Vision Team Blog

Monday, February 06, 2006

The Living Word

Wanted to bring up a point that I've heard twice and wanted to open discussion.

There has been mention of The Word changing. My understanding is that God's Word doesn't change, but rather is applicable to all times. I'm kinda assuming that this is what was meant. Is it?

Further points: God doesn't change. Our understanding and relationship does though based on experiences, etc... This is how I understand and apply to The Word as well. That my understanding of it changes as I grow, but it remains the same, faithful and true.


  • Good questions and thoughts Matt. In one sense, yes, what we mean is that our understandings of God's Word change, and the application of his Word to our situation and our historical/cultural context changes, though his Word itself never changes.

    (For the moment I'm assuming that when you say "The Word" you're talking about the Bible, though as I'm sure we all know, the Bible itself uses the the term "The Word" in a much broader way, to mean all of the many ways God "speaks" - i.e. reveals himself - to humanity, and especially to mean the person of Jesus Christ himself, a la John 1:1.)

    The problem is that few people seem to understand that no one has "direct access" to the meaning of Bible. Our understanding of the Bible is always mediated through our interpretations of the Bible. We always view the Bible through our particular set of lenses. Now we can sometimes change our lenses, or have our lenses readjusted, but we can never just take them off completely.

    So the problem is that sometimes when people talk about the Word of God never changing, what they really mean is "My particular interpretation of Scripture never changes" or "My understanding of the Bible's message is the right one, and that never changes." So then if anyone else comes along and offers a differing view of what the Bible is really saying, they end up judging it against their own particular biases and interpretations and not against scripture itself. (Of course, I'm not saying that this is what you are implying Matt. I've just encountered this attitude among many other evangelicals that I've interacted with.)

    So anyway, I guess what we are saying is that we should always be humbly checking out particular understandings of scripture against the words of scripture itself, against other possible valid interpretations, against the insights of others in our own community of faith, against the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our own hearts, against our experiences and our own reason, and against the understandings(i.e. "Traditions") of others throughout the history of the Church. It's because we respect the Word of God so much, that we always want to use every resource available to us to make sure that we're getting our understanding of it right and not letting our own biases and assumptions slip in and distort our view.

    We should also never lose sight of the fact that, as you point out in the title of your post and as scripture itself tells us, the Word of God is living and active. In other words, it's not dead and static. It's on the move! Or to put it another way, the Bible is just the beginning of the story, the beginning of the conversation. True, the words written in the Bible never change, but what we do with them, how we live them out (which, as Paul tells us in 2 Tim 3:16-17, is really what the Bible is for anyway) will be different in each and every different situation of our lives. Thank goodness then that Christ promised us that he'd give us the Holy Spirit within us to counsel us, to give us discernment, to guide us along the way (John 14:16-25).

    Other thoughts anyone?...

    By Blogger Mike Clawson, at 4:49 PM  

  • I'd like to add a thought as well.

    Language interpretations of the historical Bible change as well. As new texts are discovered and as they might clarify some small discrepencies in manuscript variations (most Bible versions note these variations in the footnotes and text), other non-biblical texts often further our understanding much better. Insights into the culture and ways of life in biblical times can give us a better vision of what the biblical writers are referencing. Paul's comments to the Corinthian church on women are some of the more controversial (but certainly not the only) of these type of texts. Knowing the context aids in understanding the content. When we don't know the context - which we often don't - it's like overhearing someone else's conversation and trying to apply it to yourself.

    Context is always considered in translation!

    My other thought is that as evangelicals, or even post-evangelicals if you will, we have been taught that God's Word is written in stone. Well, at least part of it was... At college and elsewhere, I've heard taught and taught others that:

    The Bible in its original language, correctly understood, is without error in what it teaches.
    B.B. Warfield (Reformed Theologian) - The doctrine of plenary inspiration holds that the original documents of the Bible were written by men, who, though permitted to exercise their own personalitiles and literary talents, yet wrote under the control and guidance of the Spirit of God, the result being in every word of the original documents a perfect and errorless recording of the exact message which God desired to give to man. (Plenary means "full complete, extending to all parts.)

    The Bible's purpose is to reveal God, His nature, and His relationship to people, as individuals and as a whole. The Holy Spirit acts not only as author, but also in us as interpreter.
    1 Cor. 2: 10-13 For to us God has revealed them (God's hidden wisdom,v.7) through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who amoung men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spriti, combining spiritual thoughts with spritiual words.

    By Blogger Charlotte Wyncoop, at 10:07 PM  

  • Out of curiosity, do either one of you know how to do a short post? Or better yet, can you? Yes that is a challenge!


    By Blogger WarePhreak Wyncoop, at 11:23 PM  

  • Ummmm... no.

    Oops. I guess I just did. ;)

    By Blogger Mike Clawson, at 2:19 PM  

  • Language and translation is a very important issue (thank you Char). Even if God's Words never change, the fact is that our words do. Our language (e.g. the English language) is always changing. Just look at the King James Version for evidence of that. What was plain English 400 years ago, barely makes sense to us anymore (and probably would make even less sense if it wasn't for the KJV itself, which kept many people still familiar with Elizabethan English long past the point when anyone was still speaking it in normal conversation anymore).

    At any rate, the point is that we must always be refining our understanding of the Bible, because as we read it in English we start to realize that our language is not a perfect representation of the original languages, and that our language itself is always shifting its own meaning as well.

    By Blogger Mike Clawson, at 2:25 PM  

  • I'm not sure that first response counts since it really doesn't add much to the conversation. But your second shot was a reasonable length.

    Just giving you a bad time!

    Although the Catholic Church did it's job in helping by keeping the services in Latin until the recent past (as history goes).

    By Blogger WarePhreak Wyncoop, at 7:44 PM  

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