“ASSOCIATION REPRESENTATIVE: Do you, with the church throughout the world, hear the word of God in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, and do you accept the word of God as the rule of Christian faith and practice?
ORDINAND: I do.”
Almost a year and a half ago, I wrote one essay on the first of 8 questions asked of ordinands at their ordination. At that point, the plan was to write and post one every few weeks or so until I wrote a bit on all 8 of them. Well, it was a good plan, anyway.
However, the idea never went away. I officiate at most ordinations in the Pacific Northwest Conference and I’m the one who gets to ask these questions. Although I’m not the being asked to answer these questions, I feel the weight of them and some days it’s a check in around my own sense of call.
Like with most folks who take the Bible seriously, the rhetoric mixed up in ideologies of scripture sometimes gets in the way of my relationship with scripture. I can answer affirmatively to this question but I know different people hear different things. Like any relationship, not everything means the same for every person in the relationship.
I hear word of God in the scriptures but I don’t believe the scriptures are, in and of themselves, some transcription of God speaking. Scripture is the place where humanity has tried to transcribe what other humans believe, think, know and feel about God and that’s what makes the scriptures sacred; that striving to be in communication with God. Through that interaction, God comes through a lot of the time as do a lot of descriptions of what different humans believe is sacred, good and evil.
Scripture is the place where I am in dialogue with my spiritual ancestors about these themes as well as justice, faithfulness, power, humility, love and a thousand other topics. I do not always agree with my spiritual ancestors or like what they did or said but to ignore them is to our detriment. I am convinced that God is present in all relationships; sometimes encouraging us; sometimes challenging us; and sometimes challenging us to to remove or defend ourselves from that relationship. So, not every biblical person is someone I seek to emulate but there is something important I can learn from all of them even if it’s only to practice my “No.” The word of God emerges from these interactions.
And that all means that accepting “the word of God as the rule of Christian faith and practice” is not as simple a road as some would suggest. It means that “the rule” changes as the relationship with the word changes. It means there will be days of certainty, days of doubt and days of confusion as each of us try and figure out “the rule.” It means will have days when we will have to understand the gift of grace in a whole new way.