The Bible assigns a very special place to the “Word of God”. In fact, we even capitalize the word “Word”. Let’s take a deeper dive on this concept.
Often times, we equate the Word of God with the Bible, pretty much without thinking. After all, that’s the normal usage of the phrase, right? So, “studying the Word” turns to “reading the Bible”. “Flowing with the Word” becomes “knowing details about Biblical events” (culture, history, perhaps even Hebrew / Koine Greek, etc.)
Let’s take a close look at this notion. The Word of God is very important indeed:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)
Let’s try to substitute this with the word “the Bible”, and see if this bears out:
“In the beginning was the Bible, and the Bible was with God, and the Bible was God.” (John 1:1)
There are a few problems with this. One, the first book of the Bible was likely penned in about 1500 BC, and the last book of the Bible was most likely penned shortly before 70 AD. The entire Bible was put together in its (more or less) final form no earlier than circa 367 A.D. Clearly, those 1800-1900 or so years happened long after “the beginning” of John 1:1.
So, “In the beginning was the Bible” can not possibly be true. Neither is “In the beginning … the Bible was with God”.
The other problem is that God can be equated to an inanimate object, such as the written Bible. (As a matter of fact, equating or substituting the living God for an inanimate object, even for such an important and matchless document as the Bible, is a classic definition of idolatry. )
So, “the Bible was God” can not hold true, either.
The Bible is indeed God-breathed Scripture, and it’s profitable for growth in Godliness, and in instruction in righteousness. However, it’s not the only vehicle for spiritual growth. Not all the Biblical heroes of faith had the benefit of having the Bible with them. Consider this:
- Abraham had zero Bible available to them. Not one shred. None was written at the time. And yet Abraham is the father of faith. He simply found a way to connect with God directly.
- Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and Aaron didn’t have the Bible available to them either. In fact, God used Moses (most likely source behind the first 5 books of the Bible) to write down some of the downloads that Moses received, as long as some of the historical events that were happening at the time. As the result, we have the Pentateuch. Moses wasn’t reading the Bible to discover God. Rather, he discovered God and began writing, and those writings became part of our Bibles.
- Peter, Paul, John, and the entire early church didn’t have the written New Testament to go by. Paul, specifically, didn’t even have the benefit of spending years with Jesus as the other apostles did. And yet, in his private time with God he received downloads from God, and he met the resurrected Jesus in his glorified body. Paul’s level of understanding and revelation was such that we use his version of the account of the last supper – and the guy wasn’t even in the room when it happened! (If you recite 1 Cor 12 during communion – you better believe that it’s possible to receive revelation directly from the Spirit of Christ, otherwise how else can you trust Paul’s revelation?) Paul also wrote down parts of his revelation in his letters to at least 7 small house churches, to about 3 individual persons, and (likely) to Hebrews. Those notes were later compiled and included in the Bible canon. Clearly, his source of revelation was something other than some written document. It was God himself.
When you understand this, it should become clear that the Scripture is written to get you up to speed quickly on a lot of things. You automatically get the benefit of the revelation of persons like Moses, Paul, John, and even Jesus. The Scripture is simply a tool to catapult you into your own deep and glorious experience with God. The Scripture can’t possibly comprehensively describe the endless, fathomless God and His creation. There’s no way 2300 or so printed pages can contain everything that God is and does. It takes eternity to get into all that.
The Bible is simply meant to give you enough information to usher you into direct experience with God, as well as provide you with reliable historical information about certain important facts and figures.
So then, the Reformations’ “sola Scriptura” was a good step away from the Medieval church’s amalgamation of superficial Christianity and deep paganism, and at the time it was a step in the right direction. However, “sola Scriptura” is not the ultimate truth, not even close. We need to thank the Reformers for their courageous contributions, but we will need to admit that the truth goes much deeper than that, and to continue digging.
So, what is the Word of God? The problem is that today when we think of the word “Word”, we think of a lexical speech unit, such as a noun, a verb, an adjective, etc. For us, the word “word” denotes a speech container holding a unit of meaning to be discerned and grasped by reasoning faculties. But that’s not the Scriptural definition. In Hebrew the word “dabar” more commonly refers to “thing, matter, action” than it does to a speech unit expressing such things, matters, actions. In Greek, the word “logos” matches that notion quite well, and goes even deeper with its nascent systemic thinking. Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus in roughly 500 BC defines logos as the eternal ordering principle behind the world’s system. From hereon out, I will use the term “the Logos of God” in place of “the Word of God” for better clarity.
