I’m reading J.I. Packer’s Knowing God with my Ministry Trainee and have thought about the word of God as information and invitation. In the chapter on the word of God, Packer writes:
we can know nothing about Him [God] unless He tells us. Here, therefore, is a further reason why God speaks to us: not only to move us to do what He wants, but to enable us to know Him so that we may love Him. Therefore God sends His word to us in the character of both information and invitation. It comes to woo us as well as to instruct us; it not merely puts us in the picture of what God has done and is doing, but also calls us into personal communication with the loving Lord Himself.
The dual function of God’s word as information and invitation can be represented in a Venn diagram.
Lots of conservative evangelical practice fits the blue circle. Study of God’s word, knowledge of God’s character and will, the disciplines of biblical theology, systematics, ethics and exegesis fall inside the blue circle. On the other hand, God’s word can be prayed, meditated upon, or sung. Many forms of liturgical practice; canticles and benedictions, confessions and forms of thanksgiving take God’s word and apply it to the heart in a way which draws us into a deeper experiential knowledge of God.
I love study and reading. I’ve also had an instinctive aversion to liturgical practices I’ve experienced in the life of the Church of England. Some of them, like rubbing oil on your forehead or playing with flouncy material are clearly sub-Christian, but when the liturgy of the Word of God is done so as not to vandalise the Word then it is a valuable, even indispensable, practice. Let’s not chuck the baby out with the bathwater.