Is It Possible for Christians to Idolize the Bible?

As important and challenging as the question is, it’s rooted in an inaccurate understanding of Scripture.

Simply put, the Bible is the voice of God.  The Father breathes out the Word.  The Son is the Word incarnate.  The Holy Spirit carried along the biblical authors so that they would speak “from God”.  The Bible is the voice of God – not just the red letters – the whole Bible. As such, the question “Is it possible for Christians to idolize the Bible?” is inaccurate, because it forces us to drive a false wedge between God and his voice.  Prioritizing God’s voice is prioritizing God, and thus prioritizing his voice cannot be thought of as idolatry.

 

A few months ago, I read the following in an article by an author who self-identifies as an evangelical: “While the Bible is an important and authoritative guide for Christian faith and practice, it isn’t the foundation or center of our faith- Jesus is… Studying Scripture is valuable, but nowhere near as valuable as cultivating a day to day relationship with the God incarnate.

This author has a number of views that make him a bit of an outlier in the evangelical movement as it’s been traditionally defined.  However, I’m finding that his view of Scripture is increasingly common.  More and more, I hear sentiments within the Church like:

  • “Many Christians are putting too much emphasis on the Bible instead of Christ and the Holy Spirit.”
  • “The Trinity is not Father, Son, and Holy Scripture.”
  • “Beware of making the Bible an idol.”

Hence the question:  Is it possible for Christians to idolize the Bible?

The Importance of the Question

We should not dismiss this question too quickly.  It seems to me that those who express the above sentiments have had a bad experience with a church or with Christians when it comes to the Bible.  They’ve encountered numerous Christians who, though they know the Bible inside and out, seem “puffed up” by their knowledge, having little love for Christ or for others.  The worry is that putting so much focus on the Bible will only replicate these experiences.

Scripture says that some knowledge “puffs up” (1 Corinthians 8:1) but that other knowledge is intimately interwoven with love (Philippians 1:9).  So, we must test ourselves:  Is my study of the Scriptures bearing the fruit of the Spirit, or is it bearing the fruit of arrogance?  The Bible has been misused widely in its history, so certainly we must be wary of misusing it, ourselves, turning it into a vehicle for pride over how much we know, rather than being rightly challenged by it to humble, loving service of God and others.

Further, Christ rebukes the Pharisees in John 5:39-40 for knowing the Scriptures inside and out, yet not receiving and believing in him as the Christ. So again we must test ourselves: Is my study of the Scriptures merely the accumulation of knowledge, like studying a textbook, or is it helping me follow Christ as my Lord and love him as my Savior?  In other words, we must understand that it’s possible to know the Scriptures yet ignore Jesus. We must also admit that many Christians have had interactions with believers or churches who treat the Bible just like the Pharisees did.

We must not be surprised by the question, but challenged and helped by it.

The Inaccuracy of the Question

Yet, as important and challenging as the question is, it’s rooted in an inaccurate understanding of Scripture.   Consider the primary descriptions of Scripture from the Bible itself:

  • All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16)
  • For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:21)

Add to this that one of the favored names of Jesus Christ is “The Word,” and you have a Trinitarian testimony that the Bible is not divorced from the Godhead, but is the tangible work of the Trinity in perfect harmony speaking to us.

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