What is ‘the Word of God’?

I have started writing a column for Preach magazine, in which I explore a significant word or phrase in the Bible and the ideas that it expresses. The first one was on the phrase ‘Word of God’. Despite the fact that many churches use this phrase with reference to the reading of Scripture, its meaning is often disputed, sometimes on the basis that it is Jesus, rather than the Bible, which is the word of God. The two ideas are actually closely related, and need to be understood in the context of Old Testament understandings of the phrase, as I explore:


‘This is the Word of the Lord’. ‘Thanks be to God.’ This is quite a common refrain at the end of the Bible readings in many churches; you might have said one or both parts of this in the last week. But it is not always clear what we mean by the phrase ‘Word of God’, and the use of the phrase is sometimes disputed.

We encounter the idea of the word of God immediately on opening the Bible. The creation account in Genesis 1 depicts God not so much as a craftsman shaping the world with his hands, but as a speaker bringing the world into being simply by his speech. What he speaks into existence comes into existence; God’s words do things. In the second creation account, in Gen 2.4 onwards, God’s words shape the world he has made; his command to the adam to eat of any tree in the garden, but not the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, creates a boundary for the adam’s world. The first challenge to the power of God’s words comes from the snake when it asks ‘Did God really say…?’

The nature and importance of words in the Old Testament is indicated by the Hebrew term davar. Though it refers to the speech of God or people, it is connected to the root dr, which means ‘order’. So when we read ‘God spoke these words to Moses…’ in the Pentateuch, we might better understand it as ‘God gave Moses these commands’. Indeed, the text which we call ‘The Ten Commandments’ is in Hebrew called ‘The Ten Words’, devarim; these and God’s other words to Moses function to ‘order’ and shape the life of his people Israel. Thus, on occasions, the word davar can refer not just to the words, but to the things themselves which have been put in order by God’s words. Most English translations render Num 18.7 as ‘Only you and you sons may serve in connection with everything at the altar’, where the Hebrew is ‘every davar of the altar…’

The sense of God’s word as a thing continues in the prophetic tradition, where time and again the prophet claims that ‘the word of Yahweh came to me…’ At times, these ‘words’ have visionary elements, but they constantly serve to call God’s people back to the ordered life that he has set before them.


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With God’s ordering speech to his people inscribed in the various books of the Old Testament, Jesus consistently takes these written words to be the words of God. Most often these are referred to simply by the introduction ‘it is written’, as we find in the exchange of Scriptures with the Devil in Jesus’ temptation. But Jesus also uses the actual phrase ‘word of God’ on several occasions (Mark 7.13, John 10.34) referring to the text, and even cites the narrator’s words of Gen 2.24 as God’s own speech (‘the Creator…said…’ Matt 19.5). This makes it all the more striking when Jesus goes on to use the phrase ‘word of God’ to mean the good news of the gospel which he himself is preaching (Luke 5.1, 8.11), and Luke continues to use this phrase to refer to the subsequent apostolic preaching of the good news (Acts 4.31, 6.7).

Since this ‘word’ focuses on the person of Jesus, we can easily understand the next development of this terminology: in John 1, it is Jesus himself who is this divine Word, the pre-existent logos. Jesus, God’s word made flesh, is himself the expression of the ordering, communication and wisdom of God. But this claim goes even further; for John’s Greek-speaking readers, the logos is not just the words spoken by God, previously found in the Old Testament, but in Stoic philosophy the rational principle that holds the whole fabric of the universe together (compare Heb 1.3).

Thus the phrase ‘word of God’ refers to God own speech as he brings order out of chaos and makes his will known. It refers to the prophetic correction to his people to keep them within his gracious ordering, and then to the written record of the law, prophets and wisdom. It then refers to the teaching of Jesus as he announces the coming of God’s kingdom in fulfilment of Old Testament promise, and further to the apostolic teaching about Jesus, now inscribed in our New Testaments. Rather neatly, the Book of Revelation completes the canon by referencing these different meanings in the seven occurrences of ‘word of God’ in its chapters. Revelation is saturated in the Old Testament as the word of God, but this word is now both the ‘testimony of Jesus’ (Rev 1.2) as well as Jesus himself (Rev 19.13), and includes the prophetic message given to John (Rev 19.9) which aims to keep his readers faithful to the Jesus whom he sets before them.

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45 thoughts on “What is ‘the Word of God’?”

  1. The trouble with “word” is the connotation with “literal” which then slides into meaning “inerrant”. “Word” is singular and sounds fixed or final — more like a Command or military order than an invitation or warning even suggestion (and God gives all these and more in the Bible, not to mention the histories and poems and parables and time/place/person specific instructions that that Bible — “the word the Lord” — also contains .) Maybe “message” would be more open and ambivalent than “word” (the context usually gives the genre or intention; as one old black preach once thundered “They ain’t called the Ten Suggestions!”)

    The there’s the issue of capitalisation: the Word (capital W) of the Lord (capital L), giving equal weight to both and again inviting the claim to inerrancy and even a dangerous conflation: Bibliolatry. (I remember preaching in a conservative evangelical church once where they sang “Morning Has Broken” but the powerpoint had “praise for them springing fresh from the Lord” where it should have been “fresh from the word” because “word” = scripture, of course.)

    Then add to that the archaic English construction of the phrase “The is the word of the Lord” (why not “this is God’s word”?)

    So I’d prefer “this is God’s message to us”

    “All Scripture is inspired by God [or “is God’s life-giving breath”] and is useful to teach us what’s true and to make us realize what’s bad. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” Is it ALL the Word (singular, capital W) of the Lord? Yes and no. Mostly no. Should we read it every day, dwell on it and be “formed” (transformed, reformed, informed) by it through the power of the Holy Spirit? Yes indeed!

    Reply
    • “All Scripture is inspired by God [or “is God’s life-giving breath”] and is useful to teach us what’s true and to make us realize what’s bad. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” Is it ALL the Word (singular, capital W) of the Lord? Yes and no. Mostly no.

      Interesting distinction. What does it mean to be ‘inspired by God’ and yet not be ‘the Word of the Lord’? If the two aren’t synonyms, then can you explain what the difference is?

      Reply
      • Well, the two aren’t synonyms: breath and speech are not coterminous any more than an apple and giraffe. “Can you explain what the difference is?” The difference between two completely unrelated things? What’s the difference between an apple and giraffe? Where to start? And why?

        I’ll say two things though: First, I generally breathe when I speak but I don’t always speak when I breathe. Second, Adam and the disciples were “God-breathed” (i.e. given his life, his Spirit) but only Jesus was God’s word.

