The integrity of God’s word has always been under assault, from “hath God really said” until now. For this reason, Jonathan Akin highlights two recent instances in which well-known Christians have made statements that cast doubt on that integrity. He writes:
First, Andy Stanley tweeted a link to an article where a young lady who has renounced Christianity talks about how much she misses being a Born-Again Christian. Along with the link, Stanley tweeted, “Why we must teach the next generation the FOUNDATION of our faith is an EVENT not a BOOK.”
Second, Christian singer Gungor is drifting from biblical orthodoxy. He doesn’t believe the early accounts in Genesis are historical, or that there was an Adam or an Eve or a global flood. Ken Ham pointed out that Jesus referenced Adam and Noah as historical people, to which Gungor replied that even if Jesus was wrong about the historicity of Adam and Noah that wouldn’t deny the divinity of Christ. Ken Ham responded again, and then he gives a screenshot of a Facebook comment where Gungor writes, “There is a trend in modern society, no more than a trend…a religion, an idolatry that elevates Scripture above Jesus.”
The long and the short of it is this. Here we have a pastor and a musician—both of whom are associated with evangelicalism—who drive a wedge between what God does and what God says. In Stanley’s case, the wedge may be more rhetorical than substantive. The converse seems to be the case with Gungor. Still, there are a number of problems with both of these, and I can hardly improve upon the critique that Akin offers. I encourage you to read it. For my part, I would add one analogy to illustrate the absurdity of separating God’s word from God’s work.
I love my wife very much. Suppose I come to her and tell her, “Sweetie, I love you. I am completely devoted to you and to serving you for as long as we both shall live.” As a happy smile spreads across her face, she opens her mouth to speak. But before she can say anything, I put my hand over her mouth and say, “Don’t speak. It’s you that I love and you that I want to serve. I’m not really interested in hearing any of your words. I just want to love and serve you.” Will this kind of love and service to my wife be acceptable to her? The kind that seeks to drive a wedge between her as a person and her words? Of course not. I cannot love my wife if I am indifferent or cavalier about what she says to me. If I would love her, I must love her words.
Suppose I am drafted into military service, carried away to a foreign field, and separated from my wife for two years. Our only contact with each other is the letters we write. She loves me dearly and faithfully writes me each day that I’m gone. When we are finally reunited, she discovers that all her hundreds of love letters to me remain unopened. I received every one but didn’t take the time to read any of them. She looks at me in dismay and asks why I never read any of them. I reply, “Because I wanted to cherish you in my memory. I really didn’t want my mind’s eye sullied by all your letters.” Will she feel loved by me when she finds out that I have chosen to focus on her and not on her words? Of course not. We all know the answer to that question because it is absurd to drive a wedge between my wife and her words. If I would love her faithfully, I would love her words as the necessary pathway to knowing her.
Theological liberals have for many years sought to drive a wedge between God’s word and His person and work—as if we can be devoted to the one without the other. But this is an absurdity, unless of course one does not regard scripture as the very word of God. If scripture is not God’s word, then a wedge makes sense. If it is God’s word, a wedge makes no sense at all. And it serves no one to say that “the FOUNDATION of our faith is an EVENT not a BOOK.”
For this reason, it is not “idolatry” when we set our love and devotion on God’s word. We ought to regard God’s word the same way the Psalmist does, who on Gungor’s standard might be accused of idolatry. The Psalmist writes:
Oh how I love Your law!
It is my meditation all the day. -Ps. 119:97
How sweet are Your words to my taste!
Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth! -Ps. 119:103
I have inherited Your testimonies forever,
For they are the joy of my heart. -Ps. 119:111
I hate those who are double-minded,
But I love Your law. -Ps. 119:113
My eyes fail with longing for Your salvation,
And for Your righteous word. -Ps. 119:123
Therefore I love Your commandments
Above gold, yes, above fine gold. -Ps. 119:127
My eyes shed streams of water,
Because they do not keep Thy law. -Ps. 119:136
Your word is very pure,
Therefore Your servant loves it. -Ps.119:140
These are not the expressions of an idolater. They are the exultation of a Spirit-inspired worshipper of the true and living God. They are the words of someone who views God’s written word as the foundation of his faith. Indeed, the Psalmist’s love for God’s work is revealed in the Psalmist’s love for God’s word. There is no “wedge” between the two. Beware of those who suggest that there is.