Faith and Religion: Do YOU Believe In The Bible? (Bibliolatry, Part One)

Part and parcel of deity, or guidebook?

Part and parcel of deity, or guidebook?

     TLDR ADVISORY: This article exceeds 1,000 words, and may be lengthy for some readers.

     Back in December of last year, immediately upon the completion and subsequent publishing of my article on “Christianity’s Idolatrous Tendencies”, a reader submitted a comment in which he discussed the right and left fringes, their penchant for being the most vocal, and also suggested that I compose an article on the topic of Bibliolatry. So, I did what I often do before committing nouns and verbs, consonants, vowels and punctuation to article space; I started reading…

     Although the simple concept of worshiping religious texts wasn’t foreign to me, this word was. “Bibliolatry”. I’d never heard it boiled down into one word, one nice little eleven-letter package, before now. It turns out that the word has been used in some pretty heated theological debates lately, on exactly how certain denominations view the scriptures in their entirety. (At the end of this article, I will be furnishing you, my fine young readers, with some links on the topic that you can follow and read, in order to expand your understanding of the word, as I have.)

     As a result, that’s going to be more or less what this article is about; expanding our understanding of the concept, and how it relates to the wider realm of theological debate. In order to best accomplish this, we’ll take a simple “six essential questions” approach. I suspect that’s also what this particular reader, the one that suggested the article in the first place, was also after; for me to expand my knowledge, and become a better writer in the process. (Good looking out, Chris Randolph!) It’s pretty easy to point a finger, but it takes diligence to drill into an issue! (Please by all means, try digesting this article in sections, lest it become “TLDR”!)

What is Bibliolatry?

     First of all, we need to get a firm idea of what “bibliolatry” is, exactly. If one googles a quick definition of the word, they get the following:

bib·li·ol·a·try: noun /ˌbiblēˈälətrē/

1. An excessive adherence to the literal interpretation of the Bible.
2. An excessive love of books.

     Another word that often comes up within this context is the word “worship”, and the idea that some people of faith “worship” their bibles. What does it mean to “worship” something? Once again, let’s look to the “Webster Word” definition of worship:

wor·ship: noun \ˈwər-shəp also ˈwȯr-\

1. (chiefly British) a person of importance —used as a title for various officials (as magistrates and some mayors)
2. reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power; also : an act of expressing such reverence
3. a form of religious practice with its creed and ritual
4. extravagant respect or admiration for or devotion to an object of esteem <worship of the dollar>

     So, within the scope of Christianity…Bible worship. Does it exist? The answer to that greatly depends on who you ask, and from which “school of thought” that their answer comes…

Who is engaging in Bibliolatry?

     One of the first questions that I was posed with, right from the outset of researching this topic, was if this idea, this concept of “Bible worship” even exists. There is the perception by some observers that some of the more fundamentalist denominations within Christianity often engage in bibliolatrous behaviors and statements. (Try saying that three times, really fast!) Make no mistake though, this issue is not limited to Christianity. I’m sure that at least some of you have noticed the tendency of fundamentalist and / or radical Muslims to react violently when the Qu’ran is, in their opinion, defiled or disrespected in some way. (Unless you’ve been dwelling under a rock, or in some remote mountain community without access to media since 2001, you’ll know full well what I mean.) In addition, the idea of worshiping religious texts also seems to be found in the Sikh faith, by virture of the manner in which their sacred text, the “Shri Guru Granth Sahib” is viewed. But I digress…

     In the process of researching this article, I had the opportunity to speak with ministers from a few different faiths. The Lutheran pastor that I spoke with seemed to think that bibliolatry is nonexistent, while the pastor from the local Assemblies of God church acknowledged that some of the more conservative denominations may in fact be engaging in the practice, based upon their view of scripture.

     Likewise, some on the outside of mainstream Christianity have also asserted that those fundamentalists who refuse to accept scientific fact, in favor of a literal interpretation of their bible, are indeed engaging in a form of bibliolatry.

How does the Bible address Bibliolatry?

     First of all, the Bible itself would seem to prohibit its own worship, by virtue of the first of God’s “ten commandments”, also known as the “Decalogue”:

1 – “I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

     The entire crux of the bibliolatry debate seems to come down to the way people of faith view their bibles, and there are indeed a few passages with regard to this. Denominations such as the Southern Baptists, who hold the Bible and its authority in high esteem, point to verses such as 2nd Timothy 3:16-17, in which the epistle’s author (believed to have been the apostle Paul) states the following:

(16 )”All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

(17 ) That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (KJV)

     Critics of this school of thought also find biblical reinforcement for their position, in passages such as John 5:39-40, where Jesus himself is quoted as saying;

(39 )”Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.

(40 )And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” (KJV)

     I think this might be a good point at which to stop, so that you all have a chance to digest what I have posited here thus far. In the next article, I will address the remaining three questions on the topic…so stay tuned! In the meantime, here are a few links to articles on the subject of bibliolatry, and church responses;

1) Article on “Bibliolatry” at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bibliolatry

2) “Bibliolatry: A Fraudulent Accusation”, article by Dr. A. William Merrell, Vice President, Southern Baptist Convention.

3) “Postcard from San Diego: Fighting ‘Bibliolatry’ at the Evangelical Theological Society”, article written by Ted Olsen, at Christianity Today.

4) “Is Bibliolatry the Real Danger?”, short article by Kevin DeYoung, at The Gospel Coalition.

