The Word of God Written

The Word of God Written

Those who seek to be the living church of Christ, will learn a lot from Barth’s  high view of the place and power of God’s Written Word.  For him, the Church’s very existence depends upon our willingness to remain grounded in the power of the Bible.

This is what we mean when we call the Bible God’s Word. We confess and acknowledge therewith that the recollection of God’s past revelation, without which the enterprise of Church proclamation would be impossible, is just as much God’s grace and gift as is the actualisation our own proclamation needs. It is not in our own power to make this recollection, not even in the form of our grasping at the Bible. Only when and as the Bible grasps at us, when we are thus reminded, is this recollection achieved.

Here are the main conclusion Barth makes regarding the Word of God and its influence upon the individual Christian and the Church.

  1. Through God’s Written Word, we reconnect with the memories of our true nature and with God as our Creator.
  2. Through God’s Written Word, the Church is reminded that we do not exist for our own, but for something that transcends Church itself–Jesus Christ.
  3. Through God’s Written Word, the Church is reminded that the message we preach began with the prophets, continued through Paul and will last until the end.
  4. Through God’s Written Word, we are reminded that the word we speak today is distinct from Scripture and not equal in authority.
  5. Through God’s Written Word, the Church derives her reason for existence and authority to proclaim the message of Christ.

I will let Barth’s own words amplify the meaning of this last assertion which has some important implications for our post-modern church which all too often tries to exists and find meaning on its own authority.

If, then, apart from the undeniable vitality of the Church itself there stands confronting it a concrete authority with its own vitality, an authority whose pronouncement is not the Church’s dialogue with itself but an address to the Church, and which can have vis-à-vis the Church the position of a free power and therefore of a criterion, then obviously in its writtenness as “Bible”it must be distinguished from and given precedence over the purely spiritual and oral life of ecclesiastical tradition.

I am left to wonder, how has the church made dialogue with Herself, and with culture, more important than dialogue with Scripture?

FOOTNOTES

*All quotes from Karl Barth, Geoffrey William Bromiley and Thomas F. Torrance, Church Dogmatics, Volume I The Doctrine of the Word of God, Part 1, Translation of Die kirchliche Dogmatik.; Each pt. also has special t.p.; Includes indexes., 2d ed., 99-111 (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 2004).

 

The Word of God Preached

The Word of God Preached

According to Karl Barth, the Word of God exists in a threefold unity: Preached, Written, and Revealed.  In this post, I want to explore the Word Preached.

The Word of God can only be preached because God first spoke to us through Scripture. In his own words, Barth says,

Proclamation from the church is only possible because it began as proclamation from God through the Word. It is proclamation of the Word which gives the church identity and meaning.

In an age when we are struggling to define the meaning of Church through discussions of methods, models, and meeting locations, I find Barth’s assertion quite refreshing.  Simply put, the church is not the church unless She first and foremost speaks out the Word of God.

Proclamation must ever and again become proclamation. From being an action which, coming forward with the corresponding claim and surrounded with the corresponding expectation, wants to be and should be proclamation, it must become an action which is proclamation. And because the event of real proclamation is the function of the Church’s life which governs all others, we have to say that in this event the Church itself must ever and again become the Church. Proclamation and the Church are, of course, simply and visibly there just as the bread and wine of Communion are simply and visibly there and the distributing, eating and drinking of the bread and wine in Communion take place simply and visibly.

Preaching the Word defines our existence as church, but when everyone seemingly has competing theology how can we know that our proclamation is sound and reliable?  In answer to this question, Barth provides the following framework of assurance that our proclamation of hte Word is sound.   Barth says that if our Dogma is to become Proclamation, we must understand four decisive connections.  He describes these connections as four concentric circles that stand between Dogma and Proclamation.   I have given each of these areas my own designation and made the following graphic to help illustrate his point.

1. Source: Proclamation of God’s Word is Commissioned By God

The source of the words we speak matters if the proclamation by the church is going to be the tangible manifestation of what God has already spoken.

Proclamation and the Church are, of course, simply and visibly there just as the bread and wine of Communion are simply and visibly there and the distributing, eating and drinking of the bread and wine in Communion take place simply and visibly…Real proclamation, then, means the Word of God preached and the Word of God preached means in this first and outermost circle man’s talk about God on the basis of God’s own direction, which fundamentally transcends all human causation, which cannot, then, be put on a human basis, but which simply takes place, and has to be acknowledged, as a fact.

