By: Dr. John Frame
DOCTRINE OF THE WORD OF GOD
Lecture Outline (2)
These are Dr. Frame's systematic theology lecture outlines for the doctrine of the Word of God. Though only in outline format, they are highly detailed and hopefully useful to all.
Previous : Lecture Outline (1) “Introduction”
I.The Concept of the Word of God: The Word is God's powerful, meaningful, self-expression.
A. Powerful: Ps. 33:3-6, 46:6, 148:5-8, 29:3-9; Rom. 1: 16; cr. VIII below.
1.The power of the word is the omnipotence of God himself, Isa. 55: 11, Gen. 18: 14 (Luke 1:37). It is therefore never void, never weak.
2.To study the word (in seminary or anywhere else) is to encounter something explosive, something that inevitably changes you--either for the better or the worse. (Isa. 6:9-10, NT parallels).
1.Power is what the word does; meaning is what it says.
2.Therefore, meaning can be regarded as an aspect of power: "saying" or "meaning" is one of the many things which the word does.
3.On the other hand, it is also important to point out that God's word is never a "blind force" or "raw power." It is a power which expresses his wisdom, and therefore is a meaningful power. God's word, in fact, is never devoid of meaning. It always says something.
a.Creation: Gen. 1:5, 8, 10, 17, 22,25 (qara), 27[ (the definition of man), Ps. 147:4, Isa. 40:26.b.Providence: the word determines the nature of things throughout history.The course of nature and history is determined by God's wisdom, Ps. 104:24, Jer. 51:15, etc.c.Judgment: The word categorizes, classifies men as sinners, pronounces sentence. Imputation of sin is by divine declaration (Rom. 5:12-21) in contrast with human self-interpretation (Matt. 7:21-27,25:31-46).d. Grace: The word categorizes, classifies God's people as righteous through Christ.
(1)God "names" his people, Isa. 43:7,44:5, Num. 6:27, Hos. 1:9-2:1, Isa. 43:1,49:1,62:2, 65:15f, I John 3:1, Rev. 13:16.(2)Imputation of righteousness by divine declaration, Rom. 5:12-21; vs. self-interpretation, I John 3:20.
4.Therefore it is wrong to define the word narrowly as a kind of "power" while relegating its meaning-functions (i.e. its linguistic character) to a subordinate status (e.g. as a temporal/cultural manifestation of the power). Barth, Bultmann, the "new hermeneutic," and the Amsterdam Philosophy ("Toronto") are guilty of this error in some degree. The word is "powerful;" that needs to be said. But "power" is not the only, or the most important way of characterizing the word.
1.Parallel with human language: when we speak, even deceptively, we reveal something of what we are-
a.Man's first activities are linguistic, Gen. 1:28ff, 2: 16ff.b.Centrality of language in human life, Prov. 12:18,13:3, 18:20f, 21:23, Matt. 12:34ff, Jas. 3:1-12.c.Prominence of linguistic sins; Jas. 3:1-12, Prov. 12:17-19, 10:19, Ps. 12, Rom. 3:13f, Gen. 11 :6, 1sa. 6,29:13, Ezek. 33:31, Jer. 9:8, Ps. 57:4,64:3, 140:3.d.Redemption orthe tongue, Isa. 6, Ps. 51:15, Isa. 35:6,43:21,45:23,49:2, 65 19, Zeph. 3:9ff, Rom. 10:9f, I Pet. 2:9, Jas. 5:16.e.Consummation: Rev. 14:5,27.27,22:15, Prov. 12:19.f.Cf. emphasis on language in biblical teaching on devils, angels:
(1)The Devil is "slanderer," "accuser," "liar"; (John 8:44). Note also emphasis on the mouth in the serpent figure.(2)Angels are messengers (mal'ak, aggelos), Acts 7:38,53, Gal. 3:19, Heb. 2:2.
2.Similarly, God's word is crucial to his nature and is always an expression or himself, in at least the following senses:
a.The word reveals God; we know him through his word, II Tim. 3:15, Deut 4:5-8, etc.b.God is always present with the word; where God is, the word is, and vice versa. Note biblical correlations between word and spirit, Gen. 1 :2, Ps. 33:6, Isa. 34:16,59:21, John 6:63, I Thes. 1:5, II Thes. 2:2, II Tim. 3:16, II Pet. 1:21, Acts 2: 1-4, John 16: 13. So in Israel, the nearness of God was the nearness of the word, Deut. 4:5-8,30:11-14, Rom. 10:6-8.c. All divine acts are performed by speech.
