Over the course of being a Christian, I’ve been called numerous things: bigot, hypocrite, self-righteous, judgemental, unchristlike, etc. Now, there’s no doubt that I have been these things at one time or another, but this name calling was mostly resultant from holding to a biblical worldview. Also, I was being called these things by those who didn’t claim to hold to such a position. However, soon after publishing a podcast episode called “Fortune Cookie Prophecy”, I was accused of something I have never been accused of before: being a Bible idolater.
I was told to be cautious, that I was wandering into “bibliolatry”. Now if you’ve listened to “Fortune Cookie Prophesy”, you know that Women of the Table hold to Sola Scriptura. We also believe that the prophetic and apostolic offices have ceased. For more on that topic, feel free to take a listen (or relisten) to that episode here: https://www.podbean.com/eu/pb-csqah-c1eb07 . For now, and to accompany our latest topic, I want to talk about bibliolatry.
First things first, what is it? Well, it’s not idolatry in the sense where you literally bow down to a Bible and pay homage. It is rather more natural, like other forms of idolatry – placing your Bible in a position over God – the only One worthy of worship.
But can we actually commit the sin of Bible worship? I’m not one to say that any sin is impossible. We know that as fallen man, we are able to take any good thing and make it a “god-thing”, but can you do that with the very word of God? What would that look like? Is this really a danger that lurks beneath our study of the Bible? Yes, and no. Next I’ll lay out my negative position to the question.
Oftentimes this term, bibliolatry, is used in a derogatory sense. It’s even used by other “Bible-believing Christians”. However, the crux of the issue lies with our view of scripture. Even many self-professed Christians that claim the necessity of the Bible, don’t hold it as the very Word of God: infallible, inerrant, and always applicable regardless of the time and cultural context. There are also professing Christians who don’t credit the Bible with special authority, believing that new revelatory words of prophecy are equally as authoritative. So, then of course if you don’t believe ALL of the Bible is true, infallible, the very word of God, and the only sure place the word of God is found today, then it would only make sense that someone could fall in to the sin of Bible worship. By solely relying on scripture, or studying it too much, we would be “limiting” God, hindering the Spirit’s work in prophesying “new words from God”. We also would be rejecting today’s gift of advanced reason and science – replacing it with errant, archaic, far-removed scripture. Herein lies the problem with the accusations of bibliolatry. One could fall into worship of the Bible if you believe there is greater truth and greater words of God to be attained or discovered. But, when we believe the truth about scripture, we know that we can’t possibly pit true reason against it. True reason and objective truth find it’s origin in God, and God has chosen to reveal Himself most fully in Christ Jesus. Where can we know and learn of Him? You guessed it – scripture.
There are even some liberal Christian ministers who conflate the idea of Bible worship to build a case for their own preferred, worldly, wisdom: rejecting the miraculous, the fantastic and supernatural found within the Bible. Some of these include: the creation account, the virgin birth of Jesus, and Jesus’ miracles.
In addition to the distrust for the fantastic, revealed in scripture, it is also proposed that one worships the Bible – rather than Jesus – if you give equal weight to the moral law, given in the Old Testament, as you do the commands that Jesus spoke. Not realizing that Christ not only obeyed the law, but gave us an even greater understanding of it’s demands. Demands that only He could fulfill.
Most of all I answer “no” to the danger of Bible worship, because I don’t see a generation that is so dedicated, so hungry, so enamored with the study of God’s word, that they would even come close to elevating it over even their own opinions and/or comfort. It is quite the contrary, it seems we create any excuse, to not read, study, and memorize scripture. Excuses range from: “I don’t want to be legalistic!”, “I’m not in ministry, so I don’t need to”, “I just have a simple faith”, “I just love Jesus”, or “I feel closer to God through other means” (music/experiences/others teaching the Word). As soon as I see a generation elbow deep in study every day, maybe I’d consider bibliolatry as an eminent threat. But in all reality, the more you study the word of God, the more you will be sanctified, seeing more clearly your sin and thus killing that sin.
Which leads to my final reason for the negative: when you truly know your Bible, you will truly know Jesus. When you truly know Jesus, it means that you are regenerated and gifted with the very Spirit that inspired the text of the Bible. Even if you are accused of bibliolatry, we must remember that apart from scripture, we won’t know Jesus. And if we don’t know Jesus, our problem isn’t just being called an idolater by another person, but BEING an idolater by rejecting Christ – before God – leading to everlasting punishment and torment, the just punishment for the crime.
One caveat to my negative position, is to the positive – yes you can be a bibliolater. You can be a bibliolater by reading scripture to the wrong end – to merit salvation, becoming righteous by your own efforts, feeding your ego, or like Francis Scaeffer says, “religious tripping.” Of course we can approach the Bible and study, sinfully, not seeking truth about God but our own satisfaction in our achievements of knowledge. However, this shouldn’t frighten you out of studying the Bible.
Instead, approach your time in the word humbly. Realizing that it is the very Word of God, that you have access to this text while a vast number around the world doesn’t. In this Book you can learn of salvation and that left to your own power you are blind, deaf, and ultimately dead. Only by God’s action will you be able to see the truth of His word. Only with His Spirit will you be renewed in your mind as you read. So if you are a believer – remember this great, unmerited gift and study – drawing near to God through his word, taking refuge and trusting it; it never changes. And to the believer and unbeliever alike: ask God for eyes to see and ears to hear. He doesn’t turn any away that seek Him, for He drew them in the first place.
Take up and read, memorize, share what the Lord has taught you and give glory to God.