In modern usage, we can perhaps rephrase those definitions in a slightly more sophisticated and expanded way: “the Logos of God is the primary principle and force, emanating from YHWH the God, which brings into existence, operates, and animates everything that is”. The Scriptures add a layer of additional understanding to what the ancients perceived: we are told that the Logos is ontically connected with the person of God.
Let’s shorten this definition to “world-creating and operating God-force” for ease of working with it in what we are about to do next. Now, let’s substitute that definition into John 1:1 and see how it bears out:
“In the beginning was the world-creating and operating God-force, and the world-creating and operating God-force was with God, and the world-creating and operating God-force was God.” (John 1:1)
Makes a lot more sense, doesn’t it? Let’s continue through the rest of the first 5 verses of John:
World-creating and operating God-force was with God in the beginning. Through world-creating and operating God-force all things were made; without world-creating and operating God-force nothing was made that has been made.
Makes a WHOLE lot of sense now, doesn’t it? Now, let’s finish verses 4 and 5:
In world-creating and operating God-force was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Here you have a statement that “the Logos / the Word” wasn’t just some inanimate force field – it had life of God in it. And its main metaphysical property was light (physical phenomenon of light is a good representation of it).
And lastly, this (verse 14):
The world-creating and operating God-force became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
That blows my mind right there. The personal intelligent God-force which spun the world into existence from infinitesimally small initial singularity (if modern physicists’ theories are right) compressed itself yet again, got infused with the personhood proceeding from the spirit of God, and this time manifested in a different kind of singularity – that of a human being, fully connected and yielded to God, in the person of Jesus Christ.
Here’s the problem set that my proposed approach solves fairly well. The issue with us trying to decipher Hebrew (or any ancient) mindset from our modern vantage point is this: the ancients didn’t have a systemic view of creation. They weren’t able to well delineate between the author and the creation the way we do now.
Today we tend to view God as transcending creation, and use his name only in that narrow personal sense. The ancients were panENtheists (God is in all and through all things), so to them the notion of God was much broader. I am not talking about pantheist (God is all that there is, and all that there is is God), but panENtheist (God is in all things as the animating and operating primary force, but as to his essential beingness and personal identity he’s separate from his creation). That’s why Paul the apostle could say even to non-believers: “In God we move and live and have our being”.
Let’s use the following Scripture passage for a working example: “God sends the rain on the just and on the unjust”. The problem is that this sentence construction was used by ancients to denote both systemic reactions arising out of God’s creation, and to also denote God’s individual one-off action. Same exact phrase, two completely different meanings. From a panentheist world view, this makes very good sense. From our “God is fully transcendent” worldview this phrase paints a picture of God as micro-managing things (the weather, for instance) – which would of course leads to nothing other than primitive voodoo thinking.
We, on the other hand, delineate quite well between those notions in the 21st century. We would phrase the same idea as “God created everything that comprises the weather system, and the weather phenomena such as rain serve both the just and the unjust”. That’s saying the same thing but framing it in 21st century mentality. Note how we clearly delineate between the author and his creation.
This simple idea has a tremendous explanatory power as applicable to Biblical texts It only requires us to ask one question when we read phrases with God as the sentence subject: “did God do such-and-such as a personal response” or “is such-and-such action simply a reactionary built-in response arising from God’s created universe”?
I encourage you to look deeper into what the “Logos / Word of God” is, as the implications from that are simply staggering both in their depth and volume. This one revelation has the power of completely transforming your walk with God into something that’s unmistakably “not of this world”.
So then, “studying the Logos / Word” turns to “learning by direct experience and experimentation the primary principle and force, emanating from YHWH the God, which brings into existence, operates, and animates everything that is”. “Flowing with the Logos / Word” becomes “flowing with the life-giving force, emanating from YHWH the God, and proceeding though you, which brings into existence, operates, and animates everything that is”.
This particular revelation brought a lot of life into my understanding of who God is, and how this world operates. It’s no less than a doorway into an entirely new realm of experiencing God. And the explanatory power behind this concept is truly monumental and paradigm-shifting. It’s way ahead and therefore significantly outside of mainstream evangelical theology, I might add – so I don’t expect a warm acceptance of this understanding from many of those who invested their doctoral dissertations, pulpit reputations, and so forth, in the traditional Reformation understanding of this.
Are you beginning to see the possibilities? Test-drive this very powerful idea on a few Scriptural texts, and see if it doesn’t open your eyes to many amazing new possibilities. Happy digging!