Assaulting God's Word

An intelligent young man I used to teach, who would not have claimed to be a friend of Christianity, gave me one of his artworks for my classroom. At first, I recoiled, for it is rather graphic, somewhat gory and, one might think, a little disrespectful. It is a Bible, the pages of which have been subjected to nails and thorns, its leafs spattered by blood. The Bible is God's word, and such a depiction might offend us.

Have you noticed that Christ is called the 'Word of God' in John chapter 1? The Greek word, logos, is most obviously translated ‘word’, but may also mean reason or wisdom. My reasoning and wisdom (such as it is) express themselves through the words I speak. They are an expression of what I am thinking and who I am. Christ, God the Son, was both with God, and was God. Just as my words are an expression of me, and by them I stand condemned or justified, so the cosmic Christ is an eternal expression of the Godhead. When He walked the earth two millennia ago, He was a visual image of the invisible God.

Yet we Christians call and regard the Bible as ‘God’s Word’. This is primarily because the Bible refers to itself in such language. Many of God’s thoughts, intentions and desires have been communicated to us through prophet and apostle, who vouchsafed them to paper or papyrus that they might be preserved and known to other generations. The scriptures, like Christ Himself, are an expression of the triune God. Christ, whom Peter said had the words of eternal life, is the way the truth and the life. God’s words, character and person cannot be separated.

When Christ came to earth, He was crucified and killed. The Word of God was temporarily silenced and apparently defeated, until from death He rose and continued to publish His words to apostles and disciples. Similarly, His written word has always been subjected to assault and attempts to stifle and gag it. 52 countries today prohibit possession of a Bible. There are shrill calls form our own shores to have it banned and restricted because it does not subscribe to the latest equality ideology. In the nineteenth century, the ‘higher critics’ attempted to denude its supernaturalism and emasculate its message. Before the Reformation, the Roman church limited its reading to a clerical elite, lest the ordinary people use it to measure the shortcomings of their betters. For translating it into English, William Tyndale was strangled, and John Wycliffe’s bones dug up and scattered. The Watchtower Society of New York repeatedly re-edits it to arrive at a tome more convivial to its spurious doctrines, and the Mormons must supplement it with another scripture to account for its rejection of their fancies. In more ancient times, it was hidden away in the Temple’s vault before the time of King Josiah, while King Jehoiakim attempted to cut it up and throw it in the fire. In Eden itself, the serpent busied himself whispering doubts regarding its efficacy. For as long as fallen hearts have walked the earth, God’s word has been assaulted, ridiculed, burnt and side-lined. Men prefer darkness to truth, ignorance to knowledge, hell to heaven. Just as Christ, God’s Word was beaten and killed, so God’s written word fares little better. Methinks this gruesome artwork is more prophetic than its maker would be pleased to believe.

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. 1 John 1:1-3