This is the start of my occasional series on ‘mere Christianity’.
So let us start with the word of God, oh, better idea; let us start with the Word of God.
For us, the really sacred figure is Jesus of Nazareth, whom his follower came to believe was the Anointed of God, in Greek (the language in which the New Testament is written) ‘the Christ’. Jesus is how we see God – he is, if you like, the window through we look when we are trying to see into the big deep mysterious house we call ‘God’ – a house which sometimes seems utterly familiar, like a place we have always known, and sometime so strange we doubt the evidence before us. This is something I want to come back to, but for now, keep with the image of Christ as a window. Jesus is astonishing (something else to come back to) but he, we believe, is uniquely the best way of seeing and understanding God. The very beginning of John’s gospel, one of five early accounts of Jesus and by far the most poetic, calls him ‘the Word of God’, the logos, the root which gives us logic, and all the ‘ology’ word-ends. It is as though God speaks, and what he speaks is not a sound, but a person.
If Jesus is uniquely the best way of understanding God, it follows that the Bible can only be a second-best way of seeing God. It is not, and it cannot be, the Word of God. It is Jesus who (according to John) was ‘next to God, and was God’. The Bible may be jolly interesting, but it is not and never has been ‘next to God’ or, of one prefers the more sedate translation, ‘with God’. The Bible is words, not the Word.
It follows that liberal Christians tend to sit a heap lighter to the Bible than atheists (no names, no pack drill) think they should.