        Reply
        • Well, the two aren’t synonyms: breath and speech are not coterminous any more than an apple and giraffe.

          Right, but in this case both are clearly being used metaphorically.

          ‘This piece of text is God’s breath’ is a metaphor. It’s a piece of text, not an exhalation of carbon-dioxide rich gas.

          ‘This piece of text is the Word of God’ is also a metaphor. God doesn’t have vocal cords, or lungs, or think in any human language, so doesn’t actually produce words.

          So, we have two metaphors. It seems to me these could quite reasonably be seen as simply two different metaphors which refer to the same real thing. Like, for instance, ‘the Crown’ and ‘the fount of Honour’ are two different metaphors which both refer to the same thing, the Monarch. The concept of different metaphors which refer to the same thing is hardly an esoteric one which needs explained, presumably.

          But you are saying they refer to different things.

          So: what do you think the two different things are that they are metaphors for, and how do they differ?

          Reply
  2. Are they metaphors? Or archetypes? Aren’t all words a more or less imperfect imago of the original divine word? As for breath, let’s say “inspired” as remember that the Greek and Hebrew can mean wind, breath or spirit (the last of which is, I think, the root of our English word “inspired”)

    Reply
    • Are they metaphors?

      Yes. Obviously. They’re figurative use of language. What else could they possibly be?

      As for breath, let’s say “inspired” as remember that the Greek and Hebrew can mean wind, breath or spirit (the last of which is, I think, the root of our English word “inspired”)

      Okay, so we’re back to my original question then: you say that all of Scripture is ‘inspired by God’ but not all of it is ‘the Word of the Lord’. Some bits are just ‘inpired by God’ but some bits are ‘inspired by God’ and also ‘the Word of the Lord’.

      What is the difference? What does it mean for something to be ‘inspired by God’ but not ‘the Word of the Lord’? What extra quality do you mean by ‘the Word of the Lord’ which the bits which are merely ‘inspired by God’ lack?

      Reply
      • With respect, not obviously. If I say “God is my father” I have to accept that he is the first and perfect father, the one from whom all others derive the divine characteristics of “fatherhood”. We work “down” from God (as a kind of Platonic ideal) rather than “up” from our own language and phenomena. So if he say he is x or reveals himself as y the x and y are not images for God (metaphors) but images of God (created by him and reflecting an aspect of his nature.)

        “you say that all of Scripture is ‘inspired by God’ but not all of it is ‘the Word of the Lord’. Some bits are just ‘inpired by God’ but some bits are ‘inspired by God’ and also ‘the Word of the Lord’.”

        No, that’s not what I said.

        “What is the difference? What does it mean for something to be ‘inspired by God’ but not ‘the Word of the Lord’? What extra quality do you mean by ‘the Word of the Lord’ which the bits which are merely ‘inspired by God’ lack?”

        You are assuming a set and subset, and a hierarchical one at that.

        But let’s make it concrete: do you read and value and obey Ecclesiastes as much as Romans? Is Paul “more” inspired than Proverbs? Does all Scripture have equal weight? Is there a diachronic / chronological aspect (eg is the New Testament more authoritative than the Old)? Are the words of Jesus (the “words of the Lord”!) greater than the words of, say, the Pharisees or Pilate?

        Reply
        • With respect,

          I’ll thank you not to use that kind of language.

          not obviously.

          Yes, obviously. If you say, ‘God is my rock’ then that’s a metaphor, isn’t it? Obviously. In fact it’s a double-metaphor, because ‘rock’ there doesn’t mean ‘lump of stone’ but is a metaphor for a castle or stronghold. But God isn’t literally a building with strong walls and a moat where I can hide in safety from my foes; rather I am, using a metaphor, saying God has some of the same attributes as such a place of refuge.

          “you say that all of Scripture is ‘inspired by God’ but not all of it is ‘the Word of the Lord’. Some bits are just ‘inpired by God’ but some bits are ‘inspired by God’ and also ‘the Word of the Lord’.”

          No, that’s not what I said.

          Okay then I misunderstood. Could you clarify?

          But let’s make it concrete: do you read and value and obey Ecclesiastes as much as Romans? Is Paul “more” inspired than Proverbs? Does all Scripture have equal weight? Is there a diachronic / chronological aspect (eg is the New Testament more authoritative than the Old)? Are the words of Jesus (the “words of the Lord”!) greater than the words of, say, the Pharisees or Pilate?

          You’re the one who was making the distinction, I assumed you had some meaning in mind. So please explain, what exactly did you mean by:

          ‘“All Scripture is inspired by God [or “is God’s life-giving breath”] and is useful to teach us what’s true and to make us realize what’s bad. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” Is it ALL the Word (singular, capital W) of the Lord? Yes and no. Mostly no. ‘

          … if not that all scripture is inspired by God, but it is not all the Word of the Lord, in fact, it is mostly not? Because that seems to be what you’ve written there, but if you didn’t mean that,. please could you clarify what you did mean?

          Reply
          • “I’ll thank you not to use that kind of language”.

            Love your dry sense of humour!

            OK, metaphors:

            “If you say, ‘God is my rock’ then that’s a metaphor, isn’t it? Obviously.”

            No. If I say “my wife is my rock” that’s a metaphor. Is the creator like his creation or vice versa? The latter, I’d say. He came first and made things that reflect aspects of his nature. They are like him, not him like them. ?(Allow me a very poor analogy: my children look like me, and I look like my parents. Now you could say “I look like my children” and it would be true in a sense but not as true as “my children look like me” because they derive their looks from me.)

            And now this:

            “”All Scripture is inspired by God [or “is God’s life-giving breath”] and is useful to teach us what’s true and to make us realize what’s bad. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” Is it ALL the Word (singular, capital W) of the Lord? Yes and no. Mostly no.”

            Clearly, in the Bible God is not the speaker most of the time. Other characters also speak and many passages are poetry or history or whatever. So it isn’t always or even mostly “the words [plural] of the Lord”. But it is “the word [I prefer “message” or “communication”] of God” to us. The Lord speaks in and through the whole of Scripture, regardless of whose words are actually being spoken or what is being said. God teaches us — speak to us — even through the devils and demons, the fools and knaves, in his book. They are not his words, they are not even always good and true, but even they can contain and convey something from us God to us.

            Hope that helps.

            Pax

          • “If you say, ‘God is my rock’ then that’s a metaphor, isn’t it? Obviously.”

