By Bruce Edwards, Jr.
“Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say to them, the God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?” (Ex. 3:13). There is something very remarkable and significant about the Lord’s answer to this question by Moses. The people will want to know just who this God is that Moses claims to represent; what can be said? “Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you” (Ex. 3:14). How profound! How astounding! This One whom Moses will represent speaks of Himself in terms of personal pronouns; when Moses explains his encounter to the people he will speak of “He” not “it;” he will say “I AM hath sent me” not “the great ultimate cause.” God is a person! He has personality! And having a personality, and intellect, He is eminently capable of communication. In fact, the eternal, self-existing One has always been communicating-even before you or I or anyone like us ever appeared on the earth. Before “times eternal” (Tit. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:9; Gen. 3:22; Isaiah 6:18), the triune God has been communicating-the Father with the Son, the Son with the Holy Spirit, all Three with each other. Divine unity is a complexity; the divine One is neither the mathematical “1” nor the homogeneous, “one” like a grain of sand. God is a trinity, a fellowship of three persons, and before anything was created He was there loving and communicating. God did not need to create in order to love or communicate. Creation was not a necessity; God did not need man in order to express Himself. The eternal One was and is self-sufficient.
But God chose to create and to communicate with His creation. “In His image created He them” that God could communicate with man, walk with man in sweet communion. The first man He created was given the ability to communicate in verbal language that he in turn could name the other creatures that God had made (Gen. 2:19). God’s communication then, -what He says and how He says it, is an important and natural subject for scrutiny by the believer. The existential theologian labels the Scriptures a “record of the revelation ‘experience’ of .others.” In other words, the Old and New Testaments in some sense “contain” God’s word, but not necessarily in God’s words. We are exhorted to approach the Bible as a human, fallible document-a curious “religious” journal-but assuredly not as an authoritative communication from God Himself. “Christianity,” as it were, becomes no longer a “seeking of God’s .will” as much as a “seeking for a ‘personal encounter’ with God.” The modernist claims, therefore, that “revelation” is not “information about God,” but rather, “God Himself.”
“God Himself” in this context becomes a pseudonym for religious experience;” something to be felt rather than discussed-something to be acknowledged rather than understood. The inevitable consequence of this concept of divine communication is the depersonalization of God. The modernist Paul Tillich, toward the end of his life, confessed “I no longer pray, I meditate.” Modern theology notwithstanding, how does the testimony of the Biblical writers compare with this view of God’s communication?
The consistent Scriptural picture is that God is the real source of the concepts, the ideas, even the very words of the Bible. He is, in a sense, portrayed as the “ghost writer” behind the efforts of the Biblical writers. “Thus saith the Lord” is the persistent claim of those who heard the call of God. Throughout the prophets, sanction ‘is repeatedly given to the notion that God is the originating source of their message. The New Testament bears significant witness to the Old that it is “from God.” In Matt. 19, Jesus suggests that the words of Gen. 2 are attributed to He “that made them.” The apostle Paul argues in Acts 28:25 that the Holy Spirit spoke through Isaiah. Again, the Hebrews writer (4:7) contends that God was “in David” as he wrote the Psalm under consideration.- Further, not only is the Old Testament given a place in “The Scriptures” as from God, but also the New. In his second letter (3:15, 16), Peter suggests that the epistles of Paul are “wrested” just like “the other Scriptures.” The outlook of the Biblical authors is then that God is the true source behind their efforts.
In First Corinthians, Paul discusses how God effected His communication through His servants. In the second chapter he portrays both a divine source of information and a verbal means of communication; he stresses four main points. First, he points out that the things he and the other apostles have .spoken and written are not secured in human experience; instead they proceed from a divine source (vs. 6-9). No one imaginatively devised the Bible-no one recorded it in response to a “revelation experience;” rather, such information was communicated by God. Secondly, Paul declares that God has communicated this information by the agency of the Holy Spirit (v. 10). It is one thing to deduce information from observation or to record a historical event from memory, but it is quite another to know entirely by divine communication. Thirdly, Paul establishes the purpose of the communication: that we might know and understand the “things that were given freely to us of God” (v. 12). He wants us to know, not guess. A “human, fallible book,” one which is a “record of a revelation experience” offers no confidence for guidance. A “divine communication” subject to human error is no communication at all. Lastly, Paul suggests the medium through which God has made known His will: “Which things also we speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Spirit teacheth; combining spiritual things with spiritual words” (v. 13). God communicates verbally. He uses words whereby we can truly know what He says. What Paul claims here is the clearest affirmation that The Scriptures represent a dual effort: God provides the thoughts and the very words, the human writers provide the personalities and the pens.
Modern theology finds itself in a paradoxical situation. Its only source for “religious truth” is the Bible; without the Scriptures, concepts such as “grace” or “law” or “atonement” or “resurrection” could never have been formulated or even suggested. Yet; as the Bible to these is “only a human, fallible document,” modernists ironically discredit and assail the very foundation upon which their tottering theological system is built. The anchors of faith thus severed, such proponents are sentenced to drift farther and farther from the shores of absolute authority. If the written documents ascribed to Moses and David and Luke and Paul and others are mere superstition or mythology or legend, as infidels and liberal critics have affirmed for centuries, then who really knows “who” or “what” God is really like? By what standard could we determine just when we have experienced a “personal encounter with God?”
The Scriptures, however, voice no “uncertain sound” about God. The eternal, triune God who is really there communicates! His communication comprises more than various mighty acts throughout history; in addition and more importantly, God has also communicated in words, words that explain and interpret for us the significance of God’s activity. Belief in God is not predicated upon blind credulity, a “leap of faith” motivated by a despairing hope in “something out there.” To the contrary, this faith is based upon the historical testimony of those who denied they followed “cunningly devised fables” but rather “that which we have heard, that which we have seen with our eyes, that which we beheld, and our hands handled, concerning the Word of life . . . .” With a confident faith and an intellectual integrity we can proclaim “God communicates!” For “we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we know Him that is true, and we are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 5:20). With John we conclude, “This is the true God, and eternal life.”
Truth Magazine XIX: 44, pp. 699-700
September 18, 1975