Way back in February of ’08 I was excited about a book I was reading and I blogged about it. The book was Mark D. Thompson’s excellent A Clear and Present Word: The Clarity of Scripture.
A commenter recently happened upon that post and asked me if I had any further reflections.
Over a year on, I can say that there are two things that have really stuck with me from this book:
- God goes with His Word. Or as Thompson put it, “God accompanies his own word, bringing about the appropriate human response to that word” (53).
- God invented language, so it doesn’t limit Him from getting His message across. Or again as Thompson put it, “Recognizing God as the speaker antecedent to all human speaking, and language as a gift given by him to his creatures…. calls into question any suggestion that when God uses human words he is appropriating or ‘commandeering’ something that is in itself unsuitable for the task” (66–67).
Postmodern challenges to the clarity of God’s Word haven’t created any truly new arguments, Thompson says. And his central defense against them goes back to a very old Christian doctrine. This is something I got excited about as I reviewed my notes from the book today, because Thompson grounds his bibliology in something I’ve been trying to beef up in my own heart and mind, the doctrine of the Trinity.
The verbal character of God’s self-revelation is not accidental in the Aristotelian sense. It is not simply a product of God’s decision, the means he just happens to have chosen for the task, but one amongst many possibilities. God’s activity of speaking is reflective of his character and eternal being. T. F. Torrance makes this point in his discussion of the knowledge of John Calvin:
The Word of God which we hear in the Holy Scriptures derives from and reposes in the inner Being of the One God; and that is its objective ground, deep in the eternal Being of God, upon which our knowledge of God rests. In his own eternal Essence God is not mute or dumb, but Word communicating or speaking himself (64).