On Not Being A Bibliolater

Here is a recurring question of mine. What is the distinction between having an appropriate respect for God’s written Word, and being a bibliolater? To clarify, a bibliolater is one who is reductionistic in one’s thinking, and who fails to see that ultimately Jesus is the living Word of God. In this clarification I realize I am providing some parameters for addressing this issue, but still it doesn’t completely provide discernment. For example, the written Word has some kind of close connection with the living Word, but I don’t think it’s clear how close this connection is.

Jesus once said that all authority in heaven and earth has been given to him, and yet I know there are Christians who treat the Scriptures as if they have all authority. Certainly the Scriptures are authoritative, but it seems to me they are sacramentally authoritative, in that they are the divinely created channel to communicate the life and authority of Jesus. The problem, however, is that the Scriptures are often treated as having innate authority, an authority that can be then mediated by those who have some kind of familiarity or mastery of the text. This is a problem because the picture of authority in Scripture itself is not primarily a matter of cognitive mastery, but of spiritual development, a development that comes from wrestling with and becoming intimate with God. I imagine that this issue is connected to Paul’s distinction between the Spirit and the letter, wherein the former gives life and the latter brings death. Having acknowledged this, however, I am concerned about the consequences of placing too great a distance between the written Word and the Spirit of God, as this would quickly lead to gross subjectivity, innovation, and error, all of which are forms of death.

Along with the relationship between the letter and the living Word is the matter of how we relate to and draw upon the Scriptures when formulating doctrine, and constructing visions for spiritual growth and Christian living. In opening this inquiry, I spoke of biblical reductionism, by which I refer to the conviction that Christians should not be involved in spiritual practices that are not explicit in or clearly endorsed by Scripture. But this attitude raises questions regarding the nature of Christian freedom, as well as questions about the parameters and purpose of Scripture. For example, are the Scriptures supposed to be an exhaustive compendium for how one ought to live, or is it a foundational document that provides a basic framework and set of dynamic presuppositions that we then have to work out in the context of our individual and collective Christian lives as we engage new issues and areas of inquiry? I will be honest, and say that I tend toward the latter, but I see problems here as well. However, I won’t attempt to articulate these problems, as what I have said thus far is enough to provide the groundwork for processing my question.

So, again, I pose my question. What is the distinction between having an appropriate respect for God’s written Word, and being a bibliolater?

3 Responses to “On Not Being A Bibliolater”

  1. Roger Green  

    I have no idea; there have so many iterations that I am wary of the definitive nature of the Word. http://www.rogerogreen.com/2012/04/03/l-is-for-lost-books-of-the-bible/

    That said, I like to look at the Jewish wise men who use the Word, but struggle with its meaning.

  2. K.L.B.  

    It seems to me that any written word is first symbolic. It matters not what the message may be. That is, there is always an idea to convey, an experience that is or has been lived, and here we are, using crippled words in our feeble attempt to define it, and share it with those whom have the ability to decrypt our scribblings.

    Our sense of community via the shared human experience is the solitary thing we have to convey. And yet, the uniqueness of our individual experiences separates us. What kinship, for example, has a man in the wilds of Borneo with Neil Armstrong? Other than the commonalities of physiology and a few broad generalities in societal experiences, there may be none.

    So then, how do we convey that we are the same, if indeed, we are?

    Indeed we are, yet the experiences of the two men couldn’t be more disparate.

    It is in a similar way with the written record of the Almighty’s intervention in the lives of our brethren.

    There is a broad sense of commonality, yet the specifics couldn’t be more disparate. Were we to take verbatim each and every line as concrete, we would be thought not merely absurdist, but possessing a significant degree of mental illness. Yet we think nothing of it when others say the Scripture is wholly allegorical, that it is merely a fictitious tale representative of something else entirely.

    However, somewhere in the midst of those two extremes of thought is where the truth resides.

  3. Christopher Andres Jimenez  

    Is like the difference between spirituality and fanatism. or the difference between water and vinager.

    at distance it looks the same
    but you get a big surprice