The Word of God: Part 2

Continuing our look at Timothy Ward’s book Words of Life, I want to focus our attention words of Christ. Ward ties Christ’s words in with the idea of “fullness.” In his words, “Moreover, the ‘fullness’ of God, which God was pleased to have dwell in Christ, also included the words Christ spoke…The most likely implication is that these words were given by the Father to Christ in eternity, and not exclusively during his earthly life, such as during his childhood, or his adult life before the beginning of his public ministry…” (38) In my mind, it is a bit odd to take passages from John (which is what Ward is working with, see John 8:28b, 12:49-50; 17:8a), which claim that Jesus does not speak on his own and that he speaks what he is commanded by the Father, to somehow entail a conversation between the Father and the Son in eternity. Jesus, then, is simply repeating what he was told. Furthermore, I think it is an incredible jump to claim, in Ward’s words,

We can say, then, that these statements by Jesus provide a glimpse into the eternal life of the triune God. It is a glimpse of the Father preparing for the appearing of the Son in human form by giving him words he would speak during his earthly ministry” (38).

Certainly, in a minimalistic sense, these passages in John offer some insight into the mission of the Son in relation to the Father, fair enough. But it still seems odd to me that we have this Father-Son dialogue where Jesus is learning what to say. It somewhat reminds me of the breakdown of the pactum salutis which begins to sound like a committee meeting in the triune life. I’m just not sure this kind of analysis is helpful.

Ward is clearly trying to God-saturate the teaching of Jesus in a way that moves beyond it merely being “true.” Therefore, quoting John 6:63 where Jesus claims his words are full of Spirit and life, Ward believes this is because they are God’s own words (passed from Father to Son in the inner-life): “It is not that Jesus is saying in some metaphorical sense that his words will bring fullness of life and lead people to walk in the power of the Spirit, if they obey them, true though that may be. Instead he means what he (literally) says: because his words are words which God identifies as entirely his own, they are literally ‘full of the Spirit’, who is himself God, and full of eternal life” (39). Again, I’m not sure why pushing these “words” back to eternity somehow saturates them with Spirit and truth more so than if Jesus proclaimed then through personal/Spiritual knowledge of the father in his earthly ministry.

Ward, expanding his point, states:

For the words God the Father gave to God the Son have been given by the Son, in ordinary human language, to his disciples. Now those words are to be passed on through the words of the disciples. Therefore everyone who never met the Word incarnate directly, but who hears the words of Christ from the disciples, nevertheless encounters the words of the Father and of Christ, who in those words present themselves to us as a covenant-making God” (42).

What do we think of this kind of analysis? I am not very excited about the path Ward chose to take. Any thoughts?

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2 thoughts on “The Word of God: Part 2

  1. Yeah, Kyle, I think you are right on track.

    It seems to me that the Gospel of John in particular is relating the “word-commission” of Father-to-Son more to depict the intended Human Agency of the Son within time and space as reflective of and even modeling the human agency entailed in the Great Commission (“as the Father has sent me, so send I you”).

    This is analogous to the thrust of the similar picture of human agency in Hebrews 2:5-11, in which the Creation commission to humanity (citing Psalm 8) is reflected and modeled in the life of Christ as promoting that commission among those who receive this “word” through Divine revelation.

    It seems that Ward is indeed exerting far too much leverage in an attempt to—as you so aptly put it, Kyle—‘push these “words” back to eternity’ and thereby somehow put more “knowable substance” into an otherwise ineffable Trinitarian relationship. The Johannine pictures, as is so characteristic of the NT writers in general, are showing us Jesus’ incarnated human agency for the Father on our behalf as precedent, guide, and empowerment for living out our own human agency for the Father. In light of this human agency, we can see how the Creation Commission is consummated and fulfilled in the Great Commission and how this will necessarily entail our conformity (“who is man…the son of man…?”) to the image of Christ.

  2. Isn’t this arguing for Marcionism though? Taking Jesus as the “full”ness … without bothering with a connection to the Old Testament god?

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