Monday, January 11, 2010

Words as the means by which God relates to His people

Modern evangelicals are an experiential lot. We promise a "personal relationship with God" but don't do a very good job of explaining exactly what that means. In fact almost everything in the neo-evangelical cafeteria of spirituality seems to be tagged as "personal." What is demanded is a spiritual experience; something that is tactile and sensual. We are like the Israelites of old who, while Moses was on the mountain receiving more words from God, demanded an up-close-and-personal kind of God.

But God has made us to be a primarily auditory people. He is not to be seen by His people (and certainly not touched!). God creates, judges, delivers, and saves by the power of His word. He reveals himself by his word. We do not intuit God's redemptive plan in Jesus Christ. It is knowledge that must be understood by way of explanation. For a church milieu that poo-poo's words and preaching and doctrine this is a timely reminder.

Do you want to know God? Then know His Word. Do you want a "personal relationship" with God? Then relate to Him through His living Word. Do you want to "experience" God? Then drink deeply from His Word, the means by which He offers Himself to us. Do want to experience the power of God? Then explain and proclaim the gospel, the power of God unto salvation.

From Carl Trueman:

To put the biblical matter in a nutshell, language in the Bible is the basis of interpersonal relationships. Creation, of course, is a highly mysterious event, but it is significant that the Bible uses the language of speech to express the creative activity of God. In Genesis 1 and 2, God is the one who converses, speaks, within himself, and the act of creation arises out of precisely this kind of interpersonal conversation between the members of the Trinity. Then, in the Garden of Eden, God's relationship with Adam is expressed via the medium of language. It is how God defines the nature and limits of the relationship, and, after the Fall, it is how God confronts Adam and Eve with their sin. The same pattern is repeated throughout the whole Bible in both testaments: whether it is command or promise, the two basic aspects of the divine-human relationship with men and women, to limit it, to move it forward: he speaks to Noah, to Abraham, to Samuel, to David and so on. Indeed, God's use of language is a basic element which allows the encounter between God and humanity to be considered as a personal relationship...

[L]anguage was divinely gifted not primarily to provide a basis for culture, but rather to facilitate intelligible communion between man and God and communication of the truth...The kind of salvation which the Christian God offers demands words, whether of promise or command, in order to define and delimit the nature of his relationship with his creatures.

From The Wages of Spin (pp. 46-47, 52)

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