APRIL 14 2018
THE WORD OF GOD.
When preachers talk about THE WORD OF GOD or THE WORD OF THE LORD, they mean THE BIBLE: Period. When common folk refer to the Bible, and some do occasionally, they always mean THE WRITTEN WORD.
A few weeks ago I read a magazine published by a Christian post-secondary institution. In it the author described the rationale for such an establishment, basing his reasoning solely on the Bible, honoring the maxim, SOLA SCRIPTURE, Scripture Alone.
A few months before, at that same college, I attended a lecture on the REFORMATION. There too the speaker limited revelation to the Bible, frequently mentioning the SOLA SCRIPTURA formula.
It is my considerate opinion that all churches – and I don’t know of any exceptions – have the wrong idea of THE WORD OF THE LORD. The same applies to Christians centres of learning, with the likely exception of the Toronto-based Institute for Christian Scholarship (ICS): they all see the Bible as their raison d’?tre only.
Yet these Reformed churches and Christian learning centres – and all our five kids attended Christian Schools – all state that they adhere to the Three Forms of Unity, (1) The Heidelberg Catechism, (2) The Canons of Dordt, and (3) The Belgic Confession.
The latter categorically states that we know God FIRST by his creation, making creation God’s PRIMARY OR DIRECT WORD, because it solely is God’s doing: no human involvement at all.
That makes the Scriptures God’s SECONDARY OR INDIRECT word, because the Bible as we know it came into being 1700 years ago. Yes, the Bible is an inspired human book, whose contents were decided in the Church Council in Nicaea in 324 by majority vote. The Song of Songs barely made it, and so did Esther, while the Gospel of Thomas was excluded.
Here’s what the Belgic Confession says about knowing God:
Article 2: The Means by Which We Know God
We know God by two means:
First, by the creation, preservation, and government
of the universe,
since that universe is before our eyes
like a beautiful book
in which all creatures,
great and small,
are as letters
to make us ponder
the invisible things of God:
God’s eternal power and divinity,
as the apostle Paul says in Romans 1:20.
All these things are enough to convict humans
and to leave them without excuse.
Second, God makes himself known to us more clearly
by his holy and divine Word,
as much as we need in this life, for God’s glory
and for our salvation.
If I see this correctly then the task of the church is twofold: it must strive to know God by
(1) instructing its adherents to learn about creation, and making them closely look at its greatness and harmonious design, and doing everything possible to safeguard Creation, because it is HOLY. Ideally a preacher to have a deep interest in nature, one who takes John 3: 16 seriously – as we all should.
(2) Getting to know God requires connecting Creation with what the Bible teaches: the two are like an ideally married pair, like the engine and its wheels, like the horse and the wagon.
Psalm 119: 105 combines the two when it states that “Your (written) Word is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path in the Created Word.” In other words, the Bible ought to shed light on our daily routine of life, in all its creaturely manifestations.
We do well to listen to Calvin who was a wise man and was never tired of pointing out that in the bible God condescended to our limitations. The Word of God – the Bible – was conditioned to the historical circumstances to which it was uttered.
Take the creation story: it was written for an agrarian tribe with no knowledge of the intricacies of evolution and the slow natural changes due to different climate and habitat. The creation story is an example of what Calvin called ‘balbative’ or ‘baby talk’, which adapted immensely complexed processes to the mentality of the uneducated people – now, it seems comprising the vast majority of church goers.
In my opinion the Bible basically tells us how God created the cosmos, how, once in our possession, we sold it to God’s arch enemy, and how Christ, with his death, bought it back.
Creation points to God’s greatness and infinite wisdom, but it is absurd to expect Scripture to teach scientific fact: anybody who wants to learn about astronomy should look up, way up.
The Belgic Confession is correct: the natural world is God’s first revelation. Answers to such controversial matters as homosexuality and same-sex marriage, cannot be found in the Bible. For that we have to go to God’s animal world, where we can observe homosexuality among apes, for instance. When it exists there, then we can conclude that the same is true among humans and thus a natural occurrence.
What the Bible especially tells us is that we must love creation and its inhabitants unconditionally. Where Creation is – or was – perfect, the Bible is not. The very last verses in the New Testament point to the persons who transcribed the original documents, and warn them not to add or subtract anything. Of course humans being humans did that, made errors and spouted opinions – such as Paul did recommending wine for a stomach ailment and for women never to speak up – that make no sense today. Based on the Bible the Roman Catholic Church still sees women as second class creatures.
Many of those who see the Bible as literally perfect, not a word out of place, are yet Muslim haters, contradicting Leviticus 19: 33-34, “When aliens live with you in the land do not mistreat them…. They must be treated as the native born. Love them as yourselves.”
Of course these aliens had different habits. Of course these people were religious, and of course had practises that would be considered horrible today, yet the Bible preaches tolerance.
The Reformation was a good thing, but is also opened the door to many interpretations, so that we have scores of different denominations, all claiming to know exactly what the Bible teaches us.
The Bible urges us to get WISDOM. Proverb 4: 7 tells us that, “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.”
