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This blog site will feature essays, columns and musings that deal with the intersection of Christianity and journalism and the American Songbook.

Christian journalist: What is God to me, is an angel to thee, and thunder to she: newsroom diversity (John 12:28-30)

John 12:28-30. “Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.’ The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered, others said an angel had spoken to him. Jesus said, ‘This voice was for your benefit, not mine.’”

Exegesis and Application

The Greek word translated “voice” is the commonly used term“phone.” This is only the third instance of a “voice” of God the Father coming from heaven to an individual in the midst of a group: Moses on Mt. Sinai (Ex. 19:9) and Jesus on his baptism (Luke 3:22). God spoke at various times to individuals (Heb. 1:1; Jer. 23:18), but these were private conversations with reportedly no one around. God the Father reportedly spoke audibly to Jesus only three times: here, Jesus’ baptism (Luke 3:22) and His transfiguration (Luke 9:35). The Hebrews call this “bath-gol,” the “daughter or echo of a voice.” The best known post-incarnation voice from heaven was from the exalted Jesus talking to Paul on the Damascus Road (Acts 9:7 and 22:9). This heavenly voice doesn’t happen often!

The next key term in this passage is ‘thundered,” which is the Greek word “bronten” (“sons of thunder” Mark 3:17). In the Old Testament, God spoke words in the midst of thunder to Moses (Ex. 19:9) and to Ezekiel (Ez. 1:4), but only in John 12 in the New Testament. The booming thunder didn’t seem to drown out the voice of God in these instances.

Everybody in this unique Johannine report heard something. No one said, “I didn’t hear anything.” But we have three different accounts of what happened:

1) It was “thunder”

2) It was “an angel”

Perhaps these two groups knew better but they were trying hard to give a naturalistic explanation for what they heard. For those who had ears to hear there seemed to be gradations – from thunder to angels to . .

3) It was God speaking

In a sense, all three interpretations could be correct, depending on the condition of the listener’s heart and one’s metaphysical understanding of reality.

What does this Biblical episode have to do with Christian journalists? Even though most of the crowd didn’t understand the voice, Jesus still told them that it was for their “benefit.” How could that be? Here is where the obligation of the Christian journalist, one who hears the voice of God, comes in. The Lord is referencing the role of the Christian journalist as “light” in the world. It is the love your neighbor ethic (Rom. 13:9) incumbent on all Christian journalists by “glorifying” Christ in all his reporting and writing. In the midst of cultural darkness, the Christian journalist has access to the unique divine point of view because God has spoken through his word. Whether or not the reading/listening public recognizes this effort is beside the point. It is still to the world’s benefit for the Christian journalist to hold forth reportage that is honest, verifiable and accords with reality. The Christian journalist is to write in such a way that the world is made understandable. There is hope in the world and the Christian journalist should write so that each person’s responsibilities, opportunities and offers of personal significance are made clear and compelling.

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