            No. If I say “my wife is my rock” that’s a metaphor. Is the creator like his creation or vice versa? The latter, I’d say. He came first and made things that reflect aspects of his nature. They are like him, not him like them. ?(Allow me a very poor analogy: my children look like me, and I look like my parents. Now you could say “I look like my children” and it would be true in a sense but not as true as “my children look like me” because they derive their looks from me.)

            How is any of that relevant?

            A metaphor is:

            ‘A figure of speech in which a name or descriptive word or phrase is transferred to an object or action different from, but analogous to, that to which it is literally applicable’ [OED]

            So when I write, ‘God is my rock’, am I not using a figure of speech in which I am transferring qualities of a castle (its steadfastness, its protection) to God, who is different from the castle but is analogous to it in this way (God also is ever-present and strong like the castle, and also protects me like a castle would)?

            And am I not therefore using a metaphor?

            It makes no difference which came first. A metaphor is simply about the use of figurative language to make an analogy between two things. And that is exactly what you do if you say ‘God is my rock’: you are making an analogy between the rock and God.

            But that’s really a tangent because the nub of the matter is:

            Clearly, in the Bible God is not the speaker most of the time. Other characters also speak and many passages are poetry or history or whatever. So it isn’t always or even mostly “the words [plural] of the Lord”. But it is “the word [I prefer “message” or “communication”] of God” to us. The Lord speaks in and through the whole of Scripture, regardless of whose words are actually being spoken or what is being said. God teaches us — speak to us — even through the devils and demons, the fools and knaves, in his book. They are not his words, they are not even always good and true, but even they can contain and convey something from us God to us.

            So you’re saying that all of Scripture is God’s message to us (that’s what you mean by ‘inspired by God’), but the only bits which count as ‘the Word of the Lord’ are any passages of direct reported speech explicitly ascribed to God (or, presumably, Jesus)? That’s the distinction you’re making? Or have I misunderstood again?

        • Oliver
          Ur sounding like a good Barthian
          not that Barth was all good – but mainly, ish

          Lk11v28 ‘ Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and obey it’

          What word was Jesus referring to? Torah? Prophets? Himself?

          When are we having lunch?

          Reply
          • Soon! I need to come to Oxford on some business at some point.

            “What word was Jesus referring to? Torah? Prophets? Himself?”

            All of those and possibly also personal inspiration based on or congruous and consistent with Scripture. He says “hearing” though so it sounds (forgive the pun) like he’s referring a written text (as you know, all texts were read aloud, even if being studied personally and privately). But probably the Law and Prophets (cf Luke 16:16 and 24:44 plus elsewhere).

  3. I believe we need to exercise new paradigm, to repudiate inapplicable instructions in the Bible, and we should base that repudiation on the assertion that the Bible – though profound and noble – is fallible and written by fallible, culture-framed human beings.

    For example, it is lamentable that the Church has accepted some of the hierarchical social and moral structures of the past, accommodated in the Bible, whether that is slavery, or the subordination of women, the ‘alrightness’ of ethnically cleansing Canaan, or (of course) the vilification of gay sex. That should be so obvious to us, on the impulse of love and justice that runs in us through the Holy Spirit, that we reject those ideas as heinous in this day and age.

    Yes, the Word of the Lord is flawless, but the Word of the Lord is not a book. The Word of the Lord flows creatively through the Bible, like an impulse of love and grace, flowing through an imperfect pipeline. The Bible is a conduit for God. The Bible is not God. Moreover, the Word of the Lord flows through other conduits too: through people we meet, through art, through music, through nature and creation, through conscience, through personal relationship with God, through prayer, through service of others.

    The Word of the Lord is the creative force and flow of God, calling us vocationally to live lives based on givenness to God, and relationship with God, and devotion to the community of God, both in heaven and in the world we inhabit. Until we are willing to recognise the provisional, and sometimes culture-limited, aspects of parts of the Bible, and until we understand the actual status and use of the Bible as a conduit rather than a some perfect ‘fax’ from God, we run the risk of verses like those that speak of male headship being claimed (and enforced) for all time in all societies.

    We have God-given conscience, and the Word of the Lord continues to emerge, and speak to us, in consciences we have a responsibility to exercise in the pursuit of justice, love and grace. The Word of God, who longs to expand our consciousness and capacity to love, is still talking to us today through multiple conduits, prompting fresh takes on moral issues, barbing us to pursue justice, opening horizons, and consciences, and of course above all opening us to the love of God.

    Sure, we can apply the principles of fundamentalists like ISIS and insist on perpetuating medieval or ancient world social values, imprisoning women in diminished lives, based on the claimed perfection of texts. But it is a radical mistake.

    If we start with assumptions that the Bible is near enough infallible in its insights, then I fear we risk *appropriating* the term Word of God to contain it within our closed systems and theology. If we reify the Bible, and treat it all as incontestable, we risk ossifying the culture it was written in and perpetuating it, regardless of later cultural values, insights, liberations.

    We don’t need to read and understand the Bible that way. If we do, I think it diminishes it, and alienates people unnecessarily. We mistake the conduit for the thing it is meant to supply: which is God’s love, grace, justice, and of course Holy Spirit.

    Your mileage, of course, may vary…

    Reply
  4. S:

    “So you’re saying that all of Scripture is God’s message to us (that’s what you mean by ‘inspired by God’), but the only bits which count as ‘the Word of the Lord’ are any passages of direct reported speech explicitly ascribed to God (or, presumably, Jesus)? That’s the distinction you’re making? Or have I misunderstood again?”

    Well that’s why I don’t think the word “word” is helpful as it doesn’t capture the fulness of the Greek. John’s divine logos clearly isn’t a “word” (like “cucumber” or “taxi” are words) neither is what(ever) Jesus refers to in Luke 11:28. It’s a “message”, a “communique”, even a “principle” or “wisdom” (although that sounds gnostic and I’ve already been quite neoplatonic enough already!)

    The Bible is God’s uniquely inspired message to us. Will that do?

    The monks of old would say “Abba, give me a word” and the senior monk would give them a message or verse or saying. But not a (single) “word”!

    Reply
    • Jesus is God’s uniquely inspired message to us.

      Kind of good that Jesus is ascribed to be the divine Logos.

      The Bible is a vessel, a container, a conduit.

      It doesn’t have to be perfect itself.

      What flows through it, when we open our hearts in the act of reading, is the divine and creative perfection…

      Of course, contained within the Bible, are many spiritual insights, and language with the power to challenge our consciences and open our minds…

      And most potently, to open our hearts to encounter with the One, who continues to speak to us, and call us into more and more of who we are, both individually and communally, as members of the household of God.

