Idolatry of the Bible

by Avery Foley on May 18, 2015; last featured June 6, 2015

It is becoming increasingly common to accuse those who hold to the inerrancy and infallibility of God’s Word of committing the sin of “bibliolatry,” otherwise known as “idolatry of the Bible.” Bibliolatry is defined as “excessive reverence for the Bible as literally interpreted.” Those who accept God’s clear words in Genesis as true history are often accused of worshipping the Bible and exalting it above Christ Himself. The president of American Baptist College recently applied this argument to those who believe that, according to Scripture, homosexual behavior is a sin.

American Baptist College, in Nashville, Tennessee, has allegedly been shrouded in controversy lately when the school invited Bishop Yvette Flunder, a California-based preacher and a lesbian “married” to her same-sex partner, to speak on her ministry to those with HIV and AIDS. Many pastors reportedly were upset by this acceptance of homosexual behavior and gay “marriage” on the part of the Baptist school. In response to the complaints, Dr. Forrest Harris, the president of the school, reportedly said that they would not reconsider the invitation and that he was “sad that people use religion and idolatry of the Bible to demoralize same-gender-loving people.” He reportedly defines “idolatry of the Bible” by saying, “When people say [the Bible] is synonymous with God and the truth . . . We can’t be guided and dictated by a first-century worldview.” So, according to Harris, viewing God’s Word as truth and submitting ourselves in obedience to it is idolatry!

Jesus Submitted to Scripture

In submitting to the authority of Scripture, we are doing no less than our Master, Jesus Christ, did. Throughout His earthy ministry He submitted in obedience to the Word of God even though He Himself is the Word (John 1:1).

When Jesus was tempted by Satan before beginning His public ministry, He responded with God’s Word. It was wrong for Him to turn the stones