'Word of God' in the Bible does not primarily refer to human words that are spoken or written. But for centuries many have thought of God's communication with people as being mostly confined to human words. Often the Bible, a book of written words, is held high with the proclamation, “This is THE Word of God.” The idea that we can 'read in words' the actual full 'Word of God' has led us Westerners to think that responding to God is primarily a matter of understanding such human words and then doing what they tell us. But doesn't this grossly over simplify the reality of 'Word of God' and reduce our being engaged by it to a human-human kind of encounter rather than a God-human encounter? Regrettably, I think this has been the case and is also why many thoughtful people today are suspect of religious language and claims.
Until the printing press, ordinary people did not possess many, if any, written words. The first Bible was printed in 1455. But recent centuries of people can hardly think of 'God's Word' except as written or spoken words. This comes in part from the huge impact of the Age Of Enlightenment's materialistic focus from the 1700's on. 'Human words' is not what 'Word of God' generally means in the Bible itself, but rarely is that mentioned in sermons and Christian teaching.
|God Sows 'People' Into Our Lives|
Here's a simple example that can change, and I think make more accurate, the notion of how God might project 'God's Word' into human life. It is the parable of Jesus called the 'the sower' or 'the soils.'(Matthew 13: 1-9, 18-24) The story speaks of a sower scattering seed on hard soil, rocky soil, weedy soil and finally 'good soil'. The seed does not become a mature healthy plant except when it lands on the 'good soil'. The usual explanation is the seed is the written or spoken human word of God-the Bible. And only the person who 'hears' them and does them is 'good soil.' But there is good evidence that a more accurate interpretation is that God is the sower and the 'seed is people'. Yes , the unexpected idea is that 'God's Word' is sown among us and it is not human words of religious ideas and commandments, but is the people that 'drop' into our life. Suddenly the challenge of being spiritually motivated is not primarily about hearing human words from a book and doing them, but about being 'good soil' for the people sent our way. Is that not an astonishing twist on what 'Word of God' can mean and on how we are confronted and challenged by it? This view may result in some sincere people seeing themselves as far more like 'good soil' than they had been taught to believe.... and some not so good after all. The test becomes on how we honor all other humans as we come to interact and involvement with them.
The people who are sown into 'our soil' include children born to our families, the one who becomes a life partner, people that come into our social groups, the friends that arrive in our personal work and play spaces. The parable raises the issue that we are to give all such people the unselfish reception, acceptance; the nurturing, the emotional and truth-telling nutrition that humans need to become the unique persons God intends them to be.
Central to the art or gift of being 'good soil' is not seeing oneself as owning or possessing the persons who are 'sown as God's message' into our lives. The soil's role is only to provide nutrition, protection, truth-telling, and the love that all developing persons(young and old) need. The miracle of growth and what the plant matures to be or do is all the work of God and remains a mystery which Jesus warned to 'not judge.'
|The Plant or 'Person' Is Beyond Our Judgment|
To broaden 'Word of God' to include it meaning the 'people in our lives' makes it more clear that God can be perceived as a present reality and resource to all humans, not just ones predisposed to valuing the study of written words.(I'm not devaluing that process at all but am suggesting that in our culture and religion 'head' has become far more and overly valued than 'heart.') I see 'Word of God' as 'the people in our lives' as a far more 'heart' and 'spiritual' understanding of the reality of 'God's Word' compared to the heady and intellectual concept of it being a specific assortment of 'written human words.' This meaning of 'Word of God' is practical for every human , regardless of education, learning temperament, formal faith or any faith at all. It means that 'God's Word' is always as near to us as the person(s) in our presence. To hold that 'Word of God' is primarily human words, generally the sacred texts of ones own religion, rightfully affronts many other sincere people and could profitably be retracted as the way all religious and non religious people can more productively explore the practical meaning and place of God in human life.Jim H.