Via TC, I came across this powerful article by over at Ooze. Essentially, the article is about how we have exchanged God for the Bible, and we glorify the Bible in such a way that God is almost out of the picture completely. Darin is a Biblical scholar who can't seem to understand why the modern church (and modern Christians) have fetishized the Bible. He uses this example from the OT:
At the end of Gideon's "deliverance career" the Israelites wanted to make him their king. Gideon refused, and said that instead of becoming their king he would like them to each bring him a gold ear ring from the plunder. Everyone brought a portion of gold and Gideon melted it down and made a "golden Ephod". The Ephod was the vest that the priests put on when they entered the Holy of Holies. In the pocket of the Ephod were the lots, which were used when they "caste lots" in order to determine God's will in a certain situation. When the priest entered the temple wearing the golden Ephod, he could actually hear the voice of God audibly. You might remember one time when King David told the priests to "bring him the golden Ephod". David put it on and went into the temple to ask God whether or not he should attack the Amalakites. David heard the audible voice of God tell him to attack.I think he has a point here. There is a difference between using the Bible as tool or a guide versus making it an object of worship. He goes on to say that our attitude towards the Bible is not only unbiblical (if you'll excuse the irony) but is a horrible snare to having a genuine relationship with God. He says, "Most of the things we are taught about the Bible are found nowhere in the Bible; they come from a religious spirit that seeks to whittle people down to a spiritual nub in an effort to gain control over their minds. Without a doubt, this wonderful book has been used to cuff the spirits of millions of sincere hearted people who honestly want to connect with God's Heart."
The story of Gideon goes on to say that after the golden Ephod was made, "all of Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping the Ephod". Think of that for a moment. They actually worshiped the way in which to determine God's will over worshiping God Himself. The story later goes on to say that it became a snare to Gideon and his family.
So what does this have to do with the Bible? One of the things we are taught about the Bible is that it is the way in which to determine the will of God. I believe that just as the Israelites prostituted themselves after the golden Ephod, modern day Christians do the exact same with the Bible. We have prostituted ourselves after the Bible and there is no doubt in my mind that it has become a thorn and a snare to almost every Christian in America. In fact I think many Christians have actually traded God for the Bible. Many others have even come to the point where they think God IS the Bible! I truly believe that the Bible has become the "golden Ephod" of our time. (emphasis mine)
Now before I continue let me add that both the author and I are on the same page about the importance of the Bible. While it's important to remember (and act) like the Bible is a tool from God, not god itself, it's also important to delve into all that the Bible has to offer about God's interaction with people over time. It's there for a reason: to help us understand more about God and our purpose and grow as believers. But it is not the end all be all of one's spiritual life. Reading the Bible everyday does not replace genuine communion with God. The Bible is NOT God. Consequently, we do not have to be so jumpy to defend the Bible. If the Bible is God, and if the Bible has errors or inconsistencies, then yeah, there's a problem. But the Bible is not, nor will it ever be, God. The Bible is supposed to be a helpful guide, a reference book, but not the obstacle that keeps people from growing in their faith. This point in the article is rather poignant:
It's sad really. I'll be the first to admit that the Bible has done a tremendous amount of good in my life, but I will also admit that I often make this switch for God and Bible. It's just so much easier to have something concrete, something I can actually see and touch and read. It's my Ephod. What was a tool for helping discern God's will becomes God to me. Let me flip to this chapter and see if I can't answer my own question. No luck? God, why didn't you put that in there? Or, even better, I (knowing enough of the Bible) flip to the section that I know in advance will confirm my own desire. If you go back to my recent post on wealth, you'll see that on both sides of the wealth argument there is scripture. Because you see, the Bible is not God, it is from Him (I really believe), but it is not Him. But if you think it is Him, then you can go to whatever verse fits your desires and hold it up as a banner testifying to God's approval of your choice. Not so my friends. You know who else used to do this? The Pharisees:
I understand that most of us have never stopped to think about these things, but if you step back and take an honest look at the landscape of our religion, I think you'll be surprised at how right I am. The American Christian system has wholeheartedly exchanged God for the Bible! This is precisely why so many sincere hearted people go into a full fledged panic attack the moment anyone suggests that there might be errors or discrepancies in the Bible. Most Christians will outright tell you that to even entertain such a thought is blasphemy. Because we have made the "God exchange" we have to insist that the Bible now takes on the attributes of God Himself. This is why it is imperative that everyone believe the Bible is infallible. It is equally grieving to my heart when I hear people say things like, "If there is even one thing wrong in the Bible, our entire faith is worthless". Their entire existence as a Christian stands on the belief that there are no errors in Scripture. If they were to be shown a true discrepancy in Scripture that could not be explained away, it would literally cause their entire religion to come caving in on them. I've heard people openly admit, "If you can't believe it all, you can't believe any of it". Their entire faith stands on Scripture instead of Christ. Make no mistake about it, there has been an exchange of monumental proportions! (emphasis mine)
We are no different in this generation from the Pharisees in Jesus' day. They had a very similar view of their Old Testament scriptures. Jesus confronted them and said, "You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life." (John 5:39-40). The Pharisees were making the same trade that millions of Christians have made today. Another point about this passage is that Jesus clearly makes a distinction between "studying the Scriptures" and "coming to Him".So I guess the point of this post is a warning. The Bible is not a replacement for God in the same way that just going to church on Sundays does not replace an actual relationship with Him. The Bible and fellowship together are great things, but they are not the thing. Remember that. And next time you get all riled up about thumping that Bible over somebody's head, remember that God never intended the Bible to become a beating stick. It is for edification, but NOT division, driving seekers away, or cherry-picking verses. Remember that.
Okay I was going to end there, but I've just read through some of the comments over at TC and I can't help but add some more thoughts. Some of the commentators are worried that the attitude promoted in Darin's article will lead people to disregard the Bible entirely. Now, obviously, Darin will be the first to admit (and he does early in his article) that he truly believes the Bible is God-inspired and God-given for us to use and learn from. That much we all agree on. The question isn't whether or not the Bible has truths for our lives, it's what status or value we give the Bible itself. We call the Bible the "Word of God" but the Bible doesn't call itself the "Word of God" because it wasn't even complied until much later. The Bible calls Jesus, not the Scriptures, the Word of God. We are the ones calling the Bible by Jesus' name, but it does not call itself that. We DO know, however, that even Jesus used and believed in the Scripture (after all, the Scripture is what he came to fulfill), but remember, the devil too cited scripture while trying to ensnare Jesus. The Bible can be used for good (as Jesus did in the desert) or for bad. God can not be used for good or bad, he just is good. So obviously they are not interchangeable. That means we must use the Bible with caution, remembering that inevitably we come to it with our own baggage and narrow interpretations. It is a good thing. But again, it is not the thing. We all know how to get what we want out of the Bible, but we mustn't do that and we must use it with care and humility. It is not a beating stick. It is not God. Yes, Jesus used scripture, and yes it is really important. But, that's all the more reason to come at it with care and to use it for constructive purposes. After all, this is what it says in 2 Timothy 3:16-17:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.God-breathed, not God. Equipping us for good work. So let's do some.