In this post, I begin to look through the new book Words of Life: Scripture as the Living and Active Word of God by Timothy Ward. Ward’s self-proclaimed task is:
I want to articulate, explain and defend what we are really saying when we proclaim, as we must, that the Bible is God’s Word. In particular, this is how I want to go about this: I am attempting to describe the nature of the relationship between God and Scripture” (11).
Ward categorizes his volume as an “outline,” offering three main “components: First, a biblical outline – a low-flying biblical analysis of the Bible’s own self-description. Second, Ward claims to draw this together into a “theological outline of Scripture in its relationship with God, focusing on Scripture’s role in relationship with each of the persons of the Trinity” (13). Ward warns that evangelicals have treated Scripture as internally unrelated to the doctrines of the Christian faith, and must be located theologically (most specifically in relation to the missions of the Son and Spirit) to remedy that error. Lastly, Ward looks at a doctrinal outline of Scripture, looking at issues of necessity, sufficiency, clarity and authority.
Ward notes four theologians he consistently works his material through (an interesting rhetorical move I suppose): John Calvin, Francis Turretin, B.B. Warfield, and Herman Bavinck. In other words, if you don’t like his view, you evidently just don’t like the Reformed!
In the second chapter, Ward addresses how God relates himself to words. Ward seeks to establish that God’s words and actions are often synonymous in the Bible, looking at passages such as the creation narrative, fall narrative, establishment of covenant, etc. Ward summarizes his Old Testament findings:
The language about God’s ‘word’ seems to be a way of speaking of God’s active presence in the world…God and his word share the divine ability infallibly to perform their purpose; human words often fail to perform their intended purpose, but God’s words do not” (25).
God relates to people, Ward argues, through a covenantal framework, and by this framework God verbally links himself with his people. This leads him to make two conclusions: First, “it is in and through the words of the covenant he speaks to his people that God makes himself knowable to humanity,” and “God’s actions, including his verbal actions, are a kind of extension of him;” and second, “God cannot meaningfully establish his covenant with us, he cannot make his promise to us, without using words…God chooses to use words as a fundamental means of relating to us, we must presume, because the kind of relationship he chooses to establish cannot be established without them” (31).
Next, Ward seeks to build upon the reality of the prophets speaking the “word of the Lord.” He believes that this shows that God’s word can be mediated through human words without ceasing to truly be his own. His explanation of this possibility is read through the image of God in man, and that, if nothing else, lays the foundation for talking about God’s covenant making activity, through his speech, albeit mediated through human speech. Thus, in his words, “an encounter with God’s covenant-making communicative activity is itself an encounter with God” (36).
What do we think of this development thus far? It seems pretty staight forward in terms of what he is seeking to do. Any thoughts? Responses?