This might seem like a naive question to some, but let me assure you it is not. The question is what or who is the Word of God? John 1:1 says:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

In context we all recognize that the Word or Logos is Jesus Christ (cf. Jn. 1:14), this seems plain and self evident. But something else that most of us Evangelicals take as “plain” and “self-evident” is that we call the Bible the Word of God. There are some who take issue with this, for example Karl Barth (Swiss Theologian), and those who follow him, do not believe the Bible is the Word of God, they believe that it bears witness to the “Word”, Jesus Christ, as we encounter the Word in the text of scripture. In other words, the words of the Bible become the Word of God as we meet Jesus in them. Wikipedia says:

. . . In Barth’s theology, he emphasizes again and again that human concepts of any kind, breadth or narrowness quite beside the point, can never be considered as identical to God’s revelation. In this aspect, Scripture is also written human language, expressing human concepts. It cannot be considered as identical to God’s revelation. However, in His freedom and love, God truly reveals Himself through human language and concepts, with a view toward their necessity in reaching fallen humanity. Thus Barth claims that Christ is truly presented in Scripture and the preaching of the church, . . .

But there is a conflict here. Clearly scripture itself asserts more than Barth would be comfortable with about itself. Hebrews 4:12 says:

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

The language for word of God in this passage is the same “technical language” used to describe Jesus Christ in John 1:1; but there is a different referent in this usage. How do we determine what the referent is in Hebrews 4, glad you asked 😉 , context, context, context. If we look at the preceding context we quickly realize that the “word” (i.e. logos) is referencing narrative and passages of SCRIPTURE. I will let you confirm that for yourself.

The conclusion. Barth was mistaken, scripture is the logos tou theou, the word of God. It functions just as God Himself functions as vs. 12 clearly asserts, and vs. 13 further unpacks. If this is true then scripture does not merely “become” the Word of God as we subjectively encounter Jesus therein; no, scripture is “objectively” the Word of God as it accurately represents and communicates His thoughts, and person, and character independent from any encounter that man may or may not have through them.

One more point. I do think there is a subjective instrumental reality to scripture that indeed bears witness to Jesus (cf. Jn. 5:39); but I think it is naive to hold that scripture “becomes” the Word of God, when in fact it is truly the Word of God apart from its “becoming”. At least that is what Hebrews asserts.

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