2. Substance: Proclamation has God’s Word as its Only Object

Our culture does not limit the proclamation of God’s Word.  Each person presents the word within their own perspective and penchant for art, science or politics, but this influence does not serve as the true object or undermine the substance of the Word we speak.

In calling the object or theme of proclamation God’s Word we mean that it is not merely or even primarily the object of human perception. It must become the object of human perception to be capable of being proclaimed. But to the extent that it is really proclaimed it is not at all the object of human perception…Preaching and sacrament are, as we have seen, the promise of future revelation on the basis of the revelation that has already occurred. How, then, can one speak of this object except in the form of this promise, which is quite distinct from that of science, art, or politics? Real proclamation, then, means God’s Word preached, and in this second circle God’s Word preached means human talk about God on the basis of the self-objectification of God which is not just there, which cannot be predicted, which does not fit into any plan, which is real only in the freedom of His grace, and in virtue of which He wills at specific times to be the object of this talk, and is so according to His good-pleasure.

3. Subject: Proclamation is Judged by God’s Word

No one can change the truth we speak.  People may question our authority or doubt our motive, but these judgments can not infringe upon the message we preach.  The Proclamation by the church is subject only to the Word of God.

The one who proclaims must submit to the question: What do you know of the thing you speak of? And: What is your concern in speaking of it? He has to let his work be judged by these questions. The only point is that what he says is not affected as proclamation by such judgments. What is assessed by them is its scientific or ethico-political or aesthetic character. Intrinsically proclamation as it takes place in preaching and sacrament presupposes that neither the nature of its object nor the situation or concern of the speaker is or can be so clear to any man as to put him in a position to pronounce on its truth…Real proclamation, therefore, is the Word of God preached, and in this third inner circle the Word of God preached means human talk about God which by God’s own judgment, that cannot be anticipated and never passes under our control, is true with reference both to the proclaimed object and also to the proclaiming subject, so that it is talk which has to be listened to and which rightly demands obedience.

4. Satisfaction: Proclamation is God’s Action

The proclamation of God’s word is only satisfied when it becomes action. Actions motivated by the Word never violate the freedom of individual, yet action must be in line with the Word of God.

Without depriving the human element of its freedom, its earthly substance, its humanity, without obliterating the human subject, or making its activity a purely mechanical event, God is the subject from whom human action must receive its new and true name: not just a title tacked on; no, the name which belongs to it as essentially and primarily as possible in the full supremacy of the will of its Creator and Lord. Where Church proclamation takes place according to this will of God, where it rests on the divine commission, where God Himself gives Himself to it as its theme, where it is true according to His judgment, where, in short, it is service of God, there on the one hand its character as an event that can be seen and heard on earth is not set aside.

Summary Questions

  • What is the Source, Substance, Subject and Satisfaction of the message you preach?
  • How do you make sure your Dogma (theology) is consistently a Divine Proclamation?

FOOTNOTE

* All quotes from Karl Barth, Geoffrey William Bromiley and Thomas F. Torrance, Church Dogmatics, Volume I The Doctrine of the Word of God, Part 1, Translation of Die kirchliche Dogmatik.; Each pt. also has special t.p.; Includes indexes., 2d ed., 88-99 (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 2004).
Missional Conversation to Engage the Post-Modern Mind

Missional Conversation to Engage the Post-Modern Mind

Historically, some segments of Christianity have resisted meaningful dialogue with those of other faiths and those who hold a different worldview.  Resistance is, in part, based on the observation that such dialogue has led some Christians to value appeasement over proclamation of the Gospel.   While this may be true, it is no reason to eschew discussion with post-modernity.  If the church is to live missionally, She cannot escape the necessity of our age to engage the culture with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

We live in a dialogical age. We live in an age where homogeneity of thought is the exception rather than the rule. Diverse cultures, religions and worldviews are the stuff of which our countries and neighborhoods are made. We simply cannot change that. The choice is between letting the culture overshadow the message of the Cross of Christ or whether crafting a church that is willing to discover dialogical forms that can reach post-modernity with the gospel.  To effectively engage the post-modern mind, we must discern each person’s epistemology, observe their practice, and find a point of connection to the triune, personal, and good creator-God of the Bible.  The only way the church can live out our missional existence is to first develop a Kingdom worldview and then make sure our practice is in alignment with it. To achieve this goal, I offer seven conditions that make for healthy dialogue between Christians and those who do not share a Kingdom worldview.

