It is essential to avoid the tendency of large numbers of people to take many of the biblical stories literally.

  • Chapter 5: Discernment and Commitment

    Christian education needs to be implemented at all levels of thinking and action, but especially in the realm of supernatural revealed theology. This involves some kind of empirical grounding for religious assertions if the language of faith is to be meaningful.

  • Chapter 6: The Language of the Heart

    Dr. Miller turns to Horace Bushnell and Frances H. Drinkwater, who have similar positions to his own in “The Language of the Heart.” There are “poem forms” in the gospel and expressions of belief, that are more than technical language.

  • Chapter 7: Self-Involving Language

    Very little talk about God is possible when one is limited to descriptive language and assertions that can be empirically validated. Most religious language makes use of other categories, and it is important to know which language-game one is using and how language-games may be mixed.

  • Chapter 8. Bliks and Onlooks

    An examination of the nature of bliks and onlooks (personality structures) in terms of the ways in which they may or may not be shared or changed.

  • Chapter 9: A World View and Christian Education

    A world view (metaphysics) is significant for religion because it provides a basis for our understanding of the universe around us, for our acceptance of the world of sense experience, and for our capacity to look on the world as God’s world. It is an “onlook,” and therefore is performative and self-involving.

  • Chapter 10: Religious Language and Christian Education

    The language-game concept is helpful as we try to understand ways of thinking in other cultures, not only primitive ones or those foreign to us but also the subcultures in our own country. Miller suggests practical applications — engaging in dialogue, clarifying the nature of the Gospel, and developing worship and education.