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The Bible and God

Ok, so the bible is not God.  But then, what is the relationship between God and the written word?

I'll devote quite a big proportion of next week to that question as I blog about preaching.  But for now let me explore an analogy with the sacraments.  Marc can shoot me down - he's doing a lot of work on this subject.  But let me have a go anyway.

Here's my thought - we tend to veer between two mistakes: a Catholic and a Zwinglian view of the bible.

The Catholic view is to see my bible reading working ex opere operato (by doing it, it's done).  I advance the book mark and it is has worked.  The words go in (sort of), my reading plan gets ticked off - job done.

My response?  Disengaged duty.

The Zwinglian view is to see my bible reading as memorialist.  Christ is essentially absent from these words, but they're a jolly good reminder of Him.  And if I employ my imagination and proper meditative techniques, if I think these words into moral, pastoral and theological categories then my thoughts will carry me to Christ. 

My response?  Pietistic duty.

On the first understanding, I don't need to do anything but go through the motions.  The second understanding is a reaction to the first in which I take the spiritual task into my own hands. 

But what if Christ is really and already present through the words of Scripture.  The words aren't Christ Himself.  But neither are they separate such that I must bridge the gap.  Instead, the words are carrying me to Christ who they constantly proclaim (John 5:39).

It's not just reading comprehension.  But neither is it my job to make an otherwise dead letter living and active.  Instead the bible is already a living and lively word ever proceeding from the mouth of God and ever offering to me the Bread of life. 

The bible works on me.  Not apart from faith.  But not by my works either. It is His work - His spiritual work - that is ever offered to me.

Here's what I say to people from the Book of Common  Prayer as I give them communion:

The body of our Lord Jesus Christ which was given for you preserve your body and soul to everlasting life.  Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for you and feed on Him in your heart by faith, with thanksgiving.

And you say - typical Anglicans, straddling all the positions!  Well - Jesus does say 'This is my body.'  And He does say 'Do this in remembrance of me.'  It's just that this is not the centre of communion.  Feeding on Him in our hearts by faith as we feed on the bread between our teeth - this is. 

So as we read our bibles we acknowledge, this IS the word of God.  And we acknowledge that this reading will cause us many subsequent thoughts that bring us to Jesus in manifold ways.  But essentially as we read the Scriptures we are being fed spiritually there and then with the Bread of life.  

My response?  Believing expectancy. 


Does that work as an analogy?


0 thoughts on “The Bible and God

  1. Missy

    Reminded me of Jeremiah 15:16:

    "Your words were found and I ate them, and Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I have been called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts."

  2. theologien

    I think I have a Barthian influenced view of scripture, based on Romans 10:17 that goes something like this:
    " comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ."

    As Barth states, Christ is the Word of God, and scripture is the word about God. So when the word is proclaimed, I have the possibility an encounter with the Word. It is produced by the witness and work of the Spirit in me, as I encounter the Word. Through the Spirit, the impossible becomes possible.

    Through the word, the Spirit produces the ability to hear (to appropriate the revelation of the Word?), and with the act of hearing comes the possibility of faith. Or something like that.

  3. Glen

    Great thoughts Dev, Missy and Howard. And, Howard, I'll be thinking about Barth's threefold word a lot more next week. I think it's such a helpful way of relating Christ, bible and proclamation.

  4. Dave K

    Just the other day I posted a Oswald Bayer quote saying we should think of 'Word as sacrament and sacrament as Word' although his main focus was on preaching, I think he would be happy applying it to scripture too.

    So, yes, I think the analogy is helpful.

  5. Paul Blackham

    Thanks for this Glen. Very helpful and thought provoking.

    My earliest memories of Bible reading at home was the way my dad was always speaking about the strange connection between the Word of God [Bible] and the Word of God [Jesus]. The two are not the same, yet they are not totally different. I'm not aware that dad had ever read much Luther and I know for certain that he hadn't read any Barth, yet when I read those guys I already had that sense of what they were trying to say.

    If the Bible reveals the Living God then it just has to be deeply connected to Jesus. The more I go on and realise just how completely Jesus surrounds us in creation then it makes more and more sense that He is present in the Scripture in a much deeper way than is often described. Too often the doctrines of Scripture spend all the time working at issues of inerrancy, when that might come a lot easier if the Bible is seen as the ever-living presence/clothing of Jesus.

  6. Glen

    I'm going to speak more about the Threefold Word of God next week when I discuss preaching. I think you get into the innerancy debates when just the bible is considered. When it's Jesus *and* the urgency to proclaim Him to a dying world, it frames those questions in a much healthier light as you say.

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