10 Jul 2016
There has been no shortage of reference in the last six months, for a frame of temporal reference, as to the amount of times I have heard the Bible, or written word, called “The Word of God”. And I try as often as I can to insert all of the caveats that go along with the exclusivity of the Written, or “Logos” word being God’s Word alone. Sure, there would be no direct dismissal that God still speaks through the Holy Spirit in our hearts, and shared with each other, even to confirm something God has spoken directly. And yet, I have definitely been exposed to the “sobering” characteristics of the written word – the horrific components, and long stays of imprisonment felt by not only individuals, but whole nations for the sake of connection with God. And then I try and add that this is a narrative of a two-way relationship throughout history of God and His people. The nature of God is relational – stemming from the fact that He exists in a triune state, communication is the unrelenting inevitability of who God is. Love, though patiently enduring, still ironically cannot be quieted. It speaks a language that is not easily pacified.
Refocusing back on the subject matter, the two Greek terms in question here is no anomaly, to be sure. The Greek language has long been recognized for it’s articulated characteristics. Several concepts are given through the conduit of several different terms for the specific context intended. A few examples are in order to convey this point. Phileo, Storge, Aros, and Agape (and perhaps more if stretching beyond Biblical literature). These represent the different contextual applications of the concept of “love”. In English it is simple, but the Greeks had a love for words – actually, there is a Greek-based field of study for this – philology meaning “study or love of words”! While love may be the most common and well-known – several other examples of context-distinct words exist. Bios “physical life”, and Zoe “zeal of life”, and a lesser-known third Pzuche “personality/individuality”. These all (with the exception of storge) exist in the New Testament of the Judeo-Christian Bible. There is a right and just place for studying the written word, as long as it doesn’t become legalistic. Inversely, the spoken word of God is beautiful, intimately, and familiar, but it can also easily lead us away from objected stated truth.
Perhaps the right position is to remain in a balance of reverencing the written word, and respecting that which is spoken by God, however that speaking may occur. Relationship is virtually impossible without communication, so receiving the message is essential, but perhaps God has a specifically directed message that a 2000-some year-old Bible cannot articulate in detail. God needs to convey a message about the meeting a person is having at mid-morning. Perhaps it is a relationship-oriented minute detail that God wished to communicate with His beloved son or daughter regarding the proper organization and cleanliness of their room. In other situations, the written word is the time-tested bedrock of foundational truths that are locked in place – much meant for encouragement, others to demystify the organizational structure of the Christian life. In honesty however, most of the Bible is stories. Stories of those who have gone before us; stories of those who have entered into a trust-pact with God. Risk-laden stories of people who put their own life on the alter in order to take up the unfabulous mantle of representing God.
These two perspectives work together, not against. We need the written word as an objective spiritual constitution and framework. But alone, this is not very relational at all. The God we serve intended to put His law on the tablets of our hearts…” (Jer. 31:33; Prov. 7:3; 2 Cor. 3:3; Heb. 8:10; 10:16). It is just like God to not deny us the written law, but to breath new life into those ancient, timeless words. Just as Simon Peter said in John 6:68, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.” We must always remember that the written word, for it to indeed have been written down in the first place, must have first been spoken to the physical author. These words we revere as perfect merely reveal the person, and that person’s character. Again, I submit that communication reveals something about the communicator. God is about relationship, and if it is only one-way – it isn’t relationship. Finally, we may return to that most-familiar passage in John 1 where it is stated that in the beginning that The Word was in the beginning, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. (John 1:3) Words are merely the conduits of something much greater, and I would submit that God wants to hear the words of His adopted children in response.