(1)His eternal plan (eternal inter-trinitarian communication), Gen. 1:26,Ps.2:7-9, 110,45:6-8, Matt. 11:25-27, John 5:20, 17:1-26, Acts 2:33-36, John 4:34,6:38ff(2)Creation, Gen. 1:3, Ps. 33:6,9,148:5, Prov. 8:22[, John 1:3,10, Heb.11:3, II Pet. 3:5-7, Heb.1:2.(3)Providence, Gen. 1:9,11,22, 8:21f, Ps. 145:15f, 119:89-91, 148:8, Job 37:12, 33:11f, Ps. 18:15,28:3-9, Matt. 8:27, Heb. 1:3, II Pet. 3.(4) Judgment, Gen. 3: 17ff, 6:7, 11 :6f, Ps. 46:6, Isa. 66:6, Ezek. 1: 1, 3:22, Hos. 6:5, Isa. 30:30, CFVIII, below.(5)Grace: Luke 7:1-10, Rom. 1:16, Phil. 2:16, I John 1:1, II Tim. 1:10, Isa. 43:1,62:2,65:15, "effectual calling."
d.God is distinguished from all other gods because he is the God who ~, Hab. 2:18-20, I Kings 18:24,26,29,36, Ps. 115:5ff, 135:15ff, I Cor. 12:2.
e.The persons of the trinity are distinguished from one another in Scripture according to their role in the divine speech. This is not the .only scriptural way of representing the trinitarian distinctions, but it is one significant way.
(1)The Father exerts his lordship through speech, Ps. 29, 147:4, Isa. 40:26,43:1,62:2,65:15, Eph. 3:14; cf above, c.(2) The Son is the word spoken, John 1:1, Rev. 19:13, I John 1:1-3,Heb. 1:1-3, Rev. 3:14, II Cor. 1:20, Rom. 10:6-8, (cfDeut. 30).(3)The Spirit is the powerful breath that drives the word along to accomplish its purpose. CFb above.
f.The speech of God has divine attributes: righteousness (Ps. 119:7), faithfulness (Ps. 119:86), wonderfulness (119: 129), uprightness (119: 137), purity (119: 140), truth (119:142) (cfJohn 17: 17), eternity (11989, 160), omnipotence (Gen. 18:14, Luke 1:37, Isa. 55:11), perfection (Ps. 19:7ff).
g.The word of God is an object of worship, Ps. 119: 120, 161 f, 34:3, 9:2, 68:4, 138:2,56:4, 10, Isa. 66:5.
h.The word is God, John 1:1 (cfRev. 19:13, I John 1:1-3, Heb. 1:1-3, Rev.3: 14, II Cor. 1:20, Rom. 10:6-8, Deut. 30: 11 ff
(1) Christ is the creative word of Genesis 1.(2) Christ is God, and so is the creative word.(3) John 1:1, therefore, correlated God, Christ, creative word as equally divine.
3.Parallel with "the name of God."
a. God's "name" is his whole self-revelation, and thus is more or less equivalent to "word." CFJosh. 7:9, Ezek. 20:9.
b."Naming" in Scripture has three functions which correspond roughly to A-C above:
(1)Naming is an exertion of power or control: the controller names the one under his control (Adam names Eve, the parent names the child, the conqueror names the city which he conquers, etc. Gen. 4: 17, 11:4,Ps.49:11,IISam.12:28.(2)Naming is a characterization: the namer tries to say something significant about the one named--cfGod's naming of Abraham, Israel, etc. Gen. 17:5, etc.(3)Naming is a way of locating, of picking someone out of a crowd.We can locate someone by calling his name, for wherever his name is, he is. To admire his name is to admire him; to disparage his name is to disparage him, etc. Thus the person is one with his name (see references below).
c.Union between God's name and God himself: Ex. 3:14,33:19, 34:6f, Ps. 7:17,9:10,18:49,68:4,74:18, 86:12,92:11, Isa. 25:1,26:8,56:6, Zech.14:9, Mal. 3:16.
(1)Union between name and angel of the Lord, Ex. 23:31, Gen. 16:7ff, 21 :27ff; 22:11ff, 31:11 ff, Ex. 3:2ff, Judges 2: Iff (Ex. 33: 14, Isa. 63:9).(2)The name and the sanctuary (where God dwells), Gen. 28,31:13, 35:1,7, Deut.12:5, 11,21, 14:23f, 16:2,6, 11, 26:2 (Ex. 20:24).(3)The name and the glory (God's presence), Isa. 59:19, Ps. 102:15, Ex. 33: 18ff
4.Summary and Implications
a.Speech ("word") is an attribute of God. God is a speaking God, by his very nature, as over against all of the "dumb idols."
(1)It is not that "word" is purely and simply a synonym of "God;" the two cannot be simply substituted for one another in every context.
(a) God does things "by" the word(b)Scriptural references to the "names' also sometimes distinguish the name from God himself: Ps. 54:1,89:24, 20:5,44:5, 118:10-12, 124:8,20:1, 54:6f, 148:13, Prov. 18:10, Jer.10:6, Mal. 1:11,14,2:5.
