Why did God use the written word?

Have you ever wondered why God used the written word (i.e. the Bible) to communicate His truth to us?  We’ve probably all had that fleeting thought that if God would just open up heaven and tell us what to do it would be so much easier than laboriously studying the Bible.  As true as that sometimes feels, it isn’t.  In his systematic theology Wayne Grudem has some helpful words on this matter:

Several benefits come from the writing down of God’s words. First, there is a much more accurate preservation of God’s words for subsequent generations. To depend on memory and the repeating of oral tradition is a less reliable method of preserving these words throughout history than is their recording in writing (cf. Deut. 31:12–13). Second, the opportunity for repeated inspection of words that are written down permits careful study and discussion, which leads to better understanding and more complete obedience. Third, God’s words in writing are accessible to many more people than they are when preserved merely through memory and oral repetition. They can be inspected at any time by any person and are not limited in accessibility to those who have memorized them or those who are able to be present when they are recited orally. Thus, the reliability, permanence, and accessibility of the form in which God’s words are preserved are all greatly enhanced when they are written down. Yet there is no indication that their authority or truthfulness is diminished. (Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology : An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 1994), 50.)


He goes on to say,

even if we did hear some words of personal address from God to ourselves today, we would not have certainty that our understanding of it, our memory of it, and our subsequent report of it was wholly accurate. Nor would we be readily able to convey to others the certainty that the communication was from God, even if it was. God’s words as spoken through human lips ceased to be given when the New Testament canon was completed. Thus, these other forms of God’s words are inadequate as a primary basis for study in theology. (50-51)