A week late (to say nothing of A Day Late,) and I am back here again with a completed review. This chapter is titles “The Word of God” and deals with defining a key term that will likely be used frequently in the rest of the book. Ironically, as I missed my review from last week, the chapter is a rather spartan six pages long, something I was rather surprised to see and which brought a bit of chagrin to my face. Reading through took me only a quarter hour or so as there are no over complicated ideas or terms to grapple with, which brings me to the first of several definitions of the “Word of God” brought up in the chapter.
The first example used for the Word of God is as a person, Person rather. As an aside, whenever I write, I will differentiate my use of god(s) and God, including the other forms and pronouns used to describe the Judeo-Christian God of whom I hold a belief in as a personal savior, with capitalism. In this instance, Word of God is used a few times in the NT (New Testament) as a name or title for Jesus Christ, see John 1:1 and Revelation 19 to piece together that pairing (as well as citing that Christ was indeed there from the beginning, and not a later manifestation/inception of God.) In this usage, Christ is a communicator, since words are typically used to communicate and rarely of use otherwise.
Another meaning is of the literal words of God, ie. He spoke to Moses from the burning bush, a familiar story to many. There are several times in the Bible where God speaks to man and the words are recorded, either directly, or in summary. Genesis shows God walking in the Garden of Eden with Adan and Eve, literally talking with them daily. Later, Moses talks with God, and is occasionally so affected even physically by the event that the rest of the Israelites can hardly see around him for a time afterwards. One powerful example of God speaking to Moses is when God tells Moses “I Am that I Am” and goes on to tell the Israelites that “I Am” sent him. This is a claim to be self-existing, not having a beginning nor an end, as Nietzsche has said. During Christ’s incarnation (a period when He was fully God and man, a deep paradox in and of itself) He spoke to many, and those words are called out in many Bibles with red letters, giving rise to the term “Red Letter Day” for a time of unusual import. These “red letters” of the Gosples are also the words of God.
As above I mostly touched on the literal speaking of God; the red letters and “I Am” statements where the actual words have been recorded and are able to go through. Closely tied into this are those words that God and Jesus (separated here for ease of mentally picturing, though they are both “God”) spoke, but where the idea was of the message is all we have, not always the direct words. This is viewable in many of the prophets, where occasionally you get the whole dialogue (Jonah and Job, some may recall, actually had verbal slugfests and questionings with God.)
The next facet is a kind of Will of God, visible in the beginning parts of Genesis as well as in other parts of the Bible. Gen 1:3 (NIV) states,
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
His word, in this case, was a sort of extension of His will. Word -> Action. The Psalms are full of times detailing when God’s word acts in this manner.
The form of God’s Word pertaining to the main focus of Sys Theo is the Bible, the conglomerate of all of the other forms. As the primary remaining means of revelation to man by God, this study is appropriate. The Bible itself is a remarkable book, having been written across millennia (roughly 1500 years,) in three major languages, and by a number of human authors. Containing history, poetry, teaching and prophesy of future times, the Bible has a wide range of content from a purely human perspective.
From the assumption that the Bible is sole source of Truth, the Bible gains a second, more important, purpose than a mundane book. Because we hold to the belief that the Bible is the Word of God, meaning here the divinely inspired words written through a human medium, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16) In what could almost be the thesis statement of the Bible, though it comes near the end, Paul, who is speaking to a younger believer in a role of leadership, relays the truth that being Inspired, the Bible is useful for a great many things. As Systematic Theology is the study of what the Bible tells us on any given topic, this passage dovetails neatly with a study of systematic theology and reminds what purpose the Bible holds; that of teaching and correcting.
A question of what is the Bible, meaning why is the Bible 66 books, and why those particular 66 books, is natural at this point, to both the studies believer and also to everyone else. Many other books, or sections have been put forth through history as Canon or on the same level as the Bible, and some believe that parts of the Bible out to be omitted for various reasons. Wisely, the very next chapter deals with this issue, and if it does not do so to the extent I would like it to, I’ll take a break and write up my own separate section for this issue.