(2)Although there is a mysteriousness about the unity and difference between the word and God himself, a mystery reminiscent of that of the trinity and perhaps related to the trinity), we do not want to make "word" or "name" a person of the trinity, parallel with Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It would, perhaps, not be wrong to equate "word" in a particular way with the second person (John 1:1); but Jesus also ~ the word. Relations among these are evidently complicated, and perhaps beyond our knowledge.
(3)Thus, it is probably best to describe "word" as an attribute of God.All divine attributes exhibit the remarkable unity and difference with God himself that we have noticed in this case.
b.As an attribute of God, "word" is "coterminous with the divine essence."
(1) For this concept of "coterminous," see theology texts on the Doctrine of God or "Theology Proper," on "the relation between the divine attributes and essence."
(2)My own (somewhat simplified) account of this:
(a)Divine attributes are not "parts" of God. They are inseparable aspects of his being. You cannot cut off one attribute and still have the God of the Bible. God without his righteousness, or omnipotence--or word !-would not be God.(b)Each attribute applies to each of the other attributes: his holiness is wise, his wisdom is infinite, etc. So that if you lose one attribute, you lose them all, and if you have one attribute, you have them all. Thus, again, each is inseparable from the others.(c)Yet the attributes are not all synonymous. We cannot simply say "righteousness" when we mean "infinity." Thus the attributes are diversified as well as unified.(d)The relationship is best pictured this way: each attribute is a "perspective" on the divine being. It is as if the attributes were speaking of the same thing (God's nature), but viewing it from different angles. Hence diversity in unity.
c.The identity of "word" with God's essence does not make, e.g. the Bible necessary to God's being.
(1) It is necessary to God's being that he ~; without his speech he would not be God.(2)The eternal inter-trinitarian communication is necessary to the divine being, as are all other aspects of the ontological inter-trinitarian life.(3)It is not, however, necessary to God's being that he speak ill creatures. If it were, then creatures themselves would be necessary to God, and he would be dependent upon them.(4)Speaking to creatures. then, is a free act of God, not determined by his nature as such. Similarly, creation itself is a free act, and God's knowledge of creation is a "free knowledge." (Cf., again, the various theological texts on the Doctrine of God--the distinction between God's necessary and free will, and the distinction between God's necessary and free knowledge.)(5)Therefore, the Bible, together with all the divine speech to and about creatures, is free speech not necessary to the divine being.(6)Nevertheless, it is the product of the divine faculty of speech, the divine word, which is always united to God himself. Thus the words of the Bible are never separated from God himself.
d.The word, of course, is not God's only attribute. We are not saying that God is "word," rather than righteousness, wisdom, etc.
e.Since God is word, all of his being is expressed. As Van Til says, God is fully self-conscious. He is not ignorant of the depths of his own being, but is fully rational. What he is and does, he expresses, and vice-versa. Of course, there is much that he does not express to us.
f.Where God is, the word is, and vice-versa.
(1)Don't demand an encounter with God while by-passing the word.(2)Remember that when you hear or read the word, even carelessly, you are involved with the living God! You must not trivialize. The word is living and powerful.
g.The word is always divine. It is God himself, expressing himself.
(1)Contra liberalism, the word is never something merely human, merely creaturely.
(2)Contra some church fathers, Platonizing philosophers and Dooyeweerdians, the word is never something in between divinity and humanity. It is never semidivine or semi-creaturely. It is not merely a "boundary" between creator and creature. There is no halfway house between creator and creature, between Lord and servant. Everything that is not God is subject to him as creature. The word performs all the acts and has all the attributes (the character, the nature) of God himself.
(3)Thus, again, when we read Scripture we must read it in the fear and awe of one entering the holy place of God.
(4)Does this teaching justify bibliolatry, worship of the book?
(a)No, for the Bible as such is not necessary to God's being (above, c).
(b)No, for the paper and ink of our Bibles are not divine, nor are they the word. They are the created media by which the word comes to us (cf. below, III).(c)Nor do we worship the word which comes to us in and by the Bible as if a new sanctuary had been established between the covers of our book. It is true that the presence of the word (the tables of the law) contributed to the holiness of lsrael's sanctuary (the ark). But there is no similar sanctuary in New Testament worship. Christ, the New Covenant Temple, is in heaven.(d)No, for we are never called to worship some attribute of God in distinction from God himself. Worship is directed toward the person of God, and to his attributes (his word) only as aspects of his person.(e)Nevertheless, it is possible (especially for evangelicals) to be too sensitive about the charge of bibliolatry. We must never forget that since Scripture is God's word, we are expected to respond to it as to the personal voice of God--in obedience, reverence, awe. If this appears bibliolatrous to some, we must not shrink from it on that account.(f)Some would define bibliolatry as any unconditional obedience to any word uttered in space and time. On that definition, evangelicals are, and ought to be bibliolaters. But that definition is false. It would condemn something that Scripture requires. It presupposes an unscriptural concept of idolatry . The second commandment was a word uttered in space and time, and it demands unconditional obedience.
Next : Part 3 “II.The Functions of the Word in and for Creation”