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Peter J. Thuesen

The Leather-Bound Shrine in Every Home

In his book Knowing Christianity (Harold Shaw, 1995), J.I. Packer reminds us that "Calvin regularly referred to the Bible as 'the oracles of God,' a scriptural phrase in Romans 3:2, which the NIV renders as 'the very words of God.' Calvin took it and used it again and again to express the thought that what we have in Scripture is God's own witness to his work of salvation."

Later Packer quotes John Wesley:

I am a creature of a day hovering over the great gulf; till … I drop into an unchangeable eternity! I want to know one thing, the way to heaven. … God himself has … written it down in a great book. O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God!

We have the book—many of us have it in multiple versions, Bibles upstairs and downstairs—and the promise of the Spirit to guide our reading. And what then? Do we read with passion and discernment, as members of the body, the Church? Do we use the book as a weapon? Do we chew it and swallow it so that the words of the Word become part of our very being?

A "section" on the Bible is hardly sufficient, but it may be enough to prompt to such questions, and more.

In 1925, the Jewish philosopher-theologian Franz Rosenzweig, whose physical ability to write was severely limited by Lou Gehrig's disease, published a memorable indictment of the debilities of written language and the limitations of the Bible as a printed text. In every Bible-reading culture, he believed, a point inevitably comes when the book becomes an end rather than a means: "The book no longer serves the word. It becomes the word's ruler and hindrance; it becomes Holy Scripture." In German society, that sacrosanct volume was the Luther Bible, a book whose glorification belied Luther's own vision of continually updated translation. Neither Rosenzweig nor Luther would have lamented the human progress wrought by the printing revolution, but both feared that the words of Scripture tended to lose their creative force when written ...

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