Since my family recently moved to the Portland area, we’ve been looking for churches to attend. Besides visiting a church, the best way to gain a feel for a church is to visit their website. Specifically, their About Us page.
Since examining church websites, I’ve noticed some pretty strange beliefs out there. Many churches have a list of beliefs that are important to them. What is the first belief on many church websites? The Bible.
On one church begins its list of beliefs like this:
- The Authority of Scripture
- The Nature of God
- Jesus, God’s Son
- The Holy Spirit
- Nature of Man (Sorry, women. You apparently don’t have nature … but if you read the description, you might decide that’s a good thing.)
- The Role of the Church
Now, those are all important aspects of Christianity, and I don’t mean to pick on fellow Christians, but the order tells us what’s wrong with American Christianity.
We have elevated the Bible above God. It’s time we stop that form of idolatry. Bibliolatry has no place in Christianity. But, unfortunately, the Bible has become another god, above the Trinity, above Jesus, above the Holy Spirit.
I appreciate the passion that many “Bible believing” churches have. That passion is a good thing, but it’s misdirected. Christians shouldn’t “believe” in the Bible. We are not Biblians. We are Christians.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the Bible. It’s an important book and has authority in my life in that it points beyond itself to God. But the Bible is not a member of the Trinity. It deserves to be respected, but it shouldn’t be elevated above God.
“Bible believing churches” tend to think that “the Bible is the very Word of God – supernaturally inspired in every word and absolutely free from error in the original documents. God’s word is the final authority in all that it says. Therefore, it must be believed in all that it teaches, obeyed in all that it requires, and trusted in all that it promises.”
But the Bible doesn’t work that way. It contains within itself many disagreements about the nature of God and how events unfolded. For example, did Noah take two of every animal onboard his ship, as Genesis 6 claims, or did he take seven of every animal, as Genesis 7 claims? Does God require sacrifice, as Leviticus suggests, or does God require mercy and not sacrifice, as the prophet Hosea claims? Does God punish children for their parents’ mistakes, as Exodus claims, or is each generation responsible for itself, as the prophets Ezekiel and Jeremiah state? Did Jesus overturn the tables in the Temple at the end of his ministry, as the synoptic Gospels claim, or did he do it at the beginning of his ministry, as the Gospel of John claims?
Those who believe in the Bible’s inerrancy will do all kinds of interpretive gymnastics to put the round peg of the Bible into the square hole of inerrancy, but it just doesn’t fit. That’s because it’s not meant to fit.
The Bible is a document written by human beings who tried to recognize what God was doing in their lives. But it’s not inerrant. Interestingly, if the Bible were inerrant you would think it would tell us. It simply doesn’t use those terms. The Bible never says, “Hi! I’m the Bible. I’m the inerrant Word of God. Believe in me!”
There are disagreements that run throughout the Bible. Those disagreements are one of the things that I love about the Bible! The Bible models for us how to wrestle with God and ask questions about faith.
The Bible contains human testimony about how God works in the world, but it is not God’s inerrant Word. The Bible points beyond itself to God, and in the New Testament, to the God revealed in Jesus. The Bible even claims that Jesus is the Word of God, not the Bible itself.
Jesus warned people about elevating the Bible above himself. “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”
Jesus claimed that the scriptures are limited. You cannot have eternal life by believing in the Bible. In fact, when we elevate the Bible above God, it blocks us from our only access to eternal life.
The Bible is important, but we are not Biblians. We are Christians. We are not called to believe in the Bible. We are called to believe in Jesus.
Christians need to put the Bible’s authority back in its proper place. The Bible’s authority rests in the faith that it points beyond itself to the God revealed in Jesus.
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