As an evangelical Christian, I was always told to ‘get into The Word’. This meant that our primary access to the mind of God was the Bible, or ‘The Word’. If you attend any Christian church or watch religious TV, you will repeatedly be told to ‘get into The Word’. Peruse the shelves of any bookstore and you will see dozens of study Bibles that help people ‘get into The Word.'
There came a point in my evangelical journey when this notion of a perfect Word which Christians needed to 'get into' as a Book began to seem ludicrous.
In fact, I began to see that the Bible or so called Word itself taught people not to exalt or 'get into The Word.'
1. Paul repeatedly spoke of the Mind of Christ as something available even to the illiterate Christians through the invisible Presence of the Holy Spirit. If most of these early Christians couldn't read and didn't even have a New Testament, their awareness and communion had to be beyond literacy and literalness. They had a thriving and intimate relationship with God without a book.
2. Paul said the ‘letter kills but the spirit makes alive’. The ‘spirit’ here is not The Holy Spirit, but rather refers to that aspect of the human psyche which is made in God's image. In other words, there is something 'spiritual' in the natural human brain/psyche that has access to the imaginal or transcendent realms of eternity. Paul calls this imaginal spirit in us The Mind of Christ. One sees this use of the inner 'spirit' all through the Old Testament in dreams, visions, revelations and other direct encounters. This is one of the reasons the Hebrews were told not to make any graven images or idols; the Hebrews believed that the human 'spirit' had access to the invisible realm of Divine Images and insights. If one made an idol or graven image, they might be tempted to stop at the graven image rather than go directly to the Source. This was Plato's concern in The Republic when he suggested that art (artificial) objects be banned lest people mistake the shadow for the real thing. In the book of Exodus, God invited all of Israel to use their inner 'spirit' in order to hear the LORD directly, but when they experienced the fiery mountain of God, they fearfully designated Moses to be their representative (Exodus 19:9, 20:19) This teaches that humans have traditionally preferred the second hand communication of priests and books rather than the frightening responsibility of direct access to the Infinite Realm.
3. Judaism in general has always used their Bible or sacred writings as a means to activate the inner 'spirit' so that they could peer into the unseen realms. (cf. Gospel of Mary and nous versus psyche and pneuma).
4. Paul chastised the Galatians for returning to the Law (Torah or Bible) and abandoning The Spirit. The entire New Testament epistle to the Galatians, probably Pau's first, was written in the heat of his new awakening to freedom from a book (Bible) which he called Law. The Law or Torah is the Holy Book, and as you read Galatians, you can easily substitute the word Bible or New Testament for Pau's word Law. Paul had been set free from the Temple, from sacrifices and from the written Torah; the Covenant in Christ was ALL internal.
5. When Jesus told his disciples of his impending absence, he told them to consult the Holy Spirit, and never The Word or a Book. Jesus never once told his disciples to study a Bible or get into The Word; Jesus promised that The Holy Spirit (The Word) would get into them:
"And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever - the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you." John 14
"When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.” John 15:26-27
"But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you...I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.: John 16
Could it be any more plain? Truth, guidance and counsel came from the Living Presence, not a set of words on paper. Bishop Tertullian, writing about 160 A.D., reprimanded his fellow Bishops as they were relying more and more on the Gospels and Paul's letters, "Brothers, I fear we are chasing the Holy Spirit into a book."
6. Jesus told his students that ‘searching the scriptures to find life’ was a waste of time – life was in the Person. John 5
7. When Paul admonished people to search the Scriptures at the beginning of his missionary campaigns, it was always for one reason: to show Jews or Jewish sympathizers that Jesus was the Messiah and that their sacred Hebrew Bible allowed Gentiles into the kingdom unconditionally. Neither Paul nor Jesus ever told their followers to build up a body of doctrines and ethical rules from the scriptures. Galatians makes it clear that Christians were free from the Law (sacred Torah or Bible) and that they were children of the Spirit. Paul made it clear to mature spiritual adults that there was no Bible or 'letter' required, and that only the babies needed milk, which was the 'letter' or the Jewish Bible. So then, those who use the Bible, according to Paul, are still little spiritual babies. But mature Christians possessed the Mind of Christ. Paul never says, 'the Mind of Christ is to be found in your New Testament or your Bishop' (I Corinthians 1-3).
This is further supported by the fact that Paul chastises the Corinthians for following human teachers (I Corinthians 3:1-5)! Paul didn't even want them following him (I Corinthians 3:21-23), and here we are 2,000 years later with his epistles exalted as The Word of God! Paul said we are taught by the Spirit directly, just as human spirits (minds) converse directly and not indirectly:
"The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit..."
