Re: The Whole Bible Revealed in Zechariah (was Re: NT truth (formerly inerrancy?))

From: Don Winterstein <dfwinterstein@msn.com>
Date: Sun Jan 11 2004 - 04:26:17 EST

Richard wrote:

>If I interpret your assertions using the rules of plain English, I am forced
>to conclude that your faith, though richly informed by Scripture, has become
>completely unanchored from it. As far as I can tell, God could make the
>Sunday Comics as much the Word of God for you as the Bible with which you
>prop your door, depending merely on where He chooses to manifest His Power.

>While I appreciate this view of the Power of God (for indeed He can manifest
>where, when, and how He will), I must object on biblical and theological
>grounds to your complete disjunction of the Written Word from the Living
>Word of God.

If you'd just asked for clarification of this one "disjunction" issue, Richard, I think you could have saved yourself a lot of effort, as that seems to be the main sticking point.

While my faith may be less well-anchored to the Bible than the average Christian claims his or her faith is (I say "claims" because the average Christian doesn't really have much knowledge of the Bible to speak of), I hardly subscribe to the view that the Bible has no connection to the Word of God. The Bible witnesses of the Word of God as it (he?) has acted down through history. Christianity is very strongly historical. The activity of the Word of God in the past is very relevant to Christians today. The Word of God today often comes through the written testimony to the Word of God in the past--in other words, through the Bible. However, the Word of God is not constrained to come only through the Bible. It can and does come in many ways. For example, it can come through a personal witness to Jesus. It can come through a drink of water for the thirsty, or a piece of bread for the hungry.

I see most or all such usages of the term "Word of God" in the Acts to be of these non-Scriptural kinds. After all, "Scripture" refers only to writing, and "Bible" also refers only to writing. Hence if someone orally states teachings from Scriptures, his statements already via the act of oral expression have become something other than Scriptures. It should come as no surprise to any Christian that Christian witnessing often makes reference to the Word of God as it came in the past, because Christianity is very strongly historical. But surely you don't suppose that what the Acts calls the Word of God consisted simply of Scriptural quotations that people threw back and forth at one another! That would be bizarre, especially as they had the good news of Jesus Christ to talk about. I believe, in fact, that "Word of God" in the Acts refers mostly if not exclusively to spoken words about the ministry and teachings of Jesus. These might well have incorporated scriptural references.

Scriptures per se _are not_ the Word of God. As I said before, they may and often have become the Word of God for some people at various times. But is a Scripture reading in a Sunday service the Word of God to someone sitting in the pew and letting the words drift in one ear and out the other? No way. Is the Bible the Word of God for someone who never reads it? No way.

Scriptures witness to past words of God. Many of those words to people and nations in the past are not the Word of God to people today, as they are irrelevant. By studying and contemplating such words people may be able to find some relevance to themselves, and hence God may speak through those words after contemplation; but for large parts of the Bible and for a great many individual Christians this never happens. So those parts of the Bible never become the Word of God to those Christians. For those Christians it is as if those parts of the Bible did not exist or, at best, are simply meaningless.

"If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture
cannot be broken;...." Yes, the Word of God came to them, and Scriptures described (witnessed to) that coming.

So the Word of God is the power of God acting on the lives of real people in real time via some physical means. It is not a collection of written statements that may simply be gathering dust. The Word of God is never simply an object that a person can hold in his hands and say, "I've got the Word of God here." If it is not the living and active power of God, it is not the Word of God.

>These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received THE
>WORD with all readiness of mind, and searched the SCRIPTURES daily, whether
>those things were so. Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable
>women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few. But when the Jews of
>Thessalonica had knowledge that THE WORD OF GOD was preached of Paul at
>Berea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people.

>Here we see a complete conflation of the WORD OF GOD with SCRIPTURE.

If only you'd read this passage with an open mind you'd have seen how it actually _contrasts_ the Word of God with Scriptures! Do you actually believe that Paul quoted OT Scriptures at the people when he had the much more important news of Jesus Christ to tell them about?? That would have been bizarre. And if Paul had preached only Scriptures, why would the Jews have taken offense?

Don

 

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: richard@biblewheel.com
  To: Don Winterstein ; Gary Collins ; asa@lists.calvin.edu
  Sent: Saturday, January 10, 2004 1:45 PM
  Subject: Re: The Whole Bible Revealed in Zechariah (was Re: NT truth (formerly inerrancy?))

  Don,

  Thanks for the clarification. The clash of our world views makes my head
  spin. Every attempt to answer your post has turned into a small book. Here's
  the condensed version:

  As I see it, there are three referents to "The Word of God" in Scripture:

  1) The Eternal Living Word: the Lord Jesus Christ
  2) The Power of God manifest physically
  3) The Written Word: sometimes individual Scriptures, sometimes the whole
  Bible.

  I believe the vast majority of Christians would agree with this tripartite
  definition, and could give many examples justifying each point, though there
  would be differences about the canonical details relating to Point 3. I
  would be delighted if list members would cast their votes on this. I am
  completely open to refinement of this idea.