Getting wisdom is the wisest thing we can do! Of course, studying science is not the same as gaining wisdom: but both
require study, discernment, and hard work.
Centuries ago, when Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) observed creation, he felt that science was ‘more divine than human’. Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) who expanded on Copernicus’ findings was silenced by the Roman Catholic Inquisition. Even today there still is a strong anti-intellectual tendency in much of religion, especially among the so-called Christian-Right.
This anti-science mentality has come to a point where the earth is seen as evil, influenced by Gnosticism, a pagan practise severely condemned, especially in the letters of John.
Bonhoeffer categorically stated that God, Humanity and the Earth form an unbreakable bond. J.H. Bavinck wrote in the same vein, maintaining that redemption of creation and personal salvation are two sides of the same coin: you can’t have one without the other! You can’t say you love Jesus while consciously polluting the earth he created. (Colossians 1: 15-20).
In his book BETWEEN THE BEGINNING AND THE END, “a radical kingdom vision”, Bavinck writes,
“In the first place we must realize that God’s Kingdom has a cosmic character, which means that it comprises the entire world as we have come to know it. Not only are we humans part of that Kingdom, but it also includes the worlds of animals and plants. Yes, even the angels are part of this wider context: they too have a place in the harmonious totality of God’s Kingdom.
“This implies that all parts of the world are attuned to each other. Nowhere is there a false note, a dis¬so¬nant that disturbs the unity, as everything fits harmoniously into the greater scheme of the totality. This applies both to each individual specimen but equally to the various circles or spheres found in creation.”
This simply means that creation is HOLY.
The Bible affirms the two-pronged concept of THE WORD: John 1: 1 says, “In the beginning was the Word (LOGOS), and the Word was with God and the Word was God. Psalm 33: 9 affirms that, “For he spoke – said THE WORD – and it came to be; he commanded and it stood firm.”
These texts do not refer to the Scriptures – it did not exist – but to God’s Creating Word.
Jesus died on the cross to buy back – redeem – creation that WE sold to God’s adversary. Jesus also saves us, but his primary goal was to restore Creation: John 3: 16 makes that abundantly clear. Only those who love Creation as Jesus did, have eternal life.
Dr. Barry Commoner, American biologist and educator, is an example of divine insight. He taught at Washington University and Queens College and came to the same conclusion as Bonhoeffer and Bavinck.
By studying creation Commoner fashioned Four Laws of ECOLOGY.
1. Everything Is Connected To Everything Else. There is one ecosphere for all living organisms and what affects one, affects all. Humans and other species are connected/dependent on other species. With this in mind it becomes hard to practice anything other than compassion and harmlessness.
2. Everything Must Go Somewhere. There is no “waste” in nature, and there is no “away” to which things can be thrown. Everything, such as wood smoke, nuclear waste, carbon emissions, etc., must go somewhere.
3. Nature Knows Best. Humankind has fashioned technology to improve upon nature, but such change in a natural system is, likely to be detrimental to that system.” The Creation, one can argue, has an intelligence, and to tinker with that “unintellectually” we get global warming pollution, etc.
4. There Is No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. Exploitation of nature will inevitably involve the conversion of resources from useful to useless forms. In nature, both sides of the equation must balance, for every gain there is a cost, and all debts are eventually paid.
Today nature/creation is disintegrating, and, since everything is connected to everything else, this affects all of life.
The election of Trump is merely a symptom. Sociological CHAOS made this happen: the rich too rich, the poor too poor. This week I am reading FIRE AND FURY by Michael Wolff, and am astounded by the ignorance of the current US President, who is nevertheless the champion of some 40 percent of the US electorate.
It comes as no surprise that the chaos in God’s Created Word is reflected in the chaos in the political field and in the economic sphere.
What we observe today is the waning of the nation state. The state is caught in an impossible situation, expected to be everything for everybody: healthcare, life-time pensions, total security.
Once the debt-trap springs, ($237 Trillion world-wide debt divided by 7.5 Billion people equals $300,000 for every living person on the Globe!!) most people are caught without reserves: riots will be the result, as Trump’s FORTY percent will rebel: they have the guns.
THAT COLOSSAL DEBT WILL DO US IN.
When the recession hits, the rise in unemployment will further reduce personal savings and the ability to consume. It will further strain an already burdened government welfare system as less and less people will pay taxes while there is a swelling pool of aging baby-boomers dependent on government assistance in pensions and medical costs.
History is rushing to its END. The good news – and it is GOOD NEWS for those who honor BOTH WORDS- is that the next “crisis,” will be the “great reset” which will see the COMING OF THE KINGDOM, because all possible disasters will converge: Nuclear War, Climate Change, Pandemic, Earthquakes, just to name a few because ‘everything is connected to everything else’.
It is striking that Revelation 21: 22 specifically mentions the absence of a place of worship, “I did not see a temple in the City”, the New Jerusalem, the restored Garden of Eden.
No temple means no church; no temple means no Bible. God’s Kingdom only includes THE EARTH, fully restored to its pristine state.
Treasure the EARTH as your dearest possession, because only the CREATED WORD will prevail.