      The power of this Word of God is wondrous. The Holy Spirit mediates the (Divine) Word for us, and helps us to open to God, and be opened by God.

      As the Psalmist said, “When You take away our breath, we die and return to dust. When you send Your Spirit, you renew the face of the Earth.”

      God never stops creating, initiating, revealing, unveiling, opening.

      Through the living Word, we are called into being, and called into becoming – a vocation that continues all the days of our lives. And a vocation that opens us, in love and grace, to the new creation God does in us, through us, reaching to the communities around us.

      And this vocation is the Word of God, the breaking out of God, the springs in the deserts of our stony hearts, the new life through which communities, and the world, and the face of the earth may be renewed.

      Alleluia!

      Reply
      • Susannah
        greetings
        as always I love the beauty of your poetic riffs – but being clinical: who n how decides what exactly in the Bible is inspired and has authority as the now message of the Lord?
        Is it fair to suggest: The Catholic says ‘the Church’; the Evangelical says ‘the Bible itself’;
        and the Liberal says ‘prevailing culture’?

        Reply
        • Hello Simon,

          I hope you are well and thank you for your graciousness.

          Who decides? My view is: God decides. Then it is up to us to try to listen to our consciences, and what God may be saying to us, taking in to account life realities, personal relationship with God, things we may draw from the Bible, insights we gain from people, and of course, habitual prayer routine.

          When it comes to the labelling, I regard myself as catholic, evangelical and liberal in various and diverse aspects of my faith – not to mention charismatic, and carmelite in spiritual practice. All of them very fallibly.

          I believe that God speaks through the Church, the Bible, the world we live in. And also through art, and music, and children, and sickness, and people who need help, and many other ways – through life experience too.

          Listening to God is not always easy, is it? But I see no alternative to opening up in relationship with God, and journeying (often uncertainly) with God, and stumbling and carrying on, but trying to find God and know God in a living relationship, day by day.

          In my view, God the Creative Word never stops calling us, calling us into our being and more of our wholeness – a wholeness we find in God, and in community. This Word of God is not boxed up in a book, or even a set of books, however profound and inspiring they may be. God is Spirit, and speaks to us as the creative Word, and that’s a flow and an impulse of compassion and love. You can’t contain the flow. It’s not boxed up in certainties. There are a huge number of uncertainties in our lives. But that should be alright, providing we base our relationship on trust. In fact, the existence of uncertainties necessitates trust. Trust in God’s goodness.

          We should not be afraid that God is any less God, if the Bible is fallible in places, or written through the fallible lens of fallible (but faithful) human beings. The biggest issue is not so much deciding on uniform dogma, but opening our hearts to the love of God. It’s very obvious that is the greatest imperative. God can speak to our consciences through diverse channels to teach us how to love, and where we need to open up.

          Love is the flow of God’s person, so opening to God in relationship draws us into that flow and that givenness and service.

          Love is the authority for what we do. We do it the best we can, if God gives us grace. Often we fall short.

          Reply
      • And most potently, to open our hearts to encounter with the One, who continues to speak to us, and call us into more and more of who we are, both individually and communally, as members of the household of God.

        You know, I’ve just twigged what all this ‘open your heart to Love’ stuff reminds me of…

        … it’s going to end up with someone asking what God needs with a starship, isn’t it?

        Reply
    • The Bible is God’s uniquely inspired message to us. Will that do?

      Well, yes, but the problem is… that’s what most people who say ‘the Bible is the Word of the Lord’ mean by the phrase. I mean, it’s what I mean by it. God’s uniquely inspired message to us.

      So I’m afraid I still don’t understand what you meant by:

      ‘Is it ALL the Word (singular, capital W) of the Lord? Yes and no. Mostly no.’

      You think that the Bible is all ‘God’s uniquely inspired message to us’, right? So in what way is it not all ‘the Word of the Lord’?

      If ‘the Word of the Lord’ means ‘God’s uniquely inspired message to us’, and the Bible is all ‘God’s uniquely inspired message to us’, then the Bible is all ‘the Word of the Lord’… but you think it’s not, indeed, that it’s ‘mostly’ not.

      Do you see why I’m confused? Can you help me and explain what you mean by ‘the Word of the Lord’ if it’s not ‘God’s uniquely inspired message to us’?

      Reply
      • Always liked Anglican article 19: ‘THE visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ’s ordinance’ – though begs the question what is it? I believe this speaks of the Bible as God’s word, and it is pure cos its from God, thus inspired, undefiled and infallible.

        Personally, unlike Barth, who believed Scripture, though unique, is not the word of God but ‘becomes’ the Word by the agency of the Spirit in preaching – I am happy to say the Bible is the Word of God. Over 500x it states ‘the word of the Lord came, the Lord said, God said, etc’ I dont see a word within the word. I trust the Spirit in the Church inspiring, transmitting, selecting, collating, treasuring, closing the canon. I recognise this is a positivist position, employing a certain circular reasoning, but I think it is self authenticating and I’d rather stand here than in no-man’s land.

        Reply
        • What do you mean by ‘no-man’s land’ and what don’t you like about it? Do you crave certainty? Have we got a right to expect that? or is our only certainty meant to be our trust in God and God’s love for us? Should faith be rooted in trust, rather than certainty?

          Not attacking, just asking, to try to understand your mind. As someone who finds ‘the cloud of unknowing’ so helpful in my relationship with God, so conducive to drawing out trust, I don’t feel a need for everything to be infallible and certain. I feel the need to trust God’s love and faithfulness towards us. I find that epitomised in Jesus Christ, God’s Son: in his life, his ministry, his goodness, his compassion, his givenness, his sacrifice, his death, his resurrection. And God’s presence inside us, like a patient, faithful friend.

          To me, faith in God is more to do with relationship trust, than dogmatic certainties about every single thing that’s written in the Bible. (That doesn’t mean I don’t hugely value and treasure the Bible.)

          May the Grace of God be with you.

          Reply
          • Morning Susannah

            Nah, I dont crave certainty – but I balk when subjectivity trumps Scripture. I prefer to rely on what God has said and the church has always believed he has said, as revealed in his Word of Scripture, than in what someone thinks he says. What some dismiss or even mock as ‘dogmatic certainties’ is actually the fruit of fides quaerens intellectum.

            I am a creature and God is Creator – there will always be mystery until he returns and we see him face to face and I know even as I am know. But the great gulf has been traversed by God’s gracious action – he stoops down and draws near – the eternal Father and Lord has made himself known through his particular revelation to and through the children of Abraham, culminating in the Christ event. By his Spirit, as Promised, he continues to lead us into all truth, inspiring the Apostolic witness and record and inspiring the Church to recognise and cherish these unique authoritative revelations. The church who loves Jesus and listens to God will be attentive to his Word above all things, for here he normatively speaks.