Condition #1: Deal with the past, but don’t hold individuals responsible for it

Over the centuries, many wrongs have been done in the name, and against the name, of “religion.”  We can talk about these events, empathize with the hurts of others, and discuss the impact of the past on our present; but, we should not hold individuals who played no part these atrocities responsible for the misdeeds of the past.

Condition #2. Express agendas with honesty

There is nothing wrong with having an agenda.  Dialogue demands that we do not check our agendas at the door.  Anyone with a deeply held faith or tradition understands that agendas are part of who we are and what makes our faiths meaningful.  Hiding agendas, or pretending they are not important, is destructive to interfaith and trans-cultural dialogue. As a follower of YHWH, my agenda is to share the salvation hope that comes only through the death and resurrection power of the Messiah–Jesus.  This, for me, is the context for missional-dialogue.

Condition #3. Demonstrate love

Dialogue, especially for followers of Jesus, should be a demonstration of the Christian imperative to “love your neighbor.”  As a Christian, my dialogue must also be a demonstration of love for my God who first loved me.  Regardless of faith or tradition, loving speech is demonstrated when each person reveals weakness, risks self-exposure, and demonstrates empathy.

Condition #4. Treat people as unique individuals instead of preconceived categories

The study of religion, theology, and different faiths can be informative, but it can also be counterproductive.  Not everyone who calls himself “Mormon” will embrace the same theology as other Mormons.  Just because a woman calls herself a Pagan, does not mean she agrees with the actions of every self-professed Pagan.  In a post-modern culture, shared labels do not determine unity.  Christians are not one monolithic group of thinkers and cannot be held to account for the thoughts of other Christians. Healthy  dialogue values the individual above their “category” and allow each person to express their thoughts, ideas, and feelings with an open mind.

Condition #5. Contend in humility

As a Christian, I believe in truth.  I believe we can know truth.   And I believe the truth is found in the person of Jesus Christ who lived, died, and rose from the dead 2000 years ago.   However, knowing the Truth that is Jesus Christ, does not mean I have all the answers to every question of life. The key to healthy dialogue amongst people of different worldviews, then, is found in ones ability to contend for truth in a manner that demonstrates the limitations of our humanity.

Condition #6. Questions are the heart of dialogue

Questions are the friend of dialogue, but all too often people bristle at tough questions and become defensive.  In my experience, people are all too quick to impose judgement and impugn motive rather than address questions in a straightforward manner.  Healthy dialogue must embrace the use of exploratory questions as a tool for developing understanding.

Condition #7. The goal is not a new “civil religion”

It is the great irony of our post-modern age that we live in a pluralistic society that marginalizes anyone who does not conform.  Dialogue is often predicated on the pseudo-pluralistic condition that no one with firm convictions is taken seriously.  Any view which is perceived to disrupt the civility of discourse is summarily set aside as unworthy of consideration.  The erroneous goal for this kind of dialogue is the creation of a new civil religion acceptable to everyone; but in the end it alienates anyone with concrete religious values. We must not ask people with deep convictions to moderate their faith in order to be accepted into the dialogue.  Instead, the goal must be to allow each person to present their view with a sincere appreciation for the uniqueness that each one brings.

[BOOK REVIEW] Healing Your Church Hurt

[BOOK REVIEW] Healing Your Church Hurt

4_Star

Review

Previously published as ReChurch.”Healing Your Church Hurt: What To Do When You Still Love God But Have Been Wounded by His People” is a timely book by Stephen Mansfield that encourages readers to move beyond hurt and fall in love once again with God’s Church.

Mansfield approaches this topic with directness and sensitivity recognizing that an estimated 37% of the US population avoids church because of past hurts (pg. x).

I like Mansfiend’s story of a young boy with his arm stuck in the vending machine. Crying and bleeding, the boy begs for help, when all along, the boy was clutching onto a candy bar that kept his arm pinned inside.  Once he let go of the bar, his arm was set free. Mansfiend likens this experience to the many people who have left the church, but continue to hold onto the “candy bar” of hurt and anger.  Only when we chose to let go, will the healing process begin.

Each chapter of the book offers encouragement to pursue healing with heartfelt word of encouragement:

  • Adversity endured righteously has the power to lift a man to new heights.
  • Nothing can keep my soul in bondage except the forbidden or unclean thing I insist on holding tight.
  • When we think we are loving Jesus but hating his people, we are actually loving Jesus so little that his people don’t matter anymore.
  • Enduring the wounds of fellow Christians with mercy and grace seems to be the call of every true saint.  We should not expect it to be any different in our own lives.
  • As you play your bitter story over again in your mind, you keep hardening your feelings and deepening the woud.
  • It is time to make a change. And the change begins with forgiving.

