Friday, January 4, 2013

Bibliolatry and Dogma

"A Bible that's falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn't."    
                                                                                         -Charles H. Spurgeon

When it comes to the Bible, the so-called “WORD OF GOD”, let’s be completely honest, either God has spoken or He hasn’t. The Bible is either God’s inspired Word or man’s invented word. If the Bible is not God’s Word then it has no real ultimate authority over our lives and all of its claims or demands are negotiable at best. It may be a valuable book with historical significance but nothing more. However, if the Bible is God’s Word then it claims to contain God’s thoughts or His stance on particular issues and subjects. If there is a God and that God has given His Word on any particular topic then that word must obviously have ultimate authority and cannot be negotiable. You can disagree and argue with His view on anything, but you have no real authority to oppose Him, seeing that He alone has created all things, thus making Him the final Authority over the Universe. Doesn’t a creator or designer of a product know best how that product is to be used? Aren’t they the final authority on the very thing they themselves designed? I would say “yes.” And so, if God has spoken directly regarding Himself, man and the nature of the world then His word is, and must be the standard by which we should interpret reality. Since God has created reality then His word is the true interpretation of reality, and we can take His word “dogmatically.” When I say "dogmatically" I mean that we can hold God's view unapologetically as the final word and authority. I recognize it is not politically or culturally correct to be "dogmatic" about anything these days. But if God, the Creator of everything has spoken about anything, then He is making a dogmatic and authoritative claim about truth and reality. As I said, we can disagree, but we are disagreeing with the One who made all things, including us, and the very minds we’re using to disagree with Him. Now, if God has not spoken or given us His word about something then certainly we are free to reason through the issues and come to the best conclusions given the information we acquire. But I suggest that we interpret the “grey” areas in light of the black and white areas, or the “dogmatic” areas in which God has already spoken clearly.

I would never say that we should strive to be rigidly dogmatic about every aspect of our lives, but we should be thoughtfully dogmatic about the things that are most important in life, and God has spoken directly and clearly about the things that He considers to be most important. These are “non-negotiables.” I actually have God’s authority to agree with Him. And if agreeing with God and His Word revealed in the Bible puts me at odds with others or even the whole world, then I still have God’s favor, blessing and approval. I think Noah in the Old Testament is a perfect example of a man who dogmatically agreed with God while the rest of the world dogmatically disagreed with God.

Now some people say that those who consult what the Bible says about every little thing and obey its teachings meticulously are guilty of "bibliolatry," or worshipping the Bible. They say that you're setting up the Bible as an “idol” to be worshiped, because you're so over-zealously committed to its teachings and you just won't compromise. They’ll say things like, “You’re too dogmatic!” or “You don’t have to take everything in the Bible so seriously” or “God’s bigger than a book and you don’t have to be so close minded and strict about following the Bible,” or “You’re a slave to that Book because you’re not free to believe something outside of the Bible,” and on and on... But to take the Bible seriously as God’s Word and hold fast to His clear teaching on particular subjects is not “bibliolatry” or the worship of the Bible, but rather it is taking God at His word, believing His word and trusting in His word. This is what the Bible and Jesus Himself called us to. As Christians, disciples and seekers we are to pursue God’s truth and live it no matter what the cost. We are called to know and trust and obey God’s Word, not merely “know it” or “know about it.” In our culture anymore it’s an intellectual crime just to simply trust God and take Him at His word. It can’t be that easy. He can’t be that trustworthy...can He?

Jesus was dogmatic. He was dogmatic about the character and nature of God, the sinful condition of mankind and God’s divine plan of salvation. Jesus was unapologetically dogmatic. He calls everyone to be dogmatic regarding those things, and we do ourselves and others good to follow His lead in regard to doctrine and duty. When tempted by the devil Jesus used God’s Word to overcome him. When Jesus was tested by Pharisees and Scribes and skeptics He referred to God’s Word as the final authority. When questioned about everything from marriage to divorce, the afterlife or Sabbath day Jesus Christ often quoted Scripture as the final authority on all matters. Jesus knew the Word of God, studied the Word of God, believed the Word of God, lived the Word of God, shared the Word of God, taught the Word of God and finally He commanded His disciples to follow His example. It couldn’t be clearer; Jesus’ followers are to live like Jesus did. And we see this in the rest of the New Testament. After the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, His followers, the Apostles and disciples are recorded as those who believed the entire Old Testament Scriptures as the Word of God, and Jesus’ teachings as the Word of God. They not only lived out their faith in the Bible, but they quoted it often and taught others to believe it, read it, teach it, preach it, live it and grow in it.

The prophets of the Old Testament knew the power in believing, living and teaching the word of God. Jesus and the Apostles knew that an essential component to being an effective minister of God and a real threat to the devil, sin and evil of this world was to be immersed in a full understanding of God’s Word and intentionally live it out.

It is then no surprise that from the Garden until glory the greatest assault on God, the Kingdom of God, the ministry of the saints, and the personal lives of individual Christians has been and will always be to attack the Word of God. These attacks come in a variety of forms; reject the Bible, resist the Bible, or reduce the Bible to something less than the authoritative Word of God.

How do we confront these attacks? Very simple. Read the Bible, believe the Bible, live the Bible, teach the Bible, preach the Bible and pass on to the next generation a belief and behavior that reflects the power of a Bible that is the Authoritative Word of God. It just might be time to sick the dogma on Satan’s lies and compromise.

“The entirety of Your Word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.”      -Psalm 119:160

“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; BUT his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in his law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper. The ungodly are not so but are like the chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the LORD knows the way of the righteous but the way of the ungodly will perish.”            -Psalm 1

Bibliolatry and Dogma?