Everybody? I think I was wrong about something.
For years–even decades, probably–liberal progressive Christians have been leveling the charge of “bibliolatry” against evangelicals and fundamentalists. Bibliolatry in this context refers to a literal worship of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures.
All the way up until a couple of weeks ago, I have agreed that there is a (or maybe more than one) false allegiance going on among many more conservative Christians which deeply skews how they read and interpret the Bible–to their harm and that of others around them. But I have not been able to get my mind around the idea that some people actually idolize the Bible, rather than idolizing the teachings of a preferred preacher, or idolizing a political lens through which they experience everything, or even idolizing a particular interpretation they came up with themselves. (I hasten to add, these other idolatries can happen whether you’re a conservative fundamentalist or a liberal progressive, no matter what your relationship to the Bible. I work among people in both camps, I want to say here that I’m not trying to pick on either one over against the other. But I’ve also never heard a fundamentalist accuse a progressive of bibliolatry and that’s what we’re talking about right now.)
Part of why I have struggled to accept that Christian bibliolatry is even possible is that I myself deeply prize–even love–the Bible. I believe God inspired its writing differently than other books or media that God might’ve had a hand in. I believe that even though God inspired regular old humans to write it, everything that’s in there is what God intended to be there, and nothing is missing.
But I don’t worship it. I haven’t been able even to conceive of worshiping it. However, through its pages I have encountered the living God to whom it introduces me, and that God I do worship. I believe God inspired the writing of this book which is more than a book so that we could know something about Him, interact with Him through it, and begin to have “the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” transformed to be more like His, so that our actions can follow. I take seriously the idea that there’s a special connection between the Bible (the written word of God) and Jesus (the living Word of God).
I used to say, “The Bible is Jesus, written down.” And then I tweeted it one time, and a couple of people got really mad at me. Maybe it would be better to say the Bible gives us Jesus, written down. Or I could just plagiarize the Bible Project‘s tagline which is that the Bible is “a unified story that leads to Jesus.” The Bible itself isn’t really Jesus. I was being sloppy, I guess. And without the Holy Spirit to inform and facilitate our meeting (the one between me or you or the people I’m preaching to and Jesus) we haven’t got much more than just a book, really.
Here’s the tweet that changed my mind about whether bibliolatry is possible.
And also helped me understand why my “The Bible is Jesus” comment was met with such (appropriate, it turns out) rancor. Listen. The Bible is not one of the persons of the Trinity. Not Jesus. Not the Father. And not the Holy Spirit. I believe the Bible is a product of the Trinity working through humans, and that it was written to introduce us to the God who loves us. But no. It isn’t Jesus. Or any person of God at all. I’m also no longer sure I would say the Bible in and of itself has what this guy calls “authority.” But that’s a topic for another post.