Thursday, February 14, 2008

Bible thumping Ephod worshipers

Update: I've been getting a lot of traffic from google for people looking up what an ephod is. If that's you, this post won't be very helpful (though perhaps somewhat). This post doesn't have a historical description or explanation; it's more like a critique on how we misuse the Bible (in the way that the Isrealites misused the ephod). Hope that helps.

Via TC, I came across this powerful article by Darin Hufford 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.

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)
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."

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:

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)
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:
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.


Mrs. Chambers said...

I think you have a good point, but the Bible is Word of God. It is an important tool and when read often, God speaks to us through the Holy Spirit. Many believers who don't have a relationship with God, do not hear His voice in scripture because they are dead in the Spirit. They have religion and no relationship.

Just be careful not to diminish the importance of the bible. Revelation cautions us not to add or detract from the Word of God. I understand your point is to encourage people to seek God's face. Which is to say have fellowship with Him.


Lindsey said...

But the Bible is not the Word of God. Jesus is! The Bible is the word of God, in that it is our message from Him. But it is not, and never will be, our salvation! The Bible cannot save us, only Jesus' death on the cross can. So all those Bible Belt churches need to remember that when they take the Bible and beat people over the head with it... ;) (I'm not saying the Bible isn't important, it IS, but it's not the MOST important, because God is the most important... also, even Satan quoted scripture to back up his side, so we need to be really really careful how we use it...)

Mrs. Chambers said...

I disagree. The bible was written by men but inspired by God. The prophets recorded what God said. Those are God's words. I understand your point. However people who aren't as biblically literate do not. I am just cautioning you to be careful what you pen!

And yes, Satan knows the word of God and tried to tempt Jesus. So what? Satan is a liar and tells half truths. He takes truth (the bible) and twists it for his purposes. I know that is what you are saying about some people. They do the same thing.

Jesus is the Word that became flesh. Our salvation. The entire OT was written to prepare the way. The NT to testify to the truth.

It would do more people good to "trust and obey" (an old hymn)

Anonymous said...

I live in the Bible Belt. I am a Christian and I can assure you I have never beat anyone on the head with the Bible. I have however used the Bible to show people what God's scripture says about certain things. Also, when I read the scripture I can see how my life is or is not pleasing to God. I'm really not sure what your point is. People are led to the Lord through scripture. Jesus used scripture as a shield against the temptation of the devil ... and we are to do the same.

I do not know anyone who thinks more of their Bible than their Lord. But they do use their Bible to discern God's will for their lives.

In Christian Love,

Lindsey said...


It's awesome if you're using the Bible the way God intended. I am completely aware that misuse of the Bible is not specific to one area of the country (though, I do think certain denominations are more prone to this, but prone doesn't mean everyone). But I have experienced a certain rigidness in the Bible belt (again, probably due more to denomination-culture than region of the country) that refuses to think critically about the whole sum of God's message. I've seen them hide behind scripture, judging not their own behavior but that of those around them. The Bible is a tool from God to do his good work. Many Christians fall into the trap of using the Bible to promote their own interest (as we are all guilty of selfishness in our falleniness). Ex, I've heard Christians cite the verse, "the poor will always be with you" to *justify* hoarding wealth and not actively working to eliminate poverty. But blessed are the poor. God loves those who give with a cheerful heart. Do you see what I mean? Scripture can be easily taken out of context and twisted to promote selfish ends (as the Devil did). It's much harder to make a conscious effort to read it as God would have you read it. Some people do. Many don't. Many Christians use their "religion" as a means to promote their own ends. It's a great tool, but it can be used in ugly ways.

I'm really appreciative of your comment, and hope you stick around RLN.


Anonymous said...


Why would you say "if" you are using the Bible ...”

When I stated "I have never beaten anyone on the head with the Bible" I meant I have never used the Bible to force someone to my way of thinking.

When we use scripture we are using words that were inspired by God to inspire others to come to the truth and knowledge of Him (our Lord). God does not force His love on anyone he gently woos them with His Holy Spirit.

