The Word of God in Conversation

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The following may make no sense because it is the product of a half-asleep epiphany during and after morning devotions:

Christians of all traditions often refer to the Bible as “the Word of God.” To some this means that the “Word of God” is very literally the WORDS OF GOD, so that everything written in the Bible is akin to dictation — the writers of the Bible were merely vessels through which the Holy Spirit wrote the Bible. I have never bought into that idea for a variety of reasons, which may or may not be logical. I grew up being taught in Church that the biblical authors were “inspired” by the Holy Spirit, and there is a big difference between being inspired and taking dictation. It seems that some people want to “inspire” the authors completely out of the equation.

Add to that the inconsistencies in teachings from book to book, testament to testament. It seems to me that the Holy Spirit would be more consistent if it were a mere matter of dictations. This is even more clear when one considers the biblical texts in the original languages. The Greek of the Gospel of John is flawless and highly developed, while the Greek of Revelation is horrible — add to this the fact that many people assert that the Apostle John wrote both books, and the Holy Spirit wrote through him, why is the language, vocabulary, and style so different if it is merely the matter of divine dictation.

Karl Barth (a Reformed Theologian) decided that the Bible clearly states that Jesus Christ is the Word of God — it is Christ who is the divine Logos (the rational principle upon which everything is based and which holds everything together). Therefore, for Barth, the Bible is the Word of God because it is where we find Jesus. The story, the teachings, the significance of Jesus Christ The Word of God is found in the Bible, making the Bible the Word of God because it is either revealing Jesus to us directly in the Gospels, teaching us about Jesus in the rest of the New Testament, and pointing us to Jesus in the Old Testament.

In this interpretation no dictation is necessary. The Holy Spirit and the authors are partners — the Holy Spirit “inspires” but the author who is inspired is writing through his understanding and vocabulary. This means that when we are focused on Jesus Christ, we have the clearest depiction of who God is and what God’s words are, but as we move our vision off of Jesus Christ onto the Old Testament or other parts of the New Testament, that clear image of who God is and what God says gets blurry.

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But what if the Bible as “Word of God” simply means that God has invited us into a conversation. That the importance is not so much how God inspired the authors, but how God inspires the readers. Most of us tend to view that Bible as a “done deal” — God said it. That’s the end of it. But what if God said it, not as a decree or from the point of view of “Because I said so,” but as a part of a conversation in which God is waiting for my response? We tend to think of the Bible as a finished product, but what if it is meant to be the beginning?

This, I think, is why, for Catholics, tradition is so important. Holy Tradition, the early-Church Fathers, the Seven Ecumenical Councils, the theologians and doctrines that have arisen over the centuries — these are not RULINGS of the Church, but RECORDS of the conversation.

This is also true for many Protestant communions. Presbyterians, for instance, are very motivated by their tradition — the Reformed Tradition. It is not as long as the Catholic Tradition, and some of them would say it is a correction of the Catholic Tradition, but what it is — if all this has simply been a long conversation with God — is a new conversation that was begun because the old conversation was leaving them out of the discussion, so they broke away from that discussion and started their own.

The Protestant conversation with God is just as valid as the Catholic conversation, and vice versa. I think that problem is not that Protestants and Catholics have had their own conversations with God, but that each grouping and sub-grouping have tried for so long to keep their own conversations private, excluding the others and their input.

I think it is time for us to open the conversations, so that all our private conversations can become one large conversation with God and with each other. We all have the Word of God and each of us are the image of God, so let’s start allowing the “God” that is in each of us to talk to the “God” in each other.

Nevertheless, I repeat: this was all a half-asleep epiphany and the subsequent rambling while trying to express it. So, keep that in mind if it makes no sense.

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