What is the Word of God?
Is It the Bible? Is It the Koran?
Does It boom from the sky?
Or whisper – still and small – behind the eye?
Is It Yeshua or Jesus?
Is It Vishnu or Me? Zeus?
Is It carved in stone?
Dictated from a throne?
Searchable on my iPhone?
Sentenced to die alone -by the God of this world?
Is It a scroll – preserved through the aeons, carefully unfurled?
Can pages contain It?
Can sages explain It?
Was It crucified before the world began – atop a hill?
May I see It if I surrender to orthodoxy my will?
Or will I see It if I choose instead the red pill?
Who will settle these questions?
Armies? Prophets? Traditions?
Shall we put it to a vote?
Shall we ask the ones who wrote?
Shall we ask the One who spoke?
For much of my life, the concept of “The Word of God” looked something like this equation:
Word of God = Christian Bible = Jesus
I accepted without question the inerrancy and inspiration of the scriptures in the Bible. Now I have come to question these doctrines; however, that does not mean I have become an “unbeliever”. I don’t want to throw the baby Jesus out with the bath water. Here I will attempt to explain my present views on “The Word of God” and how it relates to the Bible.
“The Word of God is alive and powerful, sharper than any double-edged sword – piercing to the division between soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is a critic of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12
The Word of God is a mystical thing – a mystical being. How can it not be? It is living Truth. It is another name for the infinite ineffable God. It transcends all names of God. “You have magnified your Word above your name!” (Psa 138:2) It existed before this realm began. (Joh 1:1) It can take many forms. I believe It took the form of Jesus who was “the Word made flesh.” It can also live within each of us. I envision The Word of God as mysterious dark liquid multi-layered, multi-dimensional sphere whose surface is composed of constantly shifting waves of energy containing all knowledge and all truth. Despite the infinitely deep and mysterious darkness, there is brilliant light emanating from this sphere. This is as close to a visual representation that a quick google search could get me: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NW14Uw8r77w
We cannot ever adequately describe the Word of God with our words. To be seen, it must be lived because It is alive.
I don’t believe the Bible is the Word of God but rather it is a medium of exchange for It. It is one of many representations of It. It is a flat projection of a multidimensional ineffable mystical body of truth. (see my last blog entry: Cartographers of Truth We Are All) What is Truth? It is the ultimate reality in which “we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) When you or I read something in the Bible, or witness a spiritually inspired artistic work, or learn something about the universe that expands our consciousness, or listen to a wise old man, and learn spiritual lessons that bear good fruits in our lives through the Holy Spirit, that is “the Word of God made flesh” in our flesh. That is “the glorious mystery of Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col 1:27) The map is not the destination. It is a tool to help us reach the destination – left behind for our benefit by previous explorers and cartographers. If we mistake the map for the destination, we have fallen into the error of “the Letter that kills,” but “the Spirit gives life.” (2 Cor 3:6) The destination is the “Kingdom of Heaven which is inside you”, the “Mind of Christ” who is “The Way, the Truth, the Life”, the “I Am”, and Life itself. (Luk 17:21, 2 Cor 2:16, Joh 14:6, Joh 8:58, Exo 3:14) I believe there are also other tools and maps available to us besides the 66 canonical books that are “inspired by God and profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness.” (2 Tim 3:16) But as I see it, inspiration is not synonymous with flawless dictation or pure loss-less transmission of concept straight from the Mind of God. Inspiration means to breathe into. God inspired Adam or “breathed into” him His life but he was not a perfect being. None of us is a full complete representation of God, but God has inspired us to be like Him. We all contain a spark of his light and divinity. We can choose to fan it into flame or let it burn out. A lovely sunset over the mountains might inspire a painting, but the artist’s painting is not the thing itself. It is a representation of it.
So I see no problem with the premise that the Bible is inspired by God while at the same time accepting that error and distortion are inherent in any of man’s attempts to represent the ineffable multi-dimensional ultimate truth that is God.
I also do not agree that there were only 66 books which God inspired men to write. I believe God is continually inspiring people to write and speak and act by His Spirit whether they are called Christians or not. Is He the God of Christians only or of Jews only or the God of all mankind? Didn’t he say he would pour out His spirit on all flesh? Can He speak through a Pastor? Can He speak through a Monk? A scientist? Can he speak through a donkey? Can he speak through a bush? I understand the desire to have a “canon” or standard that is closed to revision or addition as this might eliminate some confusion and promotes a certain type of institutional stability. But in asking the question, “Why are these 66 books the only ones considered to be 100% inspired by God?” the answer I discovered was a combination of tradition, democratic consensus, and brute force. This hap-hazard process seems inherently unreliable. I do believe that traditions can have tremendous value and should not be easily forsaken, but I don’t believe they should be exempt from critical examination or revision in light of new information. I don’t claim to be wiser than the men who wrote or chose the books in the canon, but I do believe in the present age of the internet and the scientific method that we have a far greater access to information than they did, and information gathering is a very important first step in the process of uncovering truth.
