The Meaning of Words, a Man’s Word, the Word of God — Part III

After a prolonged hiatus, the discussion of words and God’s Word continues. Apologies are due for the long delay in this discussion.
By its very length and place within a blog, this discussion cannot be exhaustive. To gain a more extensive understanding of Holy Writ as the Word of God, I suggest one dig out Augustine’s De doctrina Christiana. Paperback editions of accessible translations are available. I also highly recommend Kenneth Hagen’s Luther’s approach to scripture as seen in his “commentaries” on Galatians, 1519-1538, published by Mohr Siebeck, 1993. A preview of this gem can be accessed at Google Books. Sacra Scriptura by Hermann Sasse (edited by Friedrich Wilhelm Hopf, published by “Lutherische Blätter” in Hermannsburg) is also a joy to digest. What follows is not a scholarly exposition, but an encouragement to reflect and discuss a crucial issue in the life of the Church today (as it has always been).

Whether Holy Writ is the Word of God should not be up for grabs among those called to be servants of the Word. Unfortunately, subtle forms of gnosticism and rationalism nibble away at the authority of Holy Writ. Authority is moved from Holy Scripture to a principle which is crafted to make the reader or expositor the arbiter of to what degree Holy Scripture is true, is God’s Word, is authoritative. Often familiar Scriptural insights are transformed into means of undermining the authority of the written Word. When the witness of Holy Writ to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Word of God is gnosticized, what is left of it resembles more the Bible of Marcion or the tattered remains of the Bible after Thomas Jefferson got done with it. The tautological trap of this approach is not always evident to the unwary. If, for example, the Holy Trinity is deemed a construct of the Church rather than as a faithful expression of the witness of Holy Writ, all Trinitarian references and allusions are excised or dismissed as later additions. This approach to Scripture has been mainstreamed since Adolf von Harnack (who, incidentally, was a fan of Marcion). Consequently, we no longer listen to Scripture, but to the “experts” who provide the key to understanding Scripture. Expert opinions are eerily analogous to the passwords given the initiated in the gnostic mythological systems. The special knowledge of the experts allows them to change, reject, ignore, warp, or deny the witness of Holy Writ. The new gnostics are very slippery. If they do not take the plunge into open apostacy with Spong and Crossan, they are likely to protest that they are faithful to the biblical witness and even claim that they are more biblical or literal than the orthodox Lutherans who call the apostatic (not apostolic!) revisions into question. In the end, it comes down (as it often does) to prepositions. It is a question of where the servant of the Word stands. Apo, hyper, or hypo the Word of God. Continue reading