“You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life.”
About a week ago, I read a tweet from John Piper that read: “God is the only thing more important than the Word of God.” The tweet captured my interest, and I hit that easy little button: retweet. Later that day, I checked my account and looked at the @replies and noticed one from a person whom I had never met.
The man named Jamal Jivanjee had written a blog that set afire a touch of controversy in my heart and mind.
The main point of the article echoed the sentiment of Piper’s tweet – that God is the highest entity. The article made a case that Christians should not capitalize the ‘w’ in the phrase Word of God when speaking about the Bible (even capitalizing the ‘b’ in Bible seems to become a problem for him). Mr. Jivanjee writes that the only true Word of God is Jesus Christ Himself. One of his main points is that Jesus Christ is the Word and He is flesh; He is God and “NOT a book” and this point resonated with a lot of those who read it based on the comments section (as it should have).
I could disagree with nothing in the his article, nor would I ever want to. Something about his article, however, doesn’t feel right. Perhaps it was the motivation behind the article, which within the few articles I read on his blog, seemed more or less genuine. I agreed with some of the words that I read from his site, but I could not consent to it. So, I disregarded it. I continued to study the Bible. I continued to consider it the Word of God.
Then yesterday, I had a conversation (via twitter) about the difference between justification by faith and justification by works and the complications that come from seemingly contradicting verses in the Bible (Romans 3:23 and James 2:24). My conversation with my friend brought me back to this concept of capitalizing the Bible and calling it the Word of God.
I will continue capitalizing the terms that refer to Scripture – not out of worship and not even necessarily out of honor. At least, it’s not out of honor or respect for the material book itself.
Mr. Jivanjee cites several verses in the Bible in order to argue his point. My favorite being the verse that starts off my own piece. I came across John 5:39-40 a while ago and it blew me away. I’d say that the Spirit spoke through me with immensity through those verses, and it continues to stick with me. I had always known that I didn’t worship words on a page, but the illuminating fact that Christ tells us that Scripture points to Him. It encouraged me to be reminded that my relationship was with a God who wants me to know Him completely as He fully knows me (1 Cor. 13:12).
As I meditated on this, I couldn’t help but feel as though Mr. Jivanjee was missing something as his blog seems to accuse the American Church as a whole of missing something.
Jamal Jivanjee calls out the evangelical world for worshipping the Bible. I don’t exactly understand what he means when he says this. I don’t know what he means by worship, and I disagree that capitalizing it matters all that much. Just in terms of the English language, we capitalize proper nouns. So not capitalizing Bible just seems inconsequential.
Now, not calling the Bible the Word of God is a completely different matter. I can understand Mr. Jivanjee’s conundrum, but we cannot belittle the importance of Scripture. When Christ speaks those words in John 5, He’s not belittling Scripture. He’s not saying that it’s unimportant. Instead, He is saying that it is all pointing to Him. Just from the time that I spend reading the Bible, I can say that I feel His breath and life all over it.
I can tell you that as I read Jamal’s article, I cannot for the life of me understand what his final purpose is, and that feeling exists as I read a lot of his articles. He has a lot of good things to say, but in the end, I don’t understand what the heart is behind the words he types.
So, I can agree with Jamal that we don’t worship the Bible, but God is revealing Himself through Scripture. It is ultimately all the story of Christ. It’s important to know it and study and have it. No, it’s not necessarily necessary. Christ is ultimately the only thing that matters, but Scripture is saturated with the identity of Christ and the method of Christ.
The Triune God has a message for creation, and that message is ultimately the truly glorious nature of God. That message is ultimately made flesh and carried out in Christ. The Bible demonstrates how God reveals and has revealed Himself over the course of history. Jesus is not the leather-bound book on the table beside the bed. The message that’s being spoken inside that book, though, it is the message and Word that is Christ. The Bible screams the glory of God because God shouts through it.
You can read Jamal Jivanjee’s post here.
One thought on “Message Made Word Made Flesh”
After reading both your and Jamal’s posts, I had to think a good bit. Both posts were a lot to consider. However, I found that I, too, disagree with a few of Jamal’s claims.
Jamal wrote, “It is profoundly unscriptural to deify and make an idol out of the scriptures by referring to themselves in a way that the scriptures do NOT refer to themselves! The scriptures refer to Christ as the ‘Word’ with a capital ‘W’. The scripture is also clear that the ‘Word’ of God is NOT a book!”
I think the point where he stumbles is when he makes too much out of capitalization. Just because you capitalize something doesn’t mean you’re making an idol out of it; making an idol is a matter of the heart. We choose to make things idols in our lives; I doubt people are choosing to make an idol when they capitalize the word Bible. I agree with you that we capitalize it because it represents a proper noun, and I feel that the capitalization is irrelevant to a discussion of how we view the scriptures vs. Christ Himself. Discussing capitalization just splits hairs and ignores the real issues.
Another thing in his argument that I disagreed with was his statement, “when refering to the phrase ‘Word of God’, only capitalize the letter ‘W’ if and when you are referring to the person of Jesus Christ. If you are speaking of the scriptures, make the ‘w’ lowercase and add the letter ‘s’ at the end:) The scriptures are the words of God, but there is only one ‘Word’ of God…Jesus Christ!”
I think Mr. Jamal is not understanding the sense in which “the Word of God” is often used. Sure, the Bible is made up of lots of words from God, but they make up one word–the final word in both heaven and earth. When someone has “the final word,” they are not limited to one word. Their final word could be a simple “no” or it could be a speech. But we would still say that they had the final word (singular). All the words of the Bible join together to be that final word; they all sound forth the Truth, the Rock on which we stand, the Name above all names–Jesus. So whether we capitalize word or not, it should be singular to represent the respect we have for God’s final say.