The Word of God in the Words of Men

No prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

- 2 Peter 1:21

Throughout church history, there have been many attacks on Scripture. One of the more recent of these has been the view that divine revelation does not consist of propositional statements. Proponents of this view often assert that God reveals Himself through events and encounters, such that Scripture is not itself the Word of God but is merely a vehicle through which one can meet the Lord. The Neoorthodox movement, which flourished during the twentieth century and still has adherents today, is known for separating event revelation from propositional revelation.

One does not have to be a Neoorthodox theologian to deny that Scripture is by its very nature the Word of God. Many people, in fact, deny that the Bible is the Word of God not because they are professedly Neoorthodox but because they believe human language is inherently incapable of conveying the truth about the Lord. Often, such people defend the inadequacy of human speech to be divine revelation by appealing to the incomprehensibility of God and affirming the Latin maxim finitum non capax infinitum, “the finite cannot grasp the infinite.” Our language, it is said, cannot capture the truth about God any more than our minds can comprehend Him.

However, an error is made when one says the incomprehensibility of God means that human speech cannot communicate or comprehend His truth. Although the incomprehensibility of God means we can never know the Lord fully and that we can never know our Creator as He knows Himself, it does not mean we cannot know God truly. God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours (Isa. 55:9), but we have a point of contact with Him. After all, we are made in the Lord’s image. Thus, we reflect His abilities in a creaturely way, particularly when it comes to communication (Gen. 1:26–28).

We know the Lord truly but not comprehensively because He speaks to us in a way we can understand. God does not speak to us in a secret, divine language that only He can grasp. He speaks to us using our words, and because we are created in His image, we can understand Him. True, His Word has such depth that a lifetime of study would not exhaust it, and even then it does not tell us everything about the Lord. Nevertheless, it was written by men moved by the Spirit of God (2 Peter 1:21) and therefore communicates to us the very Word of God using the words of human beings. Human language is indeed suited for Creator-creature communication.

Coram Deo

John Calvin is known for his statement that God speaks to us in “baby talk,” explaining things to us on our level so that we will know and love Him. God has not told us everything, but what He has told us is true, and our language can be used to communicate the truth to us. Human beings wrote the Bible, but they were inspired by God such that their words are His words. Thus, to obey Scripture is to obey the Lord.

Passages for Further Study

Exodus 34:27–28
Deuteronomy 31:19
Jeremiah 30:2
Hebrews 3:7–19

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