  Point 2 is the definition you provided, which is fine when properly situated
  relative to the other two. You gave Point 1 nothing but a slight nod with
  the wholly inadequate (from an orthodox theological perspective) addendum
  "sometimes (perhaps always) Jesus." You categorically rejected Point 3 with
  these words:

  "Furthermore I say that the Bible is definitely not the Word of God. Heck,
  it's just a book; how can it be the Word of God? ... The book itself may be
  good as a doorstop, but it's not the Word of God."

  If I interpret your assertions using the rules of plain English, I am forced
  to conclude that your faith, though richly informed by Scripture, has become
  completely unanchored from it. As far as I can tell, God could make the
  Sunday Comics as much the Word of God for you as the Bible with which you
  prop your door, depending merely on where He chooses to manifest His Power.

  While I appreciate this view of the Power of God (for indeed He can manifest
  where, when, and how He will), I must object on biblical and theological
  grounds to your complete disjunction of the Written Word from the Living
  Word of God.

  You base your argument on the assertion that the Word of God "never refers
  to Scriptures" when used in the Bible. This claim has two fundamental
  errors.

  A) Its validity is dubious at best.
  B) Even if it were true, it would be irrelevant because it relies on
  circular reasoning (not to be confused with the Bible Wheel *wink*).

  I begin with point Point B. Your conclusion that no Scriptures are referred
  to as the "Word of God" is based on your circular assumption that the Bible
  is not God's Book. I demonstrated this with a very simple Gedanken
  experiment. Let me repeat: Imagine that I wrote the whole Bible myself.
  There would then be no question that passages like 2 Tim 3.16, (now
  transformed to read "All Scripture is inspired by Richard"), were intended
  by me to refer to the whole Bible. No one would suggest that Rev 22.18
  referred to anything less than the Whole Bible. The ambiguity you struggle
  with is the product of your hermeneutic assumptions; primarily that you must
  restrict your interpretation of Scripture to the limits of the natural
  knowledge of the human writers. This hermeneutic prohibits its subscribers
  from receiving the Bible as the Word of God. All prophecy is rejected by
  definition, as is all evidence of divine design of the Bible - hence our
  lack of a "meeting of minds" on issues of evidence.

  Let us now consider Point A. You are obviously correct about many of the
  occurrences of the phrase "Word of God/the Lord". I doubt anyone would
  assert the Bible was in view when "the word of the Lord" came to Abram in
  Gen 15. But your complete disjunction of the Bible from the Word of God is
  completely wrong. Throughout the whole Bible we find an extreme *conflation*
  of the Written Word with the Living Word of God. This is part of the
  "fundamental ambiguity" of God's Word, which does not refer to any
  uncertainty in meaning, but rather to the meaning being *doubled* (as in
  "ambidextrous"). This is one of the reasons God revealed His Word as a
  Two-edge Sword.

  In answer to your specific allegation about the "Word of God" never
  referring to Scripture within the Bible, consider Luke 4.3f (ignoring
  textual variations since the text is a witness of early Christian belief
  regardless):

  And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone
  that it be made bread. And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That
  man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.

  What did Jesus mean when He said "word of God" here? Are you really
  asserting that He was referring to an undefined, idiosyncratic, personally
  relativistic "manifestation of God's Power" that is completely dissociated
  from the text He was citing? This makes no sense to me at all. And what
  about John 10.35, where Christ refers to both the Word of God and Scripture
  in the same sentence? I quote:

  If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture
  cannot be broken;

  The only way to interpret this to fit your scheme is to drive a wedge
  between the "word of God" that came unto them and the unbreakable Scripture
  that resulted. This could be valid, I suppose, but it certainly is not
  obvious. I would have to say that this interpretation comes from "someplace
  far removed from the text." ;-)

  Finally, I would like to present the preliminary results of your suggestion
  that I read the Book of Acts with an open mind to determine what the Word of
  God meant to the "earliest Christians." The first occurrence of the phrase
  "Word of God" in Acts appears in verse 4.31:

  And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled
  together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the
  word of God with boldness.

  It says they spoke the Word of God when they prayed. And what did they pray?
  They prayed SCRIPTURE. I quote from Acts 4.24f:

  And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord,
  and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the
  sea, and all that in them is: [Scriptures: Exo 20.11, Ps 146.6] 25 Who by
  the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the
  people imagine vain things? [Scripture: Ps 2].

  Note also that they referred to the divine inspiration of the Scriptures by
  declaring that God spoke "by the mouth" of David. The first occurrence of
  the WORD OF GOD in Acts therefore refers directly to the SCRIPTURE, and its
  divine inspiration.

  Now lets look at the most famous apologetic verse, Acts 17.11-13:

  These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received THE
  WORD with all readiness of mind, and searched the SCRIPTURES daily, whether
  those things were so. Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable
  women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few. But when the Jews of
  Thessalonica had knowledge that THE WORD OF GOD was preached of Paul at
  Berea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people.

  Here we see a complete conflation of the WORD OF GOD with SCRIPTURE.

  I conclude that the earliest Christians, as represented in the Book of Acts,
  identified the Word of God with Scripture.

  Well, thats enough for Book 1. Whew! That was a lot of work.

  In Chirst,
  Richard
  Discover the sevenfold symmetric perfection of the Holy Bible at
  http://www.BibleWheel.com
Received on Sun Jan 11 04:35:07 2004

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