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6 comments on “Faith and Religion: Do YOU Believe In The Bible? (Bibliolatry, Part One)

  1. I almost forgot! As promised, I have included links to additional reading on the subject of the article. Mea culpas!

    • David, I think you might have missed the point that I have attempted to make by writing this article…or maybe not…

      When you say that you “believe the BIBLE”, what do you mean? Does this mean that you believe every single statement, every word, every idea and every punctuation mark, from a literalistic standpoint?

      • dave says:

        I have mostly studied the new Testament, only reading The Old Testament three times. Agood source book for information about The New Testament is “The Case For Christ” and I cannot recall the author’s name.
        There are seeming discrepancies, which are minor, in the four gospels. However, a law student would know that eyewitnesses always see things at least a little differently which actually gives the four gospels even more credibility.
        As for the Creation, yes I believe that Genesis is true. We cannot know the chronological length of the first or maybe any of the seven days as we call one revolution of the Earth a day.
        Even Carbon dating has been proven unreliable and is based on an unproven theory.
        There is not one tangible piece of evidence demonstrating any organism in transition from one species to another.
        Paul described the Earth as being created from the unseen and no peson could see an atom in the first century A.D.
        In my extensive travels I have seen evidence of the flood and the “continental drift” is mentioned in Genesis.
        I believe it is true and before you dismiss my opinion have you researched what creation scientists have to say about our origins?
        Fred Hoyle, I think, said that Darwinism on earth is impossible and he is/was an atheist!

        • Dave, I’m fully aware of the various works and publications on the subject of “Christian Apologetics”, including the oft-quoted “Evidence That Demands a Verdict”, By Josh McDowell. (I own two editions of the book.) As for the discrepancies between gospels, authorship again comes to the fore. Each book was written by a different author, from a different POV.

          I have to give you some kudos here, for acknowledging the difference between the 24-hour day, which is a purely human construct to measure the passage of time, and what the Bible refers to as a “day”.

          As for carbon dating, do you honestly know HOW it works? I do. Carbon-14 dating has not been proven unreliable, like any dating technique, it has a “margin of error”. I also know that things like solar flare activity can effect the decay of radioisotopes, so if you truly want to get into the science and mechanics of things like the ratio of carbon-12 to carbon-14 in organic matter samples and dating techniques such as Carbon-14 and Thermoluminescence, go for it.

          No tangible evidence for the transition of one species….do I really have to say this again? Evolution does not work that way! (Honestly, it is exasperating having to constantly reiterate this, time and again, every time someone brings this argument up.) The reason we don’t see this process at work in nature in “real-time” is because this process occurs over tens of thousands, to millions of years. Aside from that fact, how do you explain dogs? Do you own a dog? If so, what breed? You do realise that all domesticated dogs are descended from a common ancestor to both dogs and wolves, right? Now we’re getting into Taxonomy…

          Paul’s description of the Earth as being “created from the unseen” might very well have been in reference to atomic structures, then again it could also have been a metaphorical or rhetorical statement. As we’re about to briefly get into the premise behind “Creation Science”, I believe what you are referring to is the basis of “creation ex nihilo.”

          I’m curious, Dave. Exactly what evidence have you seen of the biblical flood? Where in Genesis (scripture and verse, please) are you positing that continental drift is mentioned?

          “Creation Science” is a misnomer. It isn’t even honest, true science; it’s pseudoscience. It has absolutely no empirical support, assumes evidence not in fact, discards scientific evidence that’s already been proven to be fact, does not make even remotely reliable predictions, and has been thoroughly discredited by the wider scientific community. Sorry, but it’s true.

          Fred Hoyle? Isn’t that the same Fred Hoyle that posited the theory of a “Steady-State” universe, the same theory that was blown out of the water by the combined efforts of Penzias-Wilson, and Alpher-Gamow? Uh huh, I get that.

          Cheeze and rice, Dave! These are all fundamentalist “talking points” that I’ve heard and debated time and again. Nothing new here.

    • (I’m beginning to think that it was a good idea to pause after the first three questions and allow for some interim discussion of the ideas, as some of this discussion may even make it into part two of this series!)

      When one takes an absolute, literal approach to the Bible, not only does “pigeon-holing” occur, but a number of problems arise;

      * Which one? There are several translations and versions. When the average person thinks about the Bible, they’re not even beginning to address things like authorship, canon, and the inclusion / exclusion of things like the Apocrypha.

      * Even the outdated stuff? For instance, what about the laws in Leviticus? If one takes the approach that everything from cover to cover, soup to nuts is as applicable today as it was yesterday, then we have to admiss morally incorrect and offensive things like slavery. (Leviticus 25:44-46 is just one of several passages addressing the acquisition and treatment of slaves.) Also, if one reads and adheres to their Bible in this fashion, then they’re not supposed to do things like wear mixed fabric shirts, enter church if they wear glasses, play football…

      * What about scientific evidence and proofs? If we look at the Bible from the absolutely literal point of view, especially when it states that everything in existence was created in six days, then run the ages of the patriarchs against this as a number of people already have, we come up with an age for the universe of about 6k to 7k years. (See my previous article on “Young-Earth Creationism”, “Dragging The Line“.)Given cosmological observations and repeatable laboratory proof of the universal constant, (the speed of light through a vacuum,) we plainly see that the universe is far older, into the billions of years in age.

      My wife would refer to this approach as, “putting God in a box”, and in my own opinion, does indeed enter into the realm of Bibliolatry.

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