  5. Susannah Clark:

    I agree with Simon in that “I love the beauty of your poetic riffs”. . . but

    “Jesus is God’s uniquely inspired message to us.”

    Rather more than that I (and, I think, Scripture) would say!

    “Kind of good that Jesus is ascribed to be the divine Logos.”

    Kind of good?

    “The Bible is a vessel, a container, a conduit.

    It doesn’t have to be perfect itself.

    What flows through it, when we open our hearts in the act of reading, is the divine and creative perfection…”

    Agreed! And, fwiw, I agree with all the rest of what you wrote.

    S:

    “You know, I’ve just twigged what all this ‘open your heart to Love’ stuff reminds me of…

    … it’s going to end up with someone asking what God needs with a starship, isn’t it?”

    No-one has used the phrase “open your heart to Love” except you. Are you trolling?

    “Do you see why I’m confused? Can you help me and explain what you mean by ‘the Word of the Lord’ if it’s not ‘God’s uniquely inspired message to us’?”

    Yes I can see why you’re confused! The Bible is unique, in a category of one. Saying what it is or isn’t is very very hard. So people run to simple or extreme positions (“it’s inerrant!” / “it’s just literature!”). Can I clarify what I think it is beyond ‘God’s uniquely inspired message to us’? Not really but I do find that the phrase ‘the Word of the Lord’ can imply inerrancy and is used (often circularly) to justify that position.

    —-

    Simon:

    “Is it fair to suggest: The Catholic says ‘the Church’; the Evangelical says ‘the Bible itself’; and the Liberal says ‘prevailing culture’?”

    1.) I think it’s not completely fair to liberals (they would probably claim reason and experience rather than νῦν αἰῶνα cf. 2 Timothy 4:10)

    2.) a category error: the Church and the Bible are intertwined. The Church wrote the Bible and set the canon; the Bible informs and shapes the church.

    Reply
    • No-one has used the phrase “open your heart to Love” except you. Are you trolling?

      Paraphrasing.

      Yes I can see why you’re confused! The Bible is unique, in a category of one. Saying what it is or isn’t is very very hard. So people run to simple or extreme positions (“it’s inerrant!” / “it’s just literature!”). Can I clarify what I think it is beyond ‘God’s uniquely inspired message to us’? Not really but I do find that the phrase ‘the Word of the Lord’ can imply inerrancy and is used (often circularly) to justify that position.

      But you made a clear distinction. Do I have to quote it again?

      ‘Is [Scripture] ALL the Word (singular, capital W) of the Lord? Yes and no. Mostly no. ‘

      That’s pretty clear that you think there is such a thing as ‘the Word of the Lord’, and you are qualified to judge whether ‘ALL [sic]’ of scripture falls into that category or not. Wouldn’t you agree that that is the plain meaning of the quoted sentences?

      So, for you to be so clear and certain, then you must have a clear idea of what you mean by ‘the Word (singular, capital W) of the Lord’, mustn’t you?

      Otherwise you were… well, otherwise you can’t have been actually making a substantive point at all, but just vaguely wibbling. Were you just vaguely wibbling? I like to be charitable and assume that people are not vaguely wibbling unless proved otherwise, but in this case you seem to be explicitly saying that you can’t tell us what you mean by ‘the Word (singular, capital W) of the Lord’ because your idea of what it means is too vague for you to put it into words.

      Is that what you’re saying? You don’t have a solid concept of what it means for somethign to be ‘the Word (singular, capital W) of the Lord’, but only a wooly concept which is too vague for you to put into words?

      But if that’s true, then how can you make sure a clear, certain declaimation as the original quotation?

      ‘Is [Scripture] ALL the Word (singular, capital W) of the Lord? Yes and no. Mostly no.’

      … is not the kind of certain, forceful thing you can reasonably say if the concepts involved are vague and wooly.

      So again: what do you actually mean by ‘the Word (singular, capital W) of the Lord’, such that you can make the point that Scripture is ‘mostly not’ it? Or are you really just vaguely wibbling?

      Reply
      • Ah, I see. By “Word of the Lord” I would mean God as the one speaking in the text.

        So: “there is no God” (from Ps 14:1) would be a hard phrase to ascribe as “Word of the Lord”! I’m being silly and extreme to make a point but I’d rather say “the whole Bible is God’s uniquely and divinely inspired message us”

        Then there’s the problem with what “word” means. (In might suggest singular or authoritative.)

        I’m happy to say, liturgically, “this is the word of the Lord” knowing what that means in that context but less happy to use it as a definitive statement of doctrine on what the Bible is. I’ve seen it misused (i.e. to mean inerrant) and misunderstood.

        Pax

        P.S. “Paraphrasing” – why? It’s less effort copy and paste and keeps you true to the original source text.

        Reply
        • Ah, I see. By “Word of the Lord” I would mean God as the one speaking in the text.

          So, yes, you’re only counting as ‘the Word of the Lord’ instances of direct reported speech attributed to God (and, presumably, Jesus)?

          Which, okay, but that’s a very weird and artificial distinction, isn’t it? I’ve never heard anyone else use ‘the Word of the Lord’ to mean that. It’s like taking that ‘red-letter Bible’ nonsense to the extreme.

          So: “there is no God” (from Ps 14:1) would be a hard phrase to ascribe as “Word of the Lord”! I’m being silly and extreme to make a point but I’d rather say “the whole Bible is God’s uniquely and divinely inspired message us”

          But isn’t ‘God’s uniquely and divinely inspired message [to] us’ what most people who actually use the phrase ‘the Word of the Lord’ mean by it?

          I mean it’s what I would mean by it. I’m pretty sure it’s what the people who wrote, say, the Westminster confession meant by it. It’s what almost all Christians throughout history have meant by it.

          I think pretty much everyone who says, ‘the whole bible is the Word of God’ means by it that ‘the whole Bible is God’s uniquely and divinely inspired message [to] us’. Do you disagree? If you do, can you provide any examples of people (reasonably mainstream people, not whackadoos) who use the phrase and don’t mean that?

          So: you are being silly and extreme, I think, because you seem to have redefined ‘the Word of the Lord’ to mean this odd, idiosyncratic thing that is completely at odds with what everybody else who uses the phrase means by it, and then (without letting on that this what you are doing) used that idiosyncratic meaning to make a statement which is on the face of it nonsense.