As a child in Bible School I learned the pledge to the Bible: "I pledge to the Bible God's Holy word, and will take it as a lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path, and hide its words in my heart that I may not sin against God."

The problem with churches regardless of where they are located is that they have people who are human overseeing and in attendance. We often forget that our character as a Christian is not produced by our own efforts but by the Holy Spirit.

I have not read through the Bible many times or studied for hours upon hours but I do have some knowledge and am learning more every day. Galatians has helped me to understand my responsibility to God, myself and other Christians.

Years ago I read a book called "The Difference between Religion and Christianity". I believe the first sentence went something like this "Religion is man reaching up and bringing God down to himself and Christianity is God reaching down and bringing man up to Him." The Bible helps us to know His will and purpose for our lives.

We must remember it is about HIM not us.

We cannot even begin to know the mind of God or His perfection. But the Bible gives us a glimpse.

One other thing ... we need to ask ourselves if the people who use the Bible for their own self interest are truly children of God. I believe the Bible can help us discern the truth.

In Christian Love,


Lindsey said...

hi again Elizabeth,
I fear you took offense by my use of "if," but I assure you that none was meant. I use "if" for myself as well, because I often go to the scripture for self affirmation and not open to conviction. I think everyone does, more than they think. It's part of who we are as sinful people. We take good things and twist them. Perhaps you never ever have done what I describe (not just in conversation with non believers, but just in personal study too), but I *certainly* have. My point with the post was not to offend but to point out a problem. One that everyone is vulnerable to fall prey too. One that people need to realize in order to avoid doing it (though again, recognition is no guarantee). It's not just about thumping the Bible over non believer's heads; it's about deluding oneself that God's word is there to merely confirm underlying selfish motives (not that people consciously think this, but they practice this). I hope my post was challenging, to you and to others, not just myself. I hope it wasn't seen as mean or condescending. I can only write about mistakes I'm familiar with, and there aren't a shortage of them! I hope fellow believers would read it as a challenge to look at the self more critically. If it's done that for you, that's wonderful. If not, then I'm afraid you've missed my intention. Either way, I'm glad you came by and said hi.

Anonymous said...


I was not offended by "if" only curious why you used that contrary little word.

I certainly am NOT without sin. If I were I would have no need for a Savior.

I will continue to use the Bible as God's Holy word, and will take it as a lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path, and hide its words in my heart that I may not sin against God."

You are a precious young woman and I thank you for your enlightening posts.

In Christian Love,


Anonymous said...

1 John 3:16-20 16This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 19This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence 20whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

Anonymous said...

WoW!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have been studying the text in Judges 8:22-27 and I agree wholeheartedly with what you are saying about the bible used as the replacement for the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the LIVING WORD OF GOD! Wow, I thought, when I read this, what wonderful insight and so freeing really for anyone who will make Jesus Christ the centrality and supremecy of all created things!
I was seeing this text in a broad sense with the worship of ministry itself or the pastor or priest (the religous specialist) as the idolotrous act that brings with it a chaste system of clergy and laity and causes a great divide in the house of God and strangles the LIFE of Christ seen in true spiritual community as Him and only Him being the Head of His church, not a man!
Coming out of a very spirtually abusive church in which the pastor appointed himself, then his own elders, and his own group leaders, and set up for himself a system of leadership that only answered to him, and not one another like the example of Christ, and also of the early church. There was no harmony, no one anothering in the ways of mutual love, service, and humility. It was more of a hierarchial system of control where the leaders would hold their insight of God's will for another person's life as THE WORD of GOD, and with equal authority! A vicious game of playing God, and using the bible to control the believers there occurred under this disception you so articulately described in you blog!
Thank you so much for taking the courage to write it and having the love and the care for the body of Christ to share it!
Your insight really helped me to see the abusive and controlling act of of ruling over others with one's own view of God's will for another person's life and the twisting of scriptures to back it up!