A reader of this page chides the writer for worshipping the Bible. Frequently we have heard individuals disparagingly spoken of as “bibliolaters.”
In the many years that I have lived and worked with Christians, I have yet to see such an individual. That such may exist is certainly possible. That they constitute any appreciable number of persons, however, I am certain is untrue.
There are, on the other hand, millions in our own generation, as well as those of the past, who respect the Bible for good reason. These men and women trust the written Word because it has been pragmatically justified. Wherever it can be tested it has proved itself in experience to be what Christ and the apostles represent it to be, namely, the Word of God. Neither respect nor trust can in any sense be confused with worship.
To trust the Bible is not to worship it. In respecting the Scriptures we do not ascribe homage to its pages.
How can it be said then that those who have this regard for the written Word worship it? In part the reason is it is not held with corresponding trust or respect by others.
Part of the difficulty of those who may appear to follow the Bible blindly is due to a lack of objectivity on their part. This in turn can lead to an inflexibility which is no credit to anyone. That this may also hold for many who question parts of the Bible is equally true.
There are portions in the Scriptures which were vigorously questioned in past generations because of seeming contradictions, but which are now accepted because archaeological discoveries have proven them true.
On the other hand a rigid literalism has often led to unwarranted dogmatic assumptions which fall as the rug is pulled from under them in the face of more accurate scholarship. Often a preacher has had to revise a sermon on some favored text when more careful research proved that its meaning was different from what he had thought.
By some strange legerdemain of reasoning, those who inveigh most against bibliolatry are the very ones that exhibit in their churches an open Bible flanked by burning candles!
What then is the attitude of those who turn to the Holy Scriptures with confidence and honestly believe them to be the “only infallible rule of faith and practice?” What about those who have tested the Word and found it true?
There are two questions involved here: one of inspiration and the other revelation. We believe that all Scripture is inspired of God, but not everything contained therein is equally important or relevant for daily living. We believe that in God’s Word we have revelations of truth that come through the Holy Spirit, truths which man could never have discovered for himself unless the Holy Spirit had imparted them to those willing to receive. Furthermore, we believe these revelations of truth to be God-breathed and accurate regardless of whether men believe and accept them or not.
In other words, the authority of Scripture is in no way jeopardized by man’s acceptance or rejection of its contents; it is man who stands in judgment before the Book, not the Book which stands in judgment before man.
At the same time, the message of the Bible becomes operative in the hearts and lives of men as the Holy Spirit takes the written Word and applies it to the individual. It is perfectly accurate to say that the Bible becomes relevant to a person only as he accepts and acts on it; however, it is true that this relevance is there at all times, and man rejects it only at infinite loss to himself.
One of our greatest hindrances to an accurate and fruitful attitude to the Bible is reading books about the Bible rather than the Bible itself. There are thousands of men in the pulpits and in pews today who are thoroughly conversant on the opinions of other men about the Bible but dangerously ignorant of the Bible itself. Many of these show an almost pathological fear of letting the Bible speak for itself. To follow the example of the Laodicean Christians in examining the Scriptures is to these opponents of the Word anathema. To Paul it was an “honorable” procedure.
Again, to say that only those parts of Scripture which speak to the individual heart are, for that person, inspired is to transfer the basis of authority from the Bible to subjective intellectual or emotional reactions.
On what ground, therefore, do we Christians exhibit such confidence toward the Word of God?
This can be answered in one sentence: We have tested it and found that it is in fact what it claims to be, a Book inspired by God. In it we have found an unfailing source of comfort, hope, assurance, wisdom, warning, admonition, guidance, and truth.
Even on a cold scientific basis the Bible stands the test. Let it speak for itself and we find it true. Let it speak to our hearts and we hear God speaking.
We have found that the God of the Bible is our own God and loving heavenly Father. We have found the Christ of the Scriptures to be God’s Son and our own Saviour and Lord. We have found the Holy Spirit, whose loving ministrations are revealed in both Old and New Testaments, to be the comforter of our hearts and the illuminator of our own spirits.
In answer to the smug assertion of some that “we worship God, not the Bible,” or “we trust Christ, not a book,” we reply with hearty “amen.” Of course it is God whom we worship. Of course it is Christ in whom we put our trust for salvation. And the God we worship, the Christ we believe, and the Holy Spirit who makes our faith possible is the triune God revealed to us in the Scriptures and known experimentally by faith.
In expressing faith in the written Word, we know by experience that it is true. In matters of faith, doctrine, and practice it speaks of and for God. In the realm of daily living it shows us the way to make our Christian faith effective and relevant. Its promises have reached across the centuries and apply to our own needs. Its warnings to men of old are found to apply to these days as well.
When the Bible becomes a daily source of spiritual food and drink, when its story is woven into the warp and woof of our minds and hearts, we find that God gives us those answers without which no man can live aright.
With the Bible as our guide, we get the proper perspective between this life and the next, a right evaluation of the things which are temporary and those that are eternal, and an unshakable philosophy for living and a confidence which satisfies the question of this life and the life beyond the grave.
No, we do not worship the Bible. But we honor and trust it as a precious revelation of God’s eternal truth; and in our doing this, we have found it never to fail.
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