          This is a very odd way to ‘make a point’, by making up a new meaning for a standard phrase and then using it without letting on that you mean something different to the normal meaning. It seems guaranteed to make confusion (as indeed I was confused) rather than a point.

          What point exactly were you trying to make?

          P.S. “Paraphrasing” – why? It’s less effort copy and paste and keeps you true to the original source text.

          I don’t think anyone should be subjected to those massive, multi-screen blocks of ‘Love is god’ wibble more than once. Hence paraphrasing is necessary for brevity.

          Reply
          • Yes, it is a very a very weird and artificial distinction BUT I’ve had conservative evangelicals basically equate the Bible with God/Jesus (as if the logos of John 1:1 = the “living and active” word of Heb 4:12 = the Bible)

            Hence my wariness. And, to be fair, my lack of clarity. I’d prefer to say that the Jesus is THE Word of the Lord and the Bible is “the words that point to the Word (OT) and reveal him to us (NT)”

            “Which, okay, but that’s a very weird and artificial distinction, isn’t it? I’ve never heard anyone else use ‘the Word of the Lord’ to mean that. It’s like taking that ‘red-letter Bible’ nonsense to the extreme.”

            Not quite. Jesus speaks repeatedly of “Law and the Prophets”. That is God’s direct speech to the world. He doesn’t reference historical narrative in the same way, although he does refer to it (e.g. David eating the showbread). I’m reluctant to say there are “levels” of scripture but I think we’d agree that the Sermon on the Mount is more important than the two contradictory accounts of how Judas died. Maybe not?

            Am I unclear? Yes. Because I don’t have a fixed and final doctrine of Scripture except to say it is uniquely inspired and authoritative. As the phrase “the word of the lord” (capitalise or not as you wish) can be used to apply to (e.g.) Jesus or a particular prophet’s revelation and message I don’t think it’s helpful. tl;dr even the Bible uses the phrase “the word of the lord” in different ways to mean different things. Is the whole Bible “the word of the lord”? Again: yes and no! Sorry.

            “I don’t think anyone should be subjected to those massive, multi-screen blocks of ‘Love is god’ wibble more than once. Hence paraphrasing is necessary for brevity.”

            I don’t think ANYONE here has used the phrase “Love is god”, except you. Critique what is written not what you think (hope, fear) was written. In saying why you “paraphrase” (and refuting my accusation of misrepresenting) you repeat the error of misrepresentation!

          • Yes, it is a very a very weird and artificial distinction BUT I’ve had conservative evangelicals basically equate the Bible with God/Jesus (as if the logos of John 1:1 = the “living and active” word of Heb 4:12 = the Bible)

            Really? Have you an example? I’m not saying it’s impossible, I am not very well up on that field, but I doubt you’d find anyone mainstrea sayign that and, well, whackadoos say all sorts of nonsense.

            “Which, okay, but that’s a very weird and artificial distinction, isn’t it? I’ve never heard anyone else use ‘the Word of the Lord’ to mean that. It’s like taking that ‘red-letter Bible’ nonsense to the extreme.”

            Not quite. Jesus speaks repeatedly of “Law and the Prophets”. That is God’s direct speech to the world. He doesn’t reference historical narrative in the same way, although he does refer to it (e.g. David eating the showbread). I’m reluctant to say there are “levels” of scripture but I think we’d agree that the Sermon on the Mount is more important than the two contradictory accounts of how Judas died. Maybe not?

            Sorry, I’m losing track again of how this relates to your concept of ‘the Word of the Lord’. Are you saying the Sermon on the Mount is ‘the Word of the Lord’ but the accounts of how Judas died aren’t?

            Am I unclear? Yes. Because I don’t have a fixed and final doctrine of Scripture except to say it is uniquely inspired and authoritative.

            Perhaps if you don’t have a clear idea of what you mean then you shouldn’t be making bold claims like ‘Is [Scripture] ALL the Word (singular, capital W) of the Lord? Yes and no. Mostly no ‘ ?

            Just a thought.

            I don’t think ANYONE here has used the phrase “Love is god”, except you. Critique what is written not what you think (hope, fear) was written. In saying why you “paraphrase” (and refuting my accusation of misrepresenting) you repeat the error of misrepresentation!

            I didn’t refute it; I simply denied it. To properly refute it would require engaging with the nonsense to a degree where the return would not be worth the effort. And, frankly, I doubt there’s even enough actual intellectual content there, once you stip away the interminable repetition and the teeth-gratingly florid but meaningless language, to make it worth engaging with at all. It would be like trying to wrestle jelly or nail steam to the wall.

  6. I’m not sure who to reply to in this jumble of threads, so I’ll just post it here.

    I’d argue that before we claim the Bible is verbatim ‘the Word of God’, and therefore true in everything we want to claim it says… we first need to ask a preceding but profoundly important question:

    “In what sense is the Bible ‘true’?”

    Is it all literally true? Demonstrably not, and very few educated people would argue for that today? Instead we apportion terms like ‘myth’ and ‘poetry’ to some passages.

    Is it all intended, verbatim, to be word for word the way it is – as God’s authoritative statement on all matters? Some people would say we need to allow for culture which may colour what was sometimes written.

    Is it ‘alive and active’, and therefore conveying truth that way? Well I would have more sympathy for a line like that, but many would say that opened doctrine to subjectivity.

    Is it various, sometimes deeply profound and sometimes fallible and capable of reflecting error or partial views of its culture-planted authors? Many people (and some here) would hate that, arguing ‘everything becomes pick and mix… and if one part’s mistaken and not true, how do we know any of it is true.’

    So…

    “Is the Bible true?”

    Because the way we answer that will help define what we even mean by the ‘Word of God’ when applied to the written scriptures.

    FWIW I don’t think it’s a verbatim fax from God. I believe it is often profound and holds some wonderful insights, and of course presents us with statements about Jesus’s life and ministry and death and resurrection. But I see it as a collection of human attempts to make sense of the divine, the holy, the numinous, and various encounters with a God who, quite frankly, is far beyond our words.

    We attempt to make fallible attempts to make sense of our encounters. We do so, using our human ways of explaining things, often set in the culture and events of our lives… both we who are alive today, and they who wrote the Bible texts.

    I think what matters more is, if you like, the stream that flows… the actual perfect God who longs to open our hearts, helped along the way by words we read and people we meet, to that life, that person, that love, and that devotion (givenness) through which we start to recognise God, and what God is like, and who God is.

