"Send out Your light and Your truth, that they may lead me, and bring me to Your holy hill and to Your dwelling." Psalm 43:3

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

In What Sense is the Bible the Word of God?

"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.  And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do."
The Epistle to the Hebrews, 4:12-13

We recently read the above passage from Hebrews as part of the Sunday lectionary.  There are a great many passages of Scripture that speak of "the word of God" or "the word of the LORD".  This verse  from Hebrews is one of the more oft-cited references by Protestants, who almost uniformly would interpret "the word of God" here as referring to the Bible itself.  That interpretation could certainly be contested, based on the context of the passage (and other such passages, as well).  But for Christians of all traditions, the idea of the word of God is central to our theology and identity, and that idea is frequently strongly linked with the Holy Scriptures.  So, in what sense may we speak of the Bible as the word (or Word) of God?

In his Reflections on the Psalms, C.S. Lewis wrote,
"Naivete, error, contradiction, even (as in the cursing Psalms) wickedness are not removed [from the pages of the Bible].  The total result is not 'the Word of God' in the sense that every passage, in itself, gives impeccable science or history.  It carries the Word of God..." 
F.D. Maurice, an influential nineteenth-century English priest and theologian, preferred to view the Bible as "the history of God's Word".  I like that.  I share with Lewis and Maurice a discomfort with the prevalent Protestant assertion that the Scriptures are the very Word of God.  I would rather assert that the Bible is the revelation of the Word of God.  That Word of God is Jesus Christ, the Divine Logos, the eternal, living, and active Person of the Trinity, and not to be confused with words written and bound in a book.  As revelation, the Holy Scriptures are indeed divinely inspired, and both Old and New Testaments, seen in the light of Christ, bear witness to the supreme and central revelation of God in the person of Jesus.  I accept that they are "the rule and ultimate standard of the faith" (Lambeth Conference, 1888), "containing all things necessary for salvation" (Articles of Religion).  But the fact remains that the Bible is a collection of books, written, edited, and collected by men, and subject to the influences of the various historical, cultural, and religious contexts in which the books were written.

I firmly believe that the Holy Bible is the divinely inspired revelation of God's Word, but the Very Word of God cannot be constricted and contained within a leather-bound cover, any more than God in all His fulness can be comprehended within the mind of man.



  1. Rob, Love your blog. Lots of good stuff here!

    1. Thanks, Fr. Matt! I must say I'm flattered, and it's nice to know that at least some of the hits I get are actual people (as opposed to random, automated traffic). I've been very blessed by 'the gospel side'. Keep up the good work!