“The statement that the Bible is the Word of God cannot therefore say that the Word of God is tied to the Bible. On the contrary, what it must say is that the Bible is tied to the Word of God.” (ht)
I am thoroughly Barthian in my view of Scripture, I’ve been told. To me, Scripture contains the word of God, but is not the word of God. The Word of God alone is Christ. Christ alone is the fullness of the revelation of God.
The word of God is preaching and the prophetic messages, even of modern day prophets,
“Real proclamation, then, means the Word of God preached and the Word of God preached means… man’s talk about God on the basis of God’s own direction, which fundamentally transcends all human causation, which cannot, then, be put on a human basis, but which simply takes place, and has to be acknowledged, as a fact” (CD I/1, 90).
Dorothy Day. Martin Luther King, Jr. John Calvin, and others.
To say then, that Scripture is the Word of God, something it never actually says about itself, or perhaps, the authors ever contemplated when they were recording the collective memory of those who came before, is misleading and indeed, disallowing the real word of God. Scripture contains the word of God, but unless acted upon, are mere words. When it is proclaimed, that proclamation becomes the word of God.
This power in the proclamation is what has, I guess, attracted me to rhetorical criticism of Scripture. George Kennedy summarizes Ernesto Grassi in relating the power of the preaching, the kerygma, and of course, why Scripture is Scripture. He believes that the rhetoric of sacred language embodies five characteristics:
- It has a purely revealing or evangelical character, not a demonstrative or proving function; it does not arise out of a process of inference, but authoritatively proclaims the truth.
- Its statements are immediate, formulated without mediation or contemplation
- They are imagistic and metaphorical, lending the reality of sensory appearances a new meaning.
- Its assertions are absolute and urgent; whatever does not fit with them is treated outrageous
- Its pronouncements are outside of time.
I like them all, but the first one has an important and immediate meaning. When we attempt to logically declare Scripture anything more than it declares itself, we are removing the sacred language of it, and inferring upon it the need for it to be something more than that which it claims. It never once claims to the pure, without error, infallible word of God, but many have a need and will go through great lengths to infer that because of a, b, and c, then d equals that it is the word of God. It doesn’t. No logical or post-scriptural formulation infers upon it anything which is actually needed. To call it, then, the Word of God, is to remove from it the actual authority which they who insist upon calling it, and then appending to such a title adjectives as infallible and inerrant, insist it has. Scripture doesn’t need our help. Proclaim the grand narrative of Scripture, denying nothing in it, even the contradictions, but instead, relying that when the Spirit moves, the effective proclamation of Scripture becomes the word of God.
Scripture is holy and the Word of God,” he indicated, “because by the Holy Spirit it became and will become to the Church a witness to divine revelation.”