    Is the Bible ‘true’? Well it’s an honest attempt. But who is actually true is God themself… the God who breaks through in our consciences, in our lives, in our relationships, in music, in suffering… and breaks through too, like a flowing stream, through the conduit of the very human, understandably fallible Bible.

    The Word of God – the creative logos – is Jesus.

    How we attribute that phrase to the Bible as well, hinges on a preceding understanding of in what sense the Bible is ‘true’.

    Reply
  7. Perhaps it’s time to re-read “The Gagging of God” by D A Carson, which is consistent and cogent and has not been displaced by time, even as opposition intensifies today as merely illustrated, rather than being creatively new or progressive, by Oliver Harrison or Suzzanah Clark, by Quakers, or subjective syllogisms or any other egregious eisegesis. And with seemingly little mention of huge swathes of what Christianity terms the Old Testament.
    Having just now read through the comments, what is said by Suzzanah is repetitious (with previous comments on other blog articles) and consequently predictable.
    I’ve not encountered Oliver Harrison on this topic before and I think he loses the plot somewhat, particularly in making an admittedly exaggerated, but entirely fallacious point about Ps 41 and a cartoonish conflation of the John 1 and Hebrews 4. I’ve not come across that before and OH surely knows that it is not the mainstream, Trinitarian, evangelical view of scripture. It’s a strawman point to make in the context of the article, in “Preach” magazine.
    I’ve certainly encountered KJV only advocates and some who may superficially seem as though the they believe in Father,Son and Holy Bible, but when pressed they are Trinitarians, even encountered biblical scholars who are neo -Marcionites, and some who are atheists, devoting their lives to it’s study, some who are handbook-for -life-legalists and some who are antinomian deists or theist.
    Here is a 6 min podcast with Don Carson and Mike Kruger: No the Church didn’t created the Bible: https://youtu.be/CvtxYBif6Wg
    And, which I’ve not read there is a 1248 p book edited by DA Carson on the “Authority of Scripture” with multiple authors.

    Reply
  8. Geoff, that podcast is good but Mike sets up some straw men. The church *did* write the Bible and fix the canon, not at the Council of Nicaea (who says that? I’ve never heard it.)

    That doesn’t mean that Bible is the “creature” of the church, over which we have authority.

    Carson is better: “God-inspired text actually given by God” — yes, amen — “documents which are fully authoritative” — also yes, amen.

    Back to the phrase “word of the Lord”. The prophets used it to mean a specific revelation to a time and place that is now part of God’s timeless revelation to us; the apostles used to mean the gospel.

    Mike says that Paul understood at the time that he was writing Scripture, on a par with the sources he quotes (Isaiah, Psalms)? Really?

    I suggest instead of pontificating and disagreeing over what the Bible is we just read it, reflect on it and respond to it.

    Pax

    Reply
    • I suggest instead of pontificating and disagreeing over what the Bible is we just read it, reflect on it and respond to it.

      But how can we possibly respond to it correctly if we don’t know what it is?

      The correct response to something is determined by what it is. In the extreme case, if the atheists are right and it’s not divinely inspired at all, then the correct response is to read it for historical interest only. If the Muslims are right and it was divinely inspired but has then been corrupted, our response should be different again.

      So in fact we must first work out what the Bible is, before we can respond to it.

      Your suggestion that we can respond to it before we know what it is is totally the wrong way round.

      Reply
      • I don’t understand God but I obey him (or try to, sometimes).

        I may not understand what the dr prescribes but I undergo the treatment.

        I can submit to scripture without being sure of what it is, except (as I’ve said) divinely-inspired and authoritative.

        Do I think it is inerrant? No. I think it is full of the fallibility of human authorship and transmission (eg variant readings, unclear texts, even contradiction and error).

        I’ve yet to read a short, simple statement on what scripture that I 100% agree with, with nothing more needing to be said. It’s not divine, but it’s not entirely human, either. Jesus was fully both and the Bible is . . . something else. As I said, in a category of one. Unique.

        Maybe you could tell us in a sentence what you think it is?

        Reply
        • I may not understand what the dr prescribes but I undergo the treatment.

          But doesn’t that just prove my point? The reason you take advice from the doctor is the provenance of the advice: the fact that she has a medical degree and is registered means that you know the information she gives you is trustworthy. You wouldn’t take medical advice fomr some random web page, would you? At least, I hope you wouldn’t.

          You may not need to know all the details. You probably don’t need to know exactly where she took her medical degree. But you need to know what a medical degree is and what it means to know why you should follow the treatment she prescribes, don’t you?

          I can submit to scripture without being sure of what it is, except (as I’ve said) divinely-inspired and authoritative.

          But how can you know that it’s autoritative if you don’t understand what it is? If you didn’t understand what a medical degree was, how would you know that what the doctor said was authoritative and what the random web page said wasn’t?

          So aren’t we back to, we have to know what kind of a thing the Bible is before we can know how to respond to it? Before we can now whether it actualyl is authoritative or not?

          Maybe you could tell us in a sentence what you think it is?

          I think you did pretty well above with ‘God’s uniquely and divinely inspired message [to] us’, actually. That sums it up pretty well.

          What I still don’t understand is what point you were making by coming up with your weird ideosyncratic meaning for ‘the Word of the Lord’ and then using it confusingly without making it clear that’s what you were doing.

          You wrote above you were doing that to make a point. But you haven’t explained exactly what point you were trying to make. Could you explain what point you were trying to make?

          Reply
          • “The reason you take advice from the doctor is the provenance of the advice: the fact that she has a medical degree and is registered means that you know the information she gives you is trustworthy. You wouldn’t take medical advice fomr some random web page, would you? At least, I hope you wouldn’t.”

            Yes! Exactly! I know that the church (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) wrote and compiled the Bible. I know its provenance. Now, some do trust in quacks and homeopathy and whatever. And some people believe in the Book of Mormon or the Watchtower or the Koran or whatever. For me, though, the age and origins of the Bible are like an Oxford degree: trustworthy and venerable; tried and tested.

            It’s also (for me, at least) an article of faith, part of my doctrine or dogma, that the Bible is uniquely divinely inspired. I can’t “prove” it but I believe it, like with the sacraments.

            Now, why do I quail at or at at least quibble over the phrase “the Word of the Lord”? Precisely because it can mean all sorts of things. The Bible itself seems to use it variously, one might say inconsistently (unless it has different meanings or at least nuances). It’s hard to argue that if the Bible is “the Word of the Lord” then it’s no more than literature of purely human origin. However, it is easier to argue a too-high view of Scripture from it and use it (circularly) to justify a bibliolatrous and/or inerrant view. After all, if Jesus is perfect and divine and the Word of God and the Bible is also the Word of God then the Bible is perfect and divine.

