Bibliolatry

Bible on high
The second commandment says, “thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image” (Ex. 20:4). It’s a prohibition against idolatry. An idol is anything that we worship other than God, or anything that takes God’s rightful place in our lives. In biblical times idols were mostly statues. Today they’re usually not. We can turn anything into an idol, even good things like theology or the Bible itself. When we are so committed to a doctrine, theory, or ideology that we judge everything else by it, then it has become an idol. Systems of thought can be guides to point us to the truth. They are not absolute truth themselves. Even the Bible, which I believe is the product of divine inspiration, is a guide to point us to the truth. As precious as the Bible is, it’s a means to an end. It’s not an end in itself. That’s why we worship God and not the Bible. Worshiping the Bible is a form of idolatry. It’s Bibliolatry.

The Bible is inspired by God, but do we know what that means? The word “inspire” means “to breathe into.” God breathed the “breath of life” into Adam’s nostrils (Gen. 2:7). God also breathes life into his Word and into us through it. We are mistaken when we try to reduce the Bible to a set of propositional truths or a theological system. When we do this, we risk missing the whole point. The Bible is like a raft to help us cross a river or a finger pointing to the moon. We shouldn’t mistake the finger for the moon or the boat for the shore. If we cling too tightly to the raft or fixate on the finger, we miss the greatest reality: God himself.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Bibliolatry

  1. Kristi

    Really a beautiful post – makes me think of the line in Edwin Muir’s poem, “The Incarnate One”, “The Word made flesh here is made word again”.

  2. Coincidental that Reformed blogger Tim Challies blogged about this today… http://www.challies.com/articles/too-low-too-human-too-safe. BTW, we should catch up sometime, I’ve enjoyed your recent posts. Glad to see the Lord’s leading in your life.

  3. sarath

    I really liked JTM’s post on Lent. But, in this post, I feel he is stretching the point too far. Let us first soak ourselves in the The Word before we are warned not to worship it. If a memorize Psalm 23 and repeat it in my heart all the time, Pastor, am I turning it in to and idol? Is that Idolatry? Bibliolatry, as you say? I accept all forms of idolatry…including the visual image of Christ…but before we include the Word….as a pastor, you perhaps need to be careful what you are signalling your flock….

    • Sarath,

      Your comments are welcome here. To respond, I don’t believe I have to preface my warning against turning the Bible into an idol by telling people to “soak” themselves in the Word. I don’t think, and didn’t say, that memorizing God’s Word is idolatry. We should cherish the Bible, study it, meditate on it, hide its words in our hearts, but not worship it. We worship God alone, not his creation and not even the Bible. Thank you for your thoughts. I hope you will keep reading and commenting.

      • sarath

        Thank you, Pastor, for your response. I am still unable to understand why you see’ the Word’ as something outside God, by saying: ‘God also breathes life into his Word…’. Then how do we understand John 1:1?

  4. Sarath,

    God also “breathed into [man’s] nostrils the breath of life” (Gen 2:7), and by extension into all human beings. That does not make human beings God. Anything God creates is an expression of who God is, but we shouldn’t confuse the Creator with his creation (cf. Romans 1:22-25).

    John 1:1 is referring to Jesus Christ as the Word (Greek, “logos”) of God. It’s not talking about the Bible. In John 1:14 we read “And the Word (logos) was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth.” The Bible is indeed “something outside of God”; Jesus is not, according to Trinitarian theology.

    The words I am writing now are an expression of my thoughts, an expression of who I am, but they are not me. They are true to who I am, but they should not to be regarded as having the same value as myself. For example, you could destroy a copy of something I’ve written and it would not be a crime. But if you kill me without just cause it would be murder.

    We also need to keep in mind that the Bible is a product of both divine and human creativity. People wrote the Bible. People guided by the Holy Spirit to write things that are true and edifying. I don’t think of the process of inspiration as one of dictation where the Biblical author sat at a writing desk waiting for God to tell him which letter to write next. The writers’ personalities, writing styles, cultures, and individual circumstances shine through the Biblical texts too much for that to be the case. I believe the Holy Spirit guided their hearts and minds to write truth within their own circumstances and cultural contexts.

    The Bible is God’s Word in the sense that it communicates God’s truth, not it the sense that it is part of his eternal being.

    I hope this helps.

  5. The word that translators have translated as “inspiration” means “God-breathed” (Gr. theopneustos) meaning that Scripture was breathed out by God. Scripture is inspired regardless of what kind of experience I have when I read it, though I certainly expect to meet God in the Scriptures and have the Holy Spirit use His word in my life.

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