Often times “Evangelicals” are accused of being bibliolaters when it comes to their view of Scripture. This is because, some believe that they reduce revelation to the “written Word”and the propositional truth disclosed about God there-in. Contrarily followers of Karl Barth are accused of locating revelation or the Word of God solely to the person of Jesus Christ. The former evangelical approach “de-personalizes” the Word of God, while the latter ‘Barth’ approach “de-verbalizes” the Word of God (credit Vanhoozer for that insight). In other words, as asserted by the two positions above, we are given two choices about revelation and the Word of God. I think this is not an either/or situation, but a both/and. The Word of God is both the written Word and the living Word. The written Word precedes the living Logos epistemologically, while the living Word (Jesus) precedes the written Word ontologically — the underlying premise is that the written Word is “instrumental” as THE witness to the living Word (Jesus). John 5: 39 says,
. . . you diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, . . .
It seems clear that Scripture, as the spoken words of God, can rightly be called The Word of God, insofar as they testify to The Living Word (Jesus). Kevin Vanhoozer has a very insightful point on this very issue:
The task of a doctrine of Scripture is to understand how the Bible may be said to be “holy writ.” This involves giving an account, first, of the relation of the human words to the Divine Word, and second, of how this relation may legitimately be said to be “of God.” The operative concept in such attempts is typically “revelation,” though Evangelicals and Barthians diverge in their use of it, the former focusing on the product or content and the latter on the process or act. To get beyond this impasse, a doctrine of Scripture must say more (but not less) than “revelation.” Scripture is holy not simply because its content is revealed or because God on occasion uses its content to make himself known. Rather, it is holy because it is part of God’s broader plan to give us access to himself through Jesus Christ. An adequate doctrine of Scripture must locate the canon in the broader economy of the Gospel.
The economy of the gospel involves revelation and redemption alike: (1) Jesus “exegetes” the Father; (2) the apostolic testimony, preserved by writing in Scripture, “exegetes” Jesus; (3) preachers and theologians exegete the scriptures that bear witness to Christ. The purpose of all this exegesis, and hence of Scripture itself, is not to displace Christ but to serve as the means for offering appropriately “thick descriptions” of him. The Bible is the means by which the apostolic memory of what God was doing in Christ is given specificity and substance. For, as Calvin rightly says, the only Christ we have is the Christ of the Scriptures. Hence the ground the Scriptures’ indispensable role in the economy of the Gospel is ultimately Christological. The Bible — not only the Gospels but all of Scripture — is the (divinely) authorized version of the Gospel, the necessary framework for understanding what God was doing in Jesus Christ. Scripture is the voice of God that articulates the Word of God: Jesus Christ. (Kevin J. Vanhoozer, “The Drama of Doctrine,” 45-46)
All I can say to that is amen! I think Vanhoozer’s articulation captures the gist of John 5: 39, and the instrumental nature of Scripture, as the Word of God. Conversely, I think what he says helps to flesh out and illustrate my point on the epistemological and ontological order of the Word of God. What I like about Vanhoozer is that he recognizes the central role sola scriptura that the written Word of God (the Canon) is intended to play as the ordained instrument through which humanity might encounter The Living Word (cf. Jn 1:1; 14). In other words I think Vanhoozer does a good job at providing a via media between evangelicals, and as he says Barthians, by appropriating the best features of both camps. sola scriptura solus Christus!