I Corinthians 2
Carl Jung put it this way, “It is only through the psyche (soul) that we can establish that God acts upon us.” Jung wrote to a Swiss Pastor in 1932 that the human psyche is “boundlessly underestimated”, and Jung was puzzled that most ministers taught their parishoners that God spoke to human beings exclusively through sermons or books. Jung asserted that God has never spoken except in and through the psyche, and “the psyche understands it and we experience it as something psychic.”
Later, as the new Christian churches began to fight, live wildly and behave like babies, Paul and others began to use scripture for 'doctrine, reproof and correction' (II Timothy 3:16) But keep in mind, this was for the infants spoken of in I Corinthians - for those who had to have Paul's pre-digested pablum or 'letters' (laws) from God.
8. In the New Testament, it is not the Bible, but Christ that is called The Word of God. To the early Christians, The Word of God was not a Book, but a Living Presence which was now in something they called The Holy Spirit. The classic example is The Word in the Gospel of John 1:1-18. This point is so simple. It meant that the multitude of illiterate Christians relied on direct spiritual access to the Living, invisible Presence of the Logos or Word - not an alphabetic text collected into a leather bound Book called The Bible. Only spiritual babies needed a security blanket called The Bible. I didn't say this, Paul did in I Corinthians 1-3 (see also I John 2:12-14)
Not even the great Augustine, the father of Christian theology, defined inspiration or The Word of God as modern Evangelicals. In a sermon, Augustine spoke from the Gospel of John, 1:1-5 about "The Word."
“I venture to say, my brethren, perhaps not John himself spoke of the matter (of The Word) as it is, but even he (John) only as he was able; for it was man that spoke of God, inspired indeed by God, but still man. Because he was inspired he said something; if he had not been inspired, he would have said nothing; but because he was a man inspired, he spoke not the whole, but what a man could he spoke.” Augustine, Homily Gospel of John 1:1-5
Augustine saw inspiration as the experience of being moved to say 'something' incomplete, or as Paul said, 'we see through a glass darkly.' The Bible is a manmade account. Inspiration moved men to write 'something' of their experience, not the exact and perfect Word of God. Augustine never equated the Living Word with what would become the Evangelical Bible.
9. There was no need for a Bible or Evangelical notion of The Word since Paul expected Jesus to be back at any moment. Read I Corinthians 1 and you are struck by the stark expectation of the immediate return of Jesus, "I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge...eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ." These Christians did not need a Bible, a set of doctrines, rituals or long term moral structure because they were about to meet Jesus face to face and be part of his new order. It was only after several decades that the churches realized they were in it for the long haul. Then they knew they had to dig in and set up camps. They were like the stereotypical fellow stranded on the deserted island - they had to improvise and wonder when they'd be rescued. The early Christ movement never discussed The Word of God as a Book because they didn't need it.
These points and many others caused me to question and eventually leave the mistaken doctrine of The Word of God. I could see that the doctrine was valuable for literalists, or baby Christians who need a Bible baby bottle, and for those afraid to meet God directly - but to enter into spiritual adolescence, the baby bottle had to go. It was hard to release...growing up can be hard. Drinking the pre-digested pablum of biblical writers is much easier than chewing on the meat of the Infinite and Invisible Spirit that communicates directly within the human psyche.
Suddenly the 18th century journal entries of Soren Kierkegaard made sense to me:
"The Christians would be better off if they burned their New Testaments."
"We need a new Reformation. Luther set us free from the bondage and tyranny of the Pope, and then put us under the bondage and tyranny of the Bible."
But Luther was not as much a proponent of The Word as most modern Christians. He called the New Testament Letter from James an 'epistle of straw' because it said so much about good works. Luther's gospel was Justification by Faith without works, and his sacred Word was Paul's letters that dealt with that teaching - Galatians and Romans. It was an unimaginably huge step for Luther and his thousands of followers to break away from the Catholic Church, and we can understand them replacing the Vatican with The Word. But the Bible or The Word is still a far cry from the dynamic living water that flows out from within called The Spirit.
Like the Israelites in Exodus, most Christians seem to prefer to be spoken to indirectly rather than directly. Most of us seem to like our religion in the same way we like our wild animals - in a zoo, behind bars and at a distance. Actual safaris, whether looking at lions or into the Imaginal Realms of God, are terrifying.
Michael's web site: www.michaelbogar.com