Monday, February 22, 2016

Is Bibliolatry Valid ?

Oh how I love your law!  It is my meditation all the day” 

The primary reason for studying the Scriptures should be to draw us closer to  Christ.    If we're  not  desiring a deeper love for  Jesus and longing to become more like Him it's time to stop and examine our motives.   That said,  is it possible for Christians to become overcommitted to the Scriptures to the point of  worshipping the Bible instead of God  as some believe?

Bibliolatry is the notion that Christians are guilty of idolatry when they view the Bible as equal to God,  or when  studying the Bible  supersedes their personal relationship with Him.    No one is suggesting a literal bowing down to worship  the Bible as a material object.   I have heard sermons  by evangelicals  who teach that  Bibliolatry is committed whenever Christians  value  “head knowledge”  above “heart knowledge”.   But this makes no sense because one cannot have a transformed heart without first having an informed mind.  (Psalm 119:11,  Heb. 4:12)

However one might define Bibliolatry,  to think the Bible can become  an idol  that can be  sinfully worshipped  seems  ludicrous.    The  Scriptures are the infallible, inerrant,  sufficient, Word of God  that were  written under the direction of Christ through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  (2 Pet. 1:20-21, 1 Pet. 1:10-12)    Christ is  the focal point of all Scripture and He Himself is called   the Word of God. (Jn. 1:1; Rev. 19:13).    And the written words of Christ are  eternal,   “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”  Mt.24:35Forever, O Lord, your word  is firmly fixed in the heavens.”  Psalm 119:89

The accusation of Bibliolatry is certainly not a new one.    In times past this thinking typically came from those who denied the literal interpretation and inerrancy of Scripture.   The  concept of Bibliolatry was argued against by the Hebrew Presbyterian Adolph Saphir (1831-1891) nearly 150 years ago in his book “Christ and the Scriptures” and again  by  Frank E. Gaebelein (1899-1983) in the 1950’s.   

Gaebelein writes,
  “[Let us] conclude our discussion of the unity of the Bible by facing the accusation of bibliolatry that is often made against those who hold to the complete reliability of Scripture.  Such Biblicism and literalism are, we are told, nothing short of turning the Scriptures into a “paper pope”.   
…If the Bible finds its true and vital integration only in the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ then there can be no bibliolatry in any form, shape or manner on the part of any of us, no matter  how stoutly we adhere to the inerrancy of Scripture.  
…According to its  own self-witness,  it is an instrument of the living God—the sword of the Spirit, the seed incorruptible whereby  we are born again,  the law of the Lord that converts the soul, the mirror in which we see ourselves in the blazing  light of God’s truth, the hammer that crushes our hardness of heart.  
…The center of the Bible is the living Christ.  Through  it’s pages God the Holy Spirit who inspired it bears witness to the Person who unites all the manifold strands of history, prophecy, poetry, symbolism, and doctrine to bear witness to him and his saving work.    
   Let us therefore rejoice that Christ is the center of the Bible, that in him alone it finds its living unity.  Let us reverence the Bible as the only written revelation of God,  the only completely truthful book, realizing that we reverence it most fully and honor it most highly when we see within its pages the Lord Jesus Christ and when we make him in whom its unity is centered the center of our own life and service.” 1 


More thoughts on the subject:
What is Bibliolatry?  Got Questions?.Org
Bibliolatry — A Fraudulent Accusation by Dr. A. William Merrell
Is Bibliolatry Possible? Westminster Seminary by S. M. Baugh

1. Frank E. Gaebelein;   The Unity of the Bible;  Revelation and the Bible Edited by Carl H.F. Henry;  Baker Book House;  1958 Pg. 400-401


  1. I think it boils down to our motives. Are we reading and studying primarily to feed ourselves and know Jesus better and therefore experience necessary heart change, or are we reading and studying primarily to win arguments for the sake of being right?

  2. I became a Christian when I was 19. I read the Bible everyday but it was more of a habit (because Christians are supposed to read their Bibles to grow) but because I didn't understand about the need of repentance and cleansing of my sins, my heart was hard and proud - I took pride because I was memorizing scripture. But I was missing Jesus! "You search the scriptures thinking that IN THEM you will find eternal life but these are they that testify of ME." John 5:39. I began to grow as I began to heed the Holy Spirit's convictions, to humble myself and walk in His light. 1 John 1:7, "But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all unrighteousness." Reading scripture with a hard heart, trying to be "one up" on other Christians so you can quote more scripture than others - this leads to self righteousness and a Pharisee attitude about scripture.

  3. Three scriptures come to mind-I Corinthians 8:1 Knowledge puffs up but charity edifies..
    But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.

    24 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,

    25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;II Timothy 2:23-25

    James 3:17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.

  4. Thank you all for the thoughtful comments and I really appreciate the conversation here. Just to clarify my thoughts a little more, I think a clear distinction should be made between Christians who study the Bible with wrong motives (haven't we all done that from time to time?) and the subject of Bibliolatry, which was born out of liberal theology. Bibliolatry even by loser definitions seeks to pit Christ against the Scriptures, which is ultimately an attack on the sufficiency and authority of Scripture. I regret not linking the following example in the article of this kind of thinking but here it is.

  5. I had no idea what bibliolatry was until a Mormon used it against me in a conversation. It was a put down, and used as an attack on my personal character in order to discredit the points I had been trying to make with him. The person who used it against me had no way of knowing if I "idolized" the Bible, but he sure seemed to be under the impression that all Christians idolize the Bible. I find it interesting that my experience was pretty much summed up in the article you linked to from Got Questions: "Typically, the accusation of bibliolatry is used as an attack on those who hold to the inerrancy, infallibility, and supremacy of Scripture. It is often employed as an inflammatory and derogatory attack on believers who hold to “sola scriptura” and/or a literal interpretation of the Bible." Considering that most Christians today don't even read their Bibles, I would be very hesitant to agree with the notion that bibliolatry exists.

    1. Stephanie, you have nailed it. And how interesting that you first heard it from a Mormon. Thank you for sharing.

    2. Actually, the more I think about this, the more absurd the notion of bibliolatry being a bad thing becomes. Consider what bibliolatry is- "the worship of the Bible" and what worship is- "reverent honor and homage paid to God or a sacred personage, or to any object regarded as sacred." The Bible is the very Word of God Himself(2 Timothy 3:16) and Christ said: "abide in my word" (John 8:31). Christ's disciples abide in his Word. The reason the Mormon was able to accuse me of bibliolatry is because the Mormons believe the Bible has been corrupted, and they do not consider the Bible to be the infallible Word of God. How can we even consider disconnecting God from His Word which is recorded in the Bible. Maybe those who are using bibliolatry in a derogatory way are trying to disconnect God's Word from God Himself. What's wrong with reverently honoring and paying homage to God's Word? Isn't His Word sacred?

    3. Amen to all of that! And when Evangelicals begin making these accusations you know the church is on a slippery slope.