or, "thinking about God"
God wakes you up during the night to tell you that he has a very important message for you. He wants to deliver it next Thursday from a burning bush near your house. Assuming that this message is from God and not last night's left-over sushi (never a good idea), you arrive at said bush and, sure enough, God delivers to you a powerful message.
Since God has promised to be there, to what degree is your encounter with the bush an encounter with God, and to what degree is your encounter with God simply an encounter with a bush?
ACHTUNG: This quetion contains epistemological overtones. Passengers should be warned that you may experience epistemological angst if you proceed.
I was speaking recently with my good friend M about the importance of Scripture. His take, grossly oversimplified, is that it is not so much the "words on the page" that are important in Scripture, but that these words lead us to an encounter with the divine. What makes the Bible so unique, in M's understanding, is the degree to which it is able to perform this function among all other elements in creation. Thus the Bible is essentially a vehicle that leads us (better than all other vehicles) to God. It's a fine distinction to make, but M iterated quite clearly that the Bible is not God, and God is not the Bible.
I believe that M is making an important observation about the nature of Scripture, and is quite right to resist the (all-too-common) urge to "deify" the Bible. Only God is God (spoken like a true theologian).
But God has also promised to animate the text of Scripture, to "breathe life" into it, and in some sense, to call these words "His Word." We are reminded in II Timothy that "All Scripture is God-breathed..."
Since God has promised to be there, to what degree is our encounter with Scripture an actual encounter with God, and to what degree is our encounter with God simply an encounter with words on a page?
There is a troubling extension here that I freely recognize, in the spirit of open dialogue on this issue; God has also promised, in some (analogous?) sense, to inhabit each of us (cf. Revelation 3:20). Yet we do not believe that an encounter with any Christian is a literal encounter with the divine - though we are adoptees into God's family, we are in no sense God. So there is a distinction to be made here, and I am legitimately curious where you think that distinction is.
Grace & Peace