I’m going to use a comic book reference to make a point. If you’re not a comic book kind of person, just stick with me for a moment, I think it will be worth it.
Joss Whedon (creator of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Firefly and most recently Dollhouse but my favorite is Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog) thinks he knows why DC Comics tank but Marvel’s do pretty well these days. Here’s how it is summarized:
“Because, with that one big exception (Batman), DC’s heroes are from a different era. They’re from the era when they were creating gods.” Whedon explains to Maxim that DC’s characters, like Wonder Woman, Superman and Green Lantern, were “all very much removed from humanity.”
From Whedon’s perspective, the stories that succeed these days are those that are more human than superhuman. We don’t want to hear about people who are not like us. People who don’t have problems. We don’t want Greek gods anymore, we’re more interested in special humans. Midas over Hercules.
When Mohammad received the Koran, an angel came and forced it upon him. Mohammad dictated the Koran from Allah. He would sit in a cave and the angel would come upon him and he’d start talking. His friends with him would write down what he said on whatever they had at hand. Skins, clothing, bone fragments, whatever. When Allah’s word came, it came. Later these writings were gathered together and put on paper.
Wait, come back! I’ve actually got a point to make here! Honest and I’m about to make it now.
The Christian Bible is a thoroughly human document and a thoroughly divine document. Here’s how Peter put it:
For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. – 2Pt 1:21
First, the context of 2Pt 1 is bigger than just oral prophecy, it includes the scriptures as well. Next, notice he says. “Men spoke.” Man. Humans. People spoke, people wrote. They didn’t repeat what they’d heard. They spoke. The Bible is a human document. It is written by people, in their time and culture, from the personal perspective, in the language they spoke.
At the same time, these men spoke “by the Holy Spirit.” The Bible is also a divine document. These folks didn’t write just any old thing, they were “carried along” in their speaking and writing by God. God had them speak what he wanted them to say because prophecy is never generated by human will.
We need to keep the two together, the human and the divine. Does that sound familiar? It should, we have that same struggle with the person of Jesus. His is 100% human (minus sin) and 100% divine and he is the Word (Jn 1). God’s word is like that too.
So what does this have to do with Joss Whedon and the Koran? To me the fact that the Bible is a human document as well as divine makes it much more appealing. More personal. God didn’t drop it from the sky or force the words out of a prophet’s mouth. As he was writing history, he was also writing his word in history. Men spoke as the Spirit carried them along. In Jesus, God entered time and walked in our sandels, felt our pain and disappointment, he can “sympathize with our weaknesses” because he “in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb 4:15). His word isn’t removed from our difficulty and disappointment and struggle either. Job speaks honestly from his pain and confusion. Jeremiah laments with real tears and is really heartbroken. Solomon is sincere when he looks back upon a life wasted in self-satisfaction in Eccelsiasties. Solomon also experience real romantic love and desire for his wife in Song of Songs.
Were God to drop his word into our world, etched on a onyx stone in a language so unlike ours, we’d worship the stone rather than listen to the words. The medium would eclipse the message. Instead, God speaks in such common forms that we’re left with nothing but the message to heed. It is comforting to me that the Bible is a human as well as a divine document. It doesn’t lead me to doubt its trustworthiness because human’s wrote it. It shows how intimately God is involved in his creation, not distant from it.