Readers of this blog may recently have noticed a contribution which went something along the lines of “The Bible is not the Word of God, Jesus is.”
In one form or another, this is actually a remarkably common view, held by people who feel they are not merely being reasonable but are standing up for dogmatic orthodoxy (though they might be hesitant to subscribe dogmatically to that notion). “Some Christians,” they will argue, “Seem to believe in a Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Scripture. But God is not a book!”
It is subtle, it is appealing, it is (if I might say so) flattering to the self (“I have seen the light”) — and it is seriously wrong.
Not least, though, it is wrong because it sits on the very branch it is sawing off.
As a statement in itself, it is analogous to that old conundrum, “Everything I say is untrue.” Ah, but if everything you say is untrue, then what about that statement? Is it also untrue? And if it is untrue, then everything you say is not untrue. But then that means what you’ve said is untrue, which means it was a lie ... and so on.
The statement “Jesus is the Word of God” comes to us from the Bible. But according to the proponents of this position, the Bible is not is “the Word of God”. So when they say, “Jesus is the Word of God”, the one thing they don’t have is God’s word for it.
At this point, however, we must watch out for a bear trap, namely a circular argument that the Bible is God’s word because it says so in the Bible. It does say so, and a certain amount of ‘foundationalism’ is unavoidable when it comes to the authority of Scripture. To what else can we appeal for that authority except the Bible?
But the statement “Jesus is God’s Word” is actually fundamentally helpful — as no doubt it was intended to be! And it helps us see how and why the Bible can be God’s Word.
The problem with all of this, as the postmodernists began to observe some decades ago, is that it is all just words. As one correspondent here put it, “just ‘words’ about the Word”. But as another, from a similar perspective as the first, said, “Words are always in search of a meaning.” They are, from the postmodern perspective, not ‘meaningful’ like numbers. Everything is ‘interpretation’.
Who will rescue us from this Babel of verbal confusion?
The answer lies in John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word”, and its assertion that Jesus is, indeed, the Word of God. For what this means is that at the heart of God’s own self is the quintessence of words: ‘the WORD’.
This does not, however, relegate words to the status of ‘just words’. In fact its effect is the exact opposite of the conclusion drawn by those who say, on this basis, “The Bible is therefore not the Word of God.” On the contrary, it is the very guarantee that God speaks words and that words speak of God. The statement “Jesus is the Word” is actually the anchor holding fast the ship, not an island standing on its own in a sea of verbal confusion.
After all, what is the statement, “Jesus is the Word of God”? Is it not itself ‘just words’. What I think our debaters want to reply is this: “Of course it is! Indeed what it says is that behind all the words we discover something else — a person!”
It all sounds terribly noble. But the problem is that what we are told about this person — the way to regard the ‘personality’ — is not (in this particular instance) as Saviour or Lord (surely viable options) but as Word. And what is a word? It is not just a communication! It is not a ‘sign’ or a ‘wonder’ — things by which God indeed communicates and by which this one will (we are told) reveal his glory (Jn 2:11). No, it is verbal communication. It is the basic unit of speech.
However, the fact (I am assuming it is a fact) that this One is ‘the Word’, means that ‘the words’ do not just communicate about God. Rather, they are very basis of communion between me and the God with whom this Word was from the beginning. Words draw me into the Word and share his essence.
This why we are told we live “by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” It is not ‘just words’. It is not just that God speaks and we listen — much less that people speak about God and we interpret as best we can. It is that the Word comes to us in the Word of God.
One last thing. This argument, such as it is, generally tends to revolve around the Bible and its authority. But the Word of God is not just the Bible! The Bible is, as the Anglican Articles put it, “God’s Word written”. It is also (according to the Apostolic testimony) theopneustos — God breathed (2 Tim 3:15). It has a special status.
But the Word of God is a living Word, which goes out through preaching and proclamation. Where the Bible is preached (declares the Proclamation Trust), God’s voice is heard. Where the gospel goes (says Luke) the word of God spreads.
What has come into the world is the Word of life. That stands written in the Word of God (1 Jn 1:1). And it is proclaimed in the Word of God, preached and taught, “so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete” (vv 3-4). It is all words, but not ‘just words’, for from the Word comes the Word which brings us to the Word.
EM Forster’s character, Mrs Moore, in A Passage to India, evidently derided “poor little talkative Christianity”.
We reply, wrong! Blessed, fortunate Christianity, whose Saviour sustains all things by the power of his Word (Heb 1:3) and whose Word has power to save (Jas 1:21). Indeed, whose God is Word. Hallelujah!Please give a full name and location when posting. Comments without this information may be deleted. Recommend: