This came across my feed last week while I was traveling and it irritated me a great deal. It’s called, “Have We Made The Bible Into An Idol?” So I thought I would just have a word. It begins this way:
The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it. You’ve heard that phrase before. You’ve read it on bumper stickers. You may have even said it a time or two. It’s an odd little religious mantra that perfectly captures the strange, often paradoxical relationship we modern Christians have with our mysterious ancient text, Many of us have made the Bible the single pillar of our faith, but not all of us have a complete grasp on what it actually says (Especially not the earlier, weirder stuff).
So you see, right out of the gate, we have all sorts of problems. The first one is that almost no one in this particular Christian climate could be accused of having made the Bible “the single pillar” of faith. Only a person who hasn’t met any real Christians would be able to say that with a clear conscience. Talk to any single church-going person today and you will absolutely not be overawed by that person’s grasp of the Bible. On the contrary, the Bible is usually one among a whole muddle of sources that modern Christian people get their ideas from. Biblical illiteracy is the name of the game. If people had privileged the Bible a whole lot more over the last century, we wouldn’t be having all the problems we have now, but they didn’t so here we are.
Second of all, I love that…” especially not the earlier, weirder stuff.” What that means is that this person is going to drive a big giant wedge between the revelation of God in his Old and New Testaments. And he’s going to be able to do that because no one has made the Bible into any pillar of their faith, and so they’re going to feel bad about the little bit of knowledge that they do have, and, out of embarrassment and shame, believe that the big straw person that this person is busy building is an actual person instead of something that will blow away in the wind. What a fantastic time to be alive. We carry on (skipping some):
Try putting any well-meaning, good-intentioned, faithful handful of seminary students, pastors, or pew sitters in a room, and you’ll be hard pressed to find any two who can find unanimous agreement on very much, let alone the totality of its 800,000 words.
Yes, you see, nobody can agree! It’s very hard to read the Bible. Very very hard and mysterious. And so, you should know, according to this person, that even if you try you will fail. You need experts to help you, but also, the experts don’t agree. If you think you do know the meaning of the text, don’t get uppity! You’ll immediately fall prey to being a very bad sort of Christian, like this one:
Rather than admit and wrestle with the obvious complexities we face in historical context, writing style and author intent, too many Christians simply hide behind some incendiary, line-drawing, black and white, all-or-nothing rhetoric.
You wouldn’t want to be that sort of person, would you? A “line-drawing, black and white, all-or-nothing” sort of person who thinks that you know what the text says? If you are that sort of person, you have a big big problem on your hands. You’re a “worshipper” of the Bible:
Maybe that’s because the Bible has become for so many believers, a fourth addition to the Trinity; something to be worshipped, rather than something to help us seek the One worthy of worship. We’ve come to treat Scripture as the destination of our spiritual journey, rather than what it was for the earliest believers: essential reading material on the way to the Promised Land. You can see this misplaced worship everywhere; on message boards, and on talk shows, and from pulpits, and in conversations over coffee. Many of us wield the Bible like an oversized power tool that we couldn’t be bothered to consult the manual for.
As a former Episcopalian, let me just reiterate what I said at the start. The problem that Christians are having right now is not that they know the Bible too well or read it too much or revere it or anything like that. The problem they have is that, being embarrassed about having ever read it, they are eager to stop reading it at all. This person, under the guise of helping people read it, is actually undermining the very idea of the text. If you think that you can separate God from his self-revelation, as this person is trying to do, or that you can stand over the text and judge it by your own sense of how things should be, you will not be able to understand the text. It will become an absolute muddle to you. You can’t know God apart from his Word, just as you can’t know the Father apart from the Son who, get this, is literally, I kid you not, referred to in the Word itself as the Word. I know! Confusing, right? It couldn’t be that God so believes in human language that he is willing to come in and inhabit it, along with the human body, so that we could know him and hear him. It must be that you are a worshipper of the Bible if you constantly run to the text for consolation, for intimate knowledge of who God is and why he bothers. Anyway, we carry on, skipping some more:
The real problem, is that too many of us are choosing to simply deify the Bible as Divinity itself; something the Bible itself never asks us to do. It is not, as we so often mischaracterize it, “The Word of God” from John 1:1, Jesus is. We’ve decided that the Bible speaks every necessary thing that God ever has or ever will say, and that He’s said it exactly as we’ve determined, translated, and believe it to be. In other words, by elevating the Bible to the same level as God, and by leaning on our own understanding of its 66 books, we’ve crafted a Divine being who upon closer inspection, seems to think a lot like we do, vote like we vote, hate who we hate and bless what we bless.
Um, ackshully, it works the other way. It is when you don’t devote yourself to reading it systematically, thoroughly, constantly, and humbly that you end up making God to be in your own image. It actually is true that the Bible speaks “every necessary thing that God ever has or ever will say.” Of course, reading and interpreting the text is hard. Only the pisseth against the wall preacher suggests otherwise. Again, the problem is not that people are reading it too much, relying on it too much, trying to understand it too much. The problem of this moment is that everyone is embarrassed about having ever read it and are so are very very eager for Relevant Magazine to give them an excuse to stop entirely.
The question we need to ask ourselves as modern believers, is whether or not we really trust God to speak clearly and directly to someone, independently of the Bible. We know of course, that God can and does communicate through Scripture, but must that be the only method He employs?
Yeah, yes. YES. That is the way that God communicates. I’ll speak loudly and clearly: IF YOU WANT TO HEAR WHAT GOD IS SAYING, CRACK OPEN YOUR BIBLE, AND READ IT OUTLOUD TO YOURSELF. It is the only method that he employs to communicate with us. He uses his Holy Spirit to teach us what it means and all that kind of thing, but there isn’t going to be another way that you can hear from God.
We believe that the fixed words of the Bible are, as it says, “living and active,” but do we believe that God is not?
What? What does that even mean? God uses his Word to convert the believer and grow him up until the Day of His coming, which, honestly, I feel like could not come soon enough at this point.
The only religious worldview that makes the Bible the last and only word, is that of a God who is no longer living.
This is sleight of hand. This person is trying to suggest that if you devote yourself to seeking God in the scriptures, you are admitting that God is the God of the dead. Au Contraire My Dudes. God is the God of the living and the way we know that is because he tells us so in the Bible.
If we read the Scriptures like the will of a dead relative who is never coming back, then yes, we will cling to them as the sole voice through which He speaks. However, if we trust in a Jesus who is alive, and in a God who is fully present to individuals through His Holy Spirit, we will be fully expectant and confident that His voice and vocabulary are not confined to 66 books and 800,000 words. The Bible commands us not to add to the Scriptures, but that doesn’t mean that God can’t. That’s what prayer often yields; not God reciting the ancient text verbatim, but speaking anew to us.
The guy writing this, of course, will tell you what that new “speaking” is, but you won’t know if it’s right or wrong, of course, because you will be completely unfamiliar with the Biblical text, and so he will be able to tell you a lot of things that you probably wanted to believe already, like…well, I’m sure you know what it is acceptable to believe. You’re reading this on the internet. And on that note, I’m going to duck out because the rest of the thing is not really worth me going on and on through.
Just remember, the minute someone accuses you of “worshiping” the Bible as a “deity,” you can know that you know the text a lot better than the person making the accusation, and that you are probably reading it correctly, it’s just that they don’t like the conclusions you’ve drawn, or how strong you are to resist the foolish and useless ideas of the world. Your faith has come alive, because the text is alive in you through the power of the Holy Spirit. So anyway, have a nice day!