Over the last two millennia, the followers of Christ have evolved what was a simple way of life into an elaborate religion—complete with hierarchy and ritual. To defend this relatively new religion against competing religions, there needed to be a hook. It needed what people in the sales world call market differentiation. It needed something to legitimize it as its leaders tried to accrue worldly power. (Mind you, I’m talking about institutionalized religion—the corporation-style establishment that is considered normal today.) They found this hook in The Canon—the agreed upon list of books that were attributed to direct authorship by God Himself. The Christians now had the talisman that made their religion legitimate and other religions false: they had The Word of God in written form.
So today, we have a book (a compilation, to be exact) that is the central focus of most of Christendom. This book is treated as a sacred object. It is treated as the formula for everything, from coping with the daily issues we face, to getting into heaven. The vast majority of Christian religious efforts center on The Book—reading it, learning about it, gathering to listen to the pastor explain his denomination’s interpretation of its contents, and debating other denominations over its interpretation.
What John (the gospel writer) called the logos went far beyond the word “word” as we casually understand it today. John’s understanding of logos was probably influenced by Aristotle who used logos to refer to a logical, apprehensible truth. In Jesus, John got a glimpse of God’s intent distilled into being and made alive before human eyes. “The Word was made flesh and lived among us, and we beheld his glory.”
To call the bible the Word of God is to significantly cheapen and undermine God’s logos—His intent, His desire, His message for mankind. It severely limits the power and scope of the real Word of God. It reduces the infinite to a formula. Calling the bible the Word of God is a feeble attempt at magic—at manipulating the supernatural with ritual. This makes for a very appealing advertisement to new recruits. Join us. We’ve got your ticket to heaven and the answers to all your problems here on earth. This is why people gravitate toward religion which offers empty promises of forgiveness and atonement through formula and ritual, but which only adds to the sense of guilt and obligation. Such religions are nothing more than artificial, manmade institutions which are incapable of delivering the one thing we really need: reconciliation.
The answer to the human condition is simple, but like most simple things, it is not easy. The answer—God’s desire since the beginning—is relationship. That’s all. But be it out of pride or shame, we have constructed elaborate religions to assuage our grief and shame and fear and guilt. These religions take different forms, but they usually boil down to coerced acceptance of an academic theory of one sort or another. The Christian religion is no different. Acceptance in any particular group (and by extension, how you become acceptable to God) depends on how you view baptism. How you view the nature of God. How you view faith. How you conceptualize the atonement. It’s all based on a formulaic understanding of a particular interpretation of the bible. The academic knowledge of religious theory has become preeminent and has completely eclipsed the most important thing of all: relationship.
Religion forms barriers between humans, and it is an impediment to a relationship with God. A Bible-centered religion is like reading a book on marriage over and over, looking within its pages for the formula for a good marriage. But rather than applying the general principles and simply loving your spouse, you simply follow some prescribed steps out of a sense of obligation. Pursuing this course will lead only to frustration for both people.
God’s word is so much more than a book. It is not a formula. It is not a set of rules. It is a story. It is a proposal. It is a simple message that was revealed through a person, Jesus, in whom God’s heart was explicitly revealed. God’s Logos walked this earth and lives through His followers today. Let’s stop arguing over interpretation and academic theory and seek to know the only true and living Word.