Words of Life by Timothy Ward

In Word’s of Life: Scripture as the Living and Active Word of God Timothy Ward attempts to “articulate , explain and defend what we are really saying when we proclaim, as we must, that the Bible is God’s word” (11). Ward says that he has attempted to “offer a faithful reworking , in the light of scripture, of the orthodox doctrine of scripture…, while casting it in terms that may help to make that doctrine more obviously essential to healthy Christian thought and life in the present” (179).  His methodology is to first draft a biblical outline by connecting the words and actions of God together so that for God to speak either audibly or through written text is to say that he has acted (22). Second, Ward builds upon a theological outline while expounding upon the relationship of the Trinity to scripture. It is in this section that he illustrates the role which each member of the Trinity plays in scripture. Third, Ward offers a doctrinal outline of scripture which revolves around its necessity, sufficiency, clarity and authority. Finally, he elucidates the application of scripture upon the Christian life.

Ward provides a unique perspective on scripture by building upon what he alludes to as the “speech-acts” of God (36). The action of God through his words has been evident from the point of creation in which he spoke everything into existence (21), right up until the present day as he makes himself knowable to us through the scriptures as the words of his covenant (30). According to Ward, God is present in his words (28–30). God the Father uses words to build a covenant relationship with humanity. In turn, Jesus as the living word presented God to humanity in both word and deed (38). Furthermore, through God’s action by the Holy Spirit in the disciples of Jesus to write what he had spoken, he has identified himself directly with the words which they wrote (42). Ward’s unique “speech-act” premise allows for a vigorous defense of his high view of scripture. The Bible is divine not because every word was dictated by God, but because it is the action by which he has chosen to reveal himself and his ongoing covenant with his people, climaxed in Christ (56). In short, he “has so identified himself with his words that whatever someone does to God’s words they do directly to God himself” (27). Therefore, it is not the words themselves that are divine but God who chooses to act in them to make himself known through them.

In the Old Testament, God the Father chose to use words in order to create. He also chose to reveal his covenant and salvific plan through his words that were written by human authors (52–54). Of course, this included the promise of one who would come to redeem humanity from its fallen state. In the New Testament, Jesus came as the living word of God in both speech and action (38). Jesus literally came to the earth as the divine “speech-act” sent from the Father; he is simultaneously God in word and action (68). In addition, he indicated to his disciples that he spoke the words of God the Father. In turn, the disciples were charged through the power of the Holy Spirit to write down the words of God. Therefore, the words of scripture were written by human authors who were acted upon (theopneustos) by the Holy Spirit as an agent of the words of Christ which originated in the Father (80). Therefore, the origin of the content of scripture is God. The means by which we apply God’s word to our lives is through both individual and corporate meditation.

I found Ward’s book to be an exciting and thought provoking message to the Church and individual believers. He has made a very strong argument for the importance of the doctrine of holy scripture. I believe that his “speech-act” proposal provides a way forward while avoiding the criticism which has plagued high views of scripture in the past. I would personally like to see a Pentecostal scholar take this paradigm that he has laid out and expand it while being careful to acknowledge both the dynamic between the modern move of the Spirit in the Church and issues related to a high view of scripture in the Pentecostal academy. However, I must say that Ward’s book gave me inspiration and hope for academia in that he boldly upheld the holiness of scripture in the face of an onslaught of critics who would tear it apart. For such a small work, Ward gave an apt treatise on most of the major issues regarding the doctrine of scripture. He also rightly anticipated and answered criticism which has been leveled against this vital Christian doctrine. In addition, the flow and development of the book was masterful. I enjoyed the reading and study immensely.

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