Tuesday, January 6, 2009

the Word among and through us

In the March 2008 issue of Touchstone, Patrick Henry Reardon makes an important observation about the ways in which the Incarnation (or its lack) impacts Christianity (and Islam).

Of course, the Incarnation is vital in understanding (better) the God-Man Jesus Christ, the salvation of those who accept God's mercy and grace, the manner in which we are to merge our faith with practice, and so on.

Reardon goes further and describes how it impacts God's word as revelation. In Islam, Muhammad receives the Koran by direct dictation. As a result, "it is the unmixed word of God...it is in no formal sense the composition of Muhammad...in no way entered into or came through the creative literary powers of Muhammad himself...In this sense, the Koran remained external to him. Muhammad was not its author."

In contrast, the Word is a strange mixture of God's revelation delivered through human hands and minds. As in all forms of Christian ministry, believers are co-workers (in a sense) with God. As Reardon notes, this truth is expressed in Ezekiel (and arguably in Revelation) as the author sees God's word as a scroll to be eaten and then expressed by the prophet.

The result is the stunningly beautiful and multi-faceted word of God. As Reardon writes:

Revelation comes to us, accordingly, through the inner anguish of Jeremiah, the soaring minds of John and Isaiah, the probing questions of Job and Habakkuk, the near despair of Qoheleth (the author of Ecclesiastes), the structured poetry of David, the disappointments of Jonah, the struggles of Nehemiah, the mystic raptures of Ezekiel, the slow, patient scholarship of Ezra, the careful narrative style of Mark, the historical investigations of Luke, and that pounding mill, the ponderous mind of Paul.

Reardon points to one last implication: the ability of Christianity to adapt (culturally) in ways that Islam's rigidity does not seem to allow and cannot imagine.


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