reload The Race by Maurice McCracken

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

When knowing "the word of God" is not enough

posted by Little Mo | Permalink |
Last week up in Scotland with the Relays (good times, and happy days) I related a story of a church I once visited. This church was publically committed to the Bible being viewed as the word of God.

It came that time in the service for the collection and the service leader asked the people there who were particularly struggling with some issue in their lives to raise their hands. You know, a relationship, money struggle, or looking for a new job. He then read this passage from Malachi :

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit," says the LORD Almighty. "Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land," says the LORD Almighty.

And then he said “so what the Lord is saying to those people with problems is, you should give the most generously to the collection, and if you do, God will open the floodgates of heaven and pour blessings out on you.”

Now, as I related this story there were (rightly) gasps of shock at the crassness of theology on display here. One could say many things about the man’s handling of Scripture, not least that he had failed to harmonise the passage with nearly everything else the Bible says about the Christian life.

But I think the real problem was this. The guy was committed to God speaking relevantly to people through his word, but was not at all committed to the doctrine that God’s word comes to us not by dictation but by incarnation. That is to say that God gives us his word that speaks to us powerfully today, but he gives it to us through particular people at particular times in particular contexts. Our theology is not Islamic, God dictated it, but rather that God perfectly revealed himself in human form. “The Lord is my shepherd” is no less God’s word for being David’s expression of his relationship with God. Malachi was spoken to people living under a promise made to them at a significant time in their history, not to me on a Sunday in August 2003.

You see, often the problem with Scripture is that people lower the God-ness of it. But sometimes the problem is (as with Jesus) that people reduce the human-ness of it too. The wonder of it is, as much as that the living God would speak to us at all, that he speaks to us through an epic story through human people in real situations. There is something inherently incarnational about how God likes to reveal himself – to understand the media properly we need to get that clear.


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