Bibliolatry: The Great Christian Sin

Many Christians worship their holy scriptures — they hold them in as high of a regard as they do their god.   Indeed, these Christians almost seem like their Bible is their god.  It is as if they have really expanded their holy Trinity into a ‘Quadranty’ (Father, Son, Holy Ghost and Bible).
This is Bibliolatry — oh the shame !  Is this not heresy?

Christians come in many flavors, and one thing that separates them from each other is what they count as evidence for what they believe.  In philosophy, the way we value evidence or what we consider reliable knowledge is called “epistemology”.  Here are the components of a Christian’s Epistemology:

  1. The Bible
    An anthology of books, by many different writers.  The anthology was chosen by political councils to enforce orthodox belief.
  2. Personal Revelation
    From their invisible friend Jesus, his Father or the Holy Ghost.
  3. Their Priest / Pastor / Parent / Favorite writers
    Who also get their knowledge from  from #1 & #2
  4. Reason
    Each flavor of Christianity weighs this very differently.

Christians who are Bibliolators hold the Bible as the highest source of knowledge.  Why?  Because the Bible tells them so. “Wait! Your kidding!”, you may say, But nope, here are an OT and a NT passage that Christians often quote in support their book’s authority:

The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy,
making wise the simple. — Psalm 19:7

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,  —2 Timothy 3:16

Jesus, a Jew, used the Jewish scriptures to preach his gospel. This passage is from both Mark and Matthew:

Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.
-Matthew 22:29  (cf. Mark 12:24)

buddy_jesusRemember, Jesus now lives in a fuzzy place as a potential invisible friend where he can talk to all true believers and help them to really see the truth of the Bible in ways you and I can’t.

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. –Luke 24:45

I use to be a believer, and I felt my eyes were open.  But even while they were open, my views changed.  And now that I don’t believe, much of the Bible seems like pure foolishness to me.  But the, Paul predicted that:

For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
— 1 Cor. 1:18

So if Bibliolatry doesn’t make sense to you, it is just further confirmation that you are foolish and damned.  Yeah, right !

But Christians are right to fear studying the Bible critically.  They are right to set up safeguards from questioning, doubting and valuing reason more highly. For if their Bible is called into question and it is the top of their epistemology as if almost a deity, then they know that if the bible falls, so does their god — for the bible is their god. So you can understand their fear.

For Bibliolators, critical thinking could destroy their world.

Note: Bart Ehrman, in his new book “Jesus Interrupted“, wrote that many early Christians were not such Bibliolators and many modern day liberal/progressive Christians are not either.


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

12 responses to “Bibliolatry: The Great Christian Sin

  1. Ian

    I’ve also come across folks who believe that, because the bible is the Word of God, and Jesus is the Word of God, that the bible is a manifestation of the second person of the trinity.

    It is a bona fide part of God.

    I can see the line of thinking, but it strikes me as a lot to hang on two different uses of the same word.

  2. I am a firm believer in God. And what makes me laugh is to see athiest with scriptures on their blogs.If you dont believe in God then why read the bible?Oops!Pull your pants up dude!

  3. Pseudonym

    I’m afraid, Sabio, you came a bit late to the party. The word you’re looking for is “bibliolatry” or “bibliolator”. Look it up, there’s even a Wikipedia entry.

    (Note: The word is a mix of Greek and Latin roots and therefore a bit linguistically dubious, but you can’t have everything.)

    It was coined by Christians to refer to a certain type of Biblical literalist. As you pointed out it doesn’t apply to Catholics, who are the majority. It also, for what it’s worth, doesn’t apply to the overwhelming majority of Eastern Orthodoxy, Anglicans and their offshoots (e.g. Episcopalians, Methodists, Salvation Army), or, indeed, the majority of mainline Protestants (Methodists, most Lutherans, most Presbyterians).

  4. @Pseudonym
    Wow, you are right. But I do like my word better — much easier to pronounce. Smile !
    Google hits for my version: 125 , but 61,300 for the right one !
    Thanx !
    I will go through the post and change the spelling
    from Bibolatry (Bible + Idolatry)
    to Bibliolatry (Bible + Idolatry).
    But you must admit, I made a good effort.

  5. If you dont believe in God then why read the bible?

    Actually the reason I read the Bible is that I am drawn somehow to some deep resonant truth in it. It moves me, even in my disbelief. It helps me to see my deep sinful nature and to realize that only by slaughtering another person could any of that be improved.
    Oooops ! Pull your pants up dude !

    Actually, you inspired me to write my next post, “Why Atheists Should Read the Bible”. But also, ghostwriter, as you can see in my author tab, I am a former believer.

  6. @ Ian — good point, thank you !

  7. Pseudonym

    @Ian: Not many people realise this, but the Bible never uses the phrase “word of God” to refer to any written text.

  8. @Pseudonym — I am sure you have more to share than that. Don’t make us pull teeth, please devulge.

    Psalm 30: 5 “Every word of God is flawless;
    he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

    So the Psalmist is talking about all the personal revelations everyone has? Wow, I know the TV evangelists think this is true.

    What is your point Pseudo? What is your stance? What does that mean to you?

  9. Pseudonym

    Sabio, I do apologise if I’m occasionally brief. I’m sure you’ll understand that I’m a busy person.

    I’d like to highlight one thing I said previously: The term “bibliolatry” was invented by Christians. Most Christians don’t “worship their Bible” in any meaningful sense.

    I’m sure that the kind of Baptist you used to hang around with did. And I’m sure that the version of Lutheranism that you had at age 13 could be interpreted that way. (Lutheranism isn’t really bibliolatrist, but they do emphasise “sola scriptura” because Lutheranism did start as a movement to clear out a thousand years of accumulated cruft and get back to basics. I went to a Lutheran school, BTW.)

    That’s Proverbs 30:5, BTW. The whole of Chapter 30 is a poem about the importance wisdom and the wisdom of God as opposed that of man. It would be an enormous stretch to say that the author (claimed to be “Agur” in the text) is trying to say anything about biblical inerrancy, or that this line of poetry should be excised as a “proof text”.

    I have a real problem with “proof texting” in general.

  10. So, how do you weigh the bible in your epistemological scale of levels of evidence?
    1) Infallible Word of God (OK, I see it is not that one)
    2) Pretty accurate accept for a few translation errors over the years.
    3) To the discerning eyes, truth is there but there are lots of errors and culturally bound things. So we pick and choose as we like.
    4) Totally man made (you sound like you don’t want this option)

    Do you weigh it different from the Koran or the Bhagavad Gita…?

    Just looking for your opinion — when you get a chance – no hurry.

  11. Pseudonym

    I agree with the first sentence of option #3, but not the second sentence.

    The Bible is an ancient text. Any attempt to understand it needs to start with that. People who work with ancient texts have developed a fairly good arsenal of tools for understanding them, and we should do the same when trying to understand the Bible.

    Once you understand it, then there’s the question of how to apply it. A commandment, for example, was delivered by in a certain place, at a certain time in history, in a certain cultural context, and usually in response to some specific misbehaviour. Once you understand all that, you then need to think hard about how one might apply that to your context, or even if it applies at all.

    This is not mere picking and choosing. It requires careful scholarship.

    As for the last question: I do weigh the Bible differently from the Koran or the Bhagavad Gita, because I’ve chosen to be a Christian. Were I a Muslim, I’d be doing the same to the Koran. I guess I’m lucky that Christanity has a (recent; the last 100 years or so) history of textual criticism, form criticism and higher criticism to go by, where Islam is only really starting this process now.

    I do think that there is truth in every major world religion for those who are willing to look, but I also think the religions need to get with the times.

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