In one of the greatest SNL skits of all time Rock legend Bruce Dickinson [Christopher Walken], yes, the Bruce Dickinson, meets with the members Blue Oyster Cult to record Don’t Fear the Reaper. As the recording session goes on there is something missing and Dickinson being a Rock legend was able to put his thumb on it, “I got to have more cowbell, Baby!”
At first the cowbell was too much for the band, but finally everyone was able to work out their differences. Right before the last take, Dickinson exclaims, “Babies, before we’re done here you all will be wearing gold-plated diapers.” To which Chris Kattan’s character replied, “What does that even mean?!” To which Dickinson replies, “Never question Bruce Dickinson.”
I listen to all kinds of preachers from different denominational backgrounds and educational experience. Most of them do not hold to a standard sacred text. Most of them believe that the Bible they are preaching from and the Greek NT which underlies their Bible is not the word of God down to the jot and tittle.
And yet surprisingly enough, as they begin their sermon they say something like, “Turn with me in your copy of God’s word.” or “Turn with me in your copy of God’s inspired infallible word” or before the preacher starts to read he says, “Hear the word of God.” A couple of guys I listen to end the reading of Scripture by saying something like, “The grass withers and the flower fades but the word of God endures forever.”
But to quote Kattan, “What does this even mean?” Why do able and alert ministers of the Gospel regularly talk about their Bible as a copy of God’s word without qualification or as the inspired infallible word of God when under their own rubric they know it is not? In fact, if you pin down the most able and educated [e.g., Dan Wallace and James White], they will tell you that we are not certain, beyond a shadow of a doubt, of any of the words in Scripture being the actual original words of Scripture.
Certainly these pastors by declaring “your copy of God’s word” or “your copy of the inspired infallible word of God” don’t mean the whole of the manuscript tradition, or the body of the text + the textual apparatus. So they don’t mean “all of the manuscripts” and they also don’t believe their Bible to be the word of God in every word. If this is the case then it seems these pastors are engaging in some kind of empty rhetoric or superstitious tradition, and are not saying what they believe. They begin their sermon by saying something they don’t believe and they do it every week.
Then just today I saw a guy on Facebook interacting with Mark Ward asking in effect, “If you believe the Bible is inspired and infallible where is it? Show me the physical book that you believe is the Bible so defined.” Time and time again I have seen the answer to the question to be the equivalent of “Never question Bruce Dickinson.”
The point is that unless you have a Bible that you believe is the inspired infallible word of God equal in certainty and authority as the originals, it is probably best you begin your sermon with something like, “Turn with me in your copy of what is probably mostly God’s word” and “The grass withers the flower fades and so do some of God’s words, at least as far as we know.” Yet, somehow these don’t seem to have the same ring and force.
Or you can believe and assert a standard sacred text and in so doing be able to say with confidence, true textual confidence, that every word of your Bible is God’s word. And so begin your sermon with, “Hear the word of God.”