From the Archives: God Gave Us a Book
Can the supernatural and the natural realms talk together? Is communication possible between God and people? This crucial question polarized our nation’s founding fathers. All of the founders believed in a supernatural realm—God was a given. But a few of the founders insisted that God created the universe to run on its own without Him (a view known as Deism). For all practical purposes, these men dismissed the very possibility of communication between the natural and supernatural realms.
Since the early influences of Deism, American culture has been shaped by the anti-supernaturalist philosophies of biological evolution and secular humanism. Secularism is not merely anti-religious, although it is that. Secularism is, more fundamentally, an utter denial of the sacred and thus a disaffirmation of the indispensability of a supernatural realm—a supposition rendered reasonable by the theory of biological evolution. Whereas Deism was stuck with a Creator (albeit a silent one), evolutionism eliminated the notion of a Creator and completely eradicated the necessity of a supernatural realm. Secularism stands in at this point to assert what evolutionism suggested: supernaturalism is a myth.
It would seem that most Americans today embrace some form of evolutionism (fueled by evolutionism’s monopoly of the public education system), but few Americans are pure secularists. Surveys indicate that most Americans pray, and praying evidences at least a wishful hope in the existence of a supernatural realm (which goes far to explain the angst secularist educators suffer when public school students talk to God). Despite the inroads of Deism and secularism, many Americans still believe in a supernatural realm with which communication is possible.
Curiously, however, fewer seem to believe that communication flows in the opposite direction. We can talk to God, but he cannot talk to us. This bifurcation is witnessed most vividly in the widespread denial that the Bible records the very words of God. It is the height of folly, we are routinely assured, to think that a book records the utterances of God. Since human hands wrote the Bible, human minds had to generate it. God does not write books!
It should first be recognized that orthodox Christians have never claimed that God physically wrote the Bible with His own hand or that He dictated text to human authors who dutifully served as His robotic scribes. The idea is, rather, that as wind fills the sails of a sailboat, moving it across a body of water, so the Holy Spirit of God carried along the original authors so that they wrote precisely what God intended to communicate (1 Pet. 1:20-21). The reasoning capacities of the authors were fully engaged throughout the process. Their personalities, life experiences and writing styles are clearly witnessed in their work. In some instances, their grammar is less than polished. Yet God so superintended the process that we may justly claim that the words (not technically the authors) of the Bible are inspired (or breathed-out) by God (2 Tim. 3:16-17). In a unique merging of human endeavor and divine influence, these words constitute supernatural communication.
This being understood, we should note secondly that the Bible never stoops to defend God’s capacity to communicate with us. The God of the Bible is presented from cover to cover, without apology, as a God who speaks. By the agency of speech God creates the universe (Gen. 1). In subsequent centuries, God communicates by means of dreams, visions, miracles, audible announcements, theophanies, prophetic utterances, as well as by means of written texts. These messages are historically rare, but they are unabashedly asserted by the biblical authors as authentic forms of divine communication.
The Ultimate Revelation
The ultimate revelation from God is His son, Jesus Christ, who is described by the apostle John as the eternal “Word” (John 1:1). John’s use of “Word” in reference to the ultimate disclosure of God is instructive. “Word” indicates that God is a rational being who longs to communicate with His creatures. “The Word became flesh” description of Jesus (John 1:14) also manifests that Christianity is not merely a creed or an experience. It is, rather, a body of rational ideas which come from the mind of God. The Bible calls this body of ideas, “truth,” which is taken to mean everything that corresponds to the nature of God as personified in Jesus Christ (John 14:6).
Now that Jesus is gone, God communicates to us by means of a book. This is not ultimately an position to defend through apologetics. Faith that the words of God are indeed the words of God is itself a work of God which He must effect in one’s heart (1 Cor. 1:18-2:16).
But having said that, is it not the height of arrogance to claim that people can write a book but that God cannot? Isn’t it reasonable to assert that we write books because we were made in the image of a God who wrote one (Gen. 1:26-27)?
If we believe God can and did communicate with us in written form, we must actively receive communication from God as well as send it—pray, but also read the Bible, God’s written revelation of Himself.
Pastor Dan Miller Bio
Dan Miller has served as the Senior Pastor of Eden Baptist Church since 1989. He graduated from Pillsbury Baptist Bible College in 1984 and his graduate degrees include the MA in history from Minnesota State University, MDiv and ThM from Central Baptist Theological Seminary and DMin from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Dan is married to Beth and the Lord has blessed them with four children: Ethan, Levi, Reed and Whitney.
Well written! Thanks!
I’m not sure you can edit it at this point, but there is a minor typo in the third last paragraph.