            Pax

          • Yes! Exactly! I know that the church (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) wrote and compiled the Bible.

            Well, the church didn’t write the Bible; the Bible was written before the church existed. Unless you mean the Invisible Church? But that’s a detail. I see what you mean.

            It’s also (for me, at least) an article of faith, part of my doctrine or dogma, that the Bible is uniquely divinely inspired. I can’t “prove” it but I believe it, like with the sacraments.

            It’s a bad idea to take things on faith.

            Now, why do I quail at or at at least quibble over the phrase “the Word of the Lord”?

            You didn’t ‘quibble over’ it, though. You made up your own meaning for it, one that as far as I can tell is used by no one else in the world, and then, without letting on that that’s what you were doing, used it to make a statement which, if one understands how the phrase is commonly used, is nonsense.

            Do I need to quote it again?

            ‘“All Scripture is inspired by God [or “is God’s life-giving breath”] and is useful to teach us what’s true and to make us realize what’s bad. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” Is it ALL the Word (singular, capital W) of the Lord? Yes and no. Mostly no.’

            That’s quite an extreme rhetorical gambit, verging on the disingenuous (what if I hadn’t noticed that was what you were doing, and everyone else who read your comment was left confused?) and you said you did it to make a point.

            You still haven’t clearly stated what the point was that you were trying to make.

            So, what was the point you were trying to make?

  9. S:

    “You still haven’t clearly stated what the point was that you were trying to make.

    So, what was the point you were trying to make?”

    This one:

    “Now, why do I quail at or at at least quibble over the phrase “the Word of the Lord”? Precisely because it can mean all sorts of things. The Bible itself seems to use it variously, one might say inconsistently (unless it has different meanings or at least nuances). It’s hard to argue that if the Bible is “the Word of the Lord” then it’s no more than literature of purely human origin. However, it is easier to argue a too-high view of Scripture from it and use it (circularly) to justify a bibliolatrous and/or inerrant view. After all, if Jesus is perfect and divine and the Word of God and the Bible is also the Word of God then the Bible is perfect and divine.”

    Reply
    • Now, why do I quail at or at at least quibble over the phrase “the Word of the Lord”? Precisely because it can mean all sorts of things. The Bible itself seems to use it variously, one might say inconsistently (unless it has different meanings or at least nuances). It’s hard to argue that if the Bible is “the Word of the Lord” then it’s no more than literature of purely human origin. However, it is easier to argue a too-high view of Scripture from it and use it (circularly) to justify a bibliolatrous and/or inerrant view. After all, if Jesus is perfect and divine and the Word of God and the Bible is also the Word of God then the Bible is perfect and divine.

      Okay, I did read that, it’s just I’m struggling I’m trying to extract from it an actual point.

      Let me try a diferent tack. Does this go back to your claim that:

      ‘I’ve had conservative evangelicals basically equate the Bible with God/Jesus (as if the logos of John 1:1 = the “living and active” word of Heb 4:12 = the Bible)’

      ?

      Because as I wrote above, I find it hard to believe there are any mainstream, non-whackadoo people making such an equation. I asked for an example, and you didn’t give one. Could you give one now?

      Reply
      • S:

        Yes, it was a person who was adamant that “living and active” word of Heb 4:12 = the Bible. Now its very hard to argue that a text, even God’s own utterance, is “living and active”, i.e. has its own autonomous life. It might be that, as Ian Paul says in the OP, God’s speech is an action, is powerful, causes things to happen. God can speak things into existence. And Jesus, of course, is the Word of God and is independently alive (as it were), “living and active”.

        Any other view of Scripture was, in that person’s opinion, “liberal” and relativistic and so on.

        Hope that helps.

        Reply
        • Yes, it was a person who was adamant that “living and active” word of Heb 4:12 = the Bible

          Well, I mean, who was this person? There are all sorts of crazies going around saying all sorts of crazy things, but this is obviously not a mainstream view and the fact you met one completely unrepresentative whackadoo doesn’t change that.

          So do you have any actual reference to this view being expressed, in a book, on a web page, in a sermon, anywhere, really, by an actual mainstream figure rather than some cray-cray you bumped into once?

          Because if it really was just one random person, among seven billion, who you were addressing, then that seems hardly to justify the rhetorical contortions you went through to make what seems to be a a very very niche point.

          Reply
          • “if it really was just one random person, among seven billion, who you were addressing, then that seems hardly to justify the rhetorical contortions you went through to make what seems to be a a very very niche point.”

            Indeed. But the point is that the phrase “word of the Lord” can, as I’ve said, mean all sorts of things. The Bible itself seems to use it in serval different ways.

          • But the point is that the phrase “word of the Lord” can, as I’ve said, mean all sorts of things.

            I’m sorry, you’ve lost me again. Nobody disputes that the phrase ‘the Word of the Lord’ can mean all lots of things.

            But most — indeed I would say almost all — people who use the phrase to describe the Bible mean, in that context, ‘God’s uniquely and divinely inspired message [to] us’. that’s certainly what I mean when I apply the phrase to the Bible.

            That’s why I thought it strange when you wrote specifically that you thought the Bible was ‘God’s uniquely and divinely inspired message [to] us’ but also that it was ‘mostly not’ the Word of the Lord. So I enquired what you meant, and you said you were using a very odd and strange definition of ‘the Word of the Lord’ — as best as I understand it, you were meaning ‘instances of direct reported speech in the Bible explicitly attributed to God (and possibly Jesus)’. Now, it’s true that the Bible is mostly not such instances of direct reported speech, but given that almost no one uses the phrase in such a way, it seemed bizarre that you would do so and even more bizarre that you would do it without flagging up that you were using such a non-standard definition.

            You then admitted that you knew it was a weird and artificial distinction you were making, but that you were doing so in order to make a point. And as best as I can understand, the point your were making was to try to address, and argue against, the idea that the Bible equals Jesus equals God.

            But this is an idea that almost nobody holds. So far in the entire world we have one hearsay example of someone who actually holds this mad idea. One. Out of seven billion people.

            So what seems to have happened is that you made up a new meaning for the phrase ‘the Word of the Lord’, which nobody but you has ever used, in order to make a point about, and argue against, a view which nobody other than one person you met once holds, and you did so without flagging what you were doing, in a way that, had I not noticed it, could have led lots of people who read your comment less carefully than I did, incredibly confused.

            I mean, is that a fair summary? If not, what on Earth were you doing?

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