In my own life, I have experienced hurts from the church and I have had to forgive and allow God to restore true fellowship with my fellow saints.  I can say from experience, there is hope beyond hurt and if you are suffering now, reading this book is a great first step toward restoration.

Author Info

About the Author: Stephen Mansfield is the New York Times bestselling author of The Faith of George W. Bush, The Faith of the American Soldier, Never Give In: The Extraordinary Character of Winston Churchill, and ReChurch: Healing Your Way Back to the People of God among other works of history and biography. Founder of The Mansfield Group, a research and communications firm, and Chartwell Literary Group, which creates and manages literary projects, Stephen is also in wide demand as a lecturer and inspirational speaker. He lives in Nashville with his wife, Beverly, a successful producer and songwriter.
Foreward by George Barna : George was raised and educated on the East Coast before moving to California in the early 1980s. He held executive positions in advertising, public policy, political campaigns, and media/marketing research before beginning his own company, the Barna Research Group (now The Barna Group). To date, George has written more than 40 books, predominantly in the areas of leadership, trends, spiritual development, and church health. Included among them are best sellers such as Revolution, Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions, The Frog in the Kettle, The Power of Vision, and Pagan Christianity? Several of his books have received national awards and have been translated into more than a dozen languages.

Win A Free Copy

Tyndale House Publishers has given me the opportunity to do a free book giveaway. To enter the drawing:

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Drawing Date

I will keep track of all the entries and select a winner next Monday, April 2nd.  Once the winner is confirmed, I will announce it here in the comments section.  Good luck and even if you don’t win, be sure and get your copy of this book.

Jehovah is not in the Bible!

Jehovah is not in the Bible!

Did you know that the name “Jehovah” is not in the original Bible?

Exodus 3:14 reveals the personal name of God as “I Am Who I Am” (That’s right, Popeye stole it from God.) In the Hebrew, this was written as 4 consonants Y H W H. Through time, religionists made this special name so “sacred” that some refused to write it and would insert other names in its place.

The name “Jehovah” probably first came into use during the Middle Ages where the consonants from the revealed name of God; YHWH, and  the vowels from one of the generic terms for God: adonai, were combined into the new Man-made word “Jehovah.”

YHWH to Jahovah

As time went by, the Hebrew was translated into Latin, the Latin into German and  the German into English.  Eventually the translation from one language to the next converted the “Y” into a “J” and the “W” into a “V”.   If you have ever met someone with a German accent, you will notice how the letter “w” is pronounced like the English “v” and the letter “y” is pronounced with “j” sound.   Eventually the King James translation adopted the made-up name “Jehovah.”

The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary summarizes the origins of the invention “Jehovah”      this way:

When the Jewish scholars (called Masoretes) added vowel signs to biblical mss some time before the 10th century a.d., the Tetragrammaton was punctuated with the vowels of the word “Adonai” or “Elohim” to indicate that the reader should read “Lord” or “God” instead of accidentally pronouncing the sacred name (TDOT 5: 501–02).

The form “Jehovah” results from reading the consonants of the Tetragrammaton with the vowels of the surrogate word Adonai. The dissemination of this form is usually traced to Petrus Galatinus, confessor to Pope Leo X, who in 1518 a.d. transliterated the four Hebrew letters with the Latin letters jhvh together with the vowels of Adonai, producing the artificial form “Jehovah.” (This confused usage may, however, have begun as early as 1100 a.d.; note KB, 369). While the hybrid form Jehovah has met much resistance, and is universally regarded as an ungrammatical aberration, it nonetheless passed from Latin into English and other European languages and has been hallowed by usage in hymns and the ASV; it is used only a few times in KJV and not at all in RSV.

Henry O. Thompson, “Yahweh (Deity)” In , in , vol. 6, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, ed. David Noel Freedman (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 1011.

Of course this has a lot of important implications for all of the King James Version Only folks, the Jehovah’s Witness faithful, and even for all of our English translations.

There is a newer practice of writing the personal name of God as, “Yahweh.”  This translation brings back the revealed name of God by using the Hebrew consonants with the addition of vowels to make it more readable in English.  This is a completely acceptable translation.  However, my own practice is simply use the Hebrew consonants with no added vowels, but the pronunciation of YHWH is the same as Yahweh.

I hope that helps my readers better understand why I use the personal name of God; YHWH, in my writing.

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