Some might argue: although the process of selecting the canonical books was a very long and varied one that relied on tradition, democratic consensus, and brute force, God sovereignly guided this process to eventually congeal for us a perfect and complete work that relates to us all of His essential truths without error. I do see the hand of God in the process, but I still do not see that this necessitates completion or perfection. I see God’s hand in my life, but my life isn’t perfect. This view assumes that God’s plan is to eliminate all confusion and provide every human being with a complete reference manual that answers all essential questions. This assumes that God would not allow us to be confused. Of course He would! He scattered the children of men throughout the world and allowed all sorts of different religions and traditions to grow and evolve. We’re all confused to some degree, and we must all strive to sort through the milieu in the outer courts and seek Him and His deeper Truth in the Most Holy Place. “God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.” (Act 17:27) Life in this world is about growth through struggle. Strength only comes through strain. “To him who overcomes I will give the right to eat from the Tree of Life…” (Rev 2:7) This world is a birthplace for the Sons of God. It is a place where good and evil co-exist, and in the struggle to rightly judge between the two, spiritual growth occurs. The fruit of the tree of knowledge is the Word of God and when we eat it, we become as gods knowing good and evil. (Gen 3:22) And that knowledge brings accountability and that brings death through a guilty conscience because the Word of God “is a judge of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Heb 4:12) It is the Tree of Life which is Christ which is the Word made flesh that cleanses us from a guilty conscience and brings renewed life. Knowledge of the Word in mortal man kills, but when the Word is lived – when the Word is made flesh, it gives immortal life to the Spirit. If we are to find Life, the Word must be made flesh in our flesh. Jesus said in John 10:34 “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods'”? If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came, and scripture cannot be broken, what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world?” It is the Word of God that brings life and death. It is the Word of God that makes men sons of God knowing good and evil.
So I believe it is part of our growth process – part of our creation, or re-creation – to strive to rightly discern the subtle and sublime Word of God. However, it is argued that by relieving the church fathers and the traditions of antiquity of this responsibility and taking it upon ourselves we replace God as the standard. I disagree. First of all, as I have already stated, it is an assumption that God and not men wrote and decided upon the canon. I question this assumption. Secondly, Truth exists objectively. We who are spiritual seekers are seeking this objective truth. We do not decide what it is. We are not the final arbiters of truth. We explore it and describe what we discover. We may make judgments about what we can see, but those judgments should be held humbly with an open hand and subject to critical review and revision. As an example, rewind a few hundred years to when the church taught that the earth was flat based on scriptures speaking of “the four corners of the earth” and how it sits “on pillars”. When new information came out that the earth was actually round, was Columbus making himself the standard? Was he making himself the final arbiter of truth by going with the best available information rather than tradition? I don’t believe so. Now he also got a few things wrong in his discoveries. He thought he landed in India. But this was all sorted out with further exploration as more data was gathered. We should always be open to change when presented with good reasons for change.
It is often pointed out that we as humans are full of biases and – given the option – tend to choose to believe in what feels good or seems right instead of what may actually be right. The New Age movement seems to be a good recent example of this tendency. We cannot cherry pick the information that tastes good to us and ignore what troubles us. “There is a path that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” Pro 16:25 This is true. We ARE full of biases and we are all capable of being deceived. This is why traditions and governments should not be easily changed, but it is also why it behooves us to remain skeptical of our own positions and be open to change. The Pharisees could not accept Jesus’ message because they were not skeptical of their own pre-conceived ideas. They refused to question their own dogma. It also profits us to use methods designed to filter out human biases. It is good to gather as much data as possible and welcome the data that conflicts with our current understanding. Such data may be erroneous or it may shed light on flaws in our understanding or both. It is good to avoid rushing to judgment. It is good to compare as much data as possible and look for similarities and differences and trends. It is good to hold differences and paradoxes in tension and recognize that differences are sometimes between right and wrong and sometimes between right and left. Through study and reflection, truth and wisdom eventually become apparent because, “wisdom is proved right by her children.” And, “a good tree bears good fruit.” (Luk 7:35, Mat 7:18)
To me, the Bible is a highly valuable book. I am very thankful to have at my fingertips the whole book in all of its translations. I am thankful for the knowledge available to me through it. I am thankful for the lessons I’ve learned from it. I’m thankful for the testimony of Jesus presented in it. It will be a part of my life for the rest of my life. However, I don’t believe God can be fully contained by its pages. It is not the only place I’ve found inspired words. It is not my only source of knowledge. Proverbs is a collection of wise sayings. The author read a bunch of sources to compile it. I too enjoy reading a bunch of sources searching for wisdom and greater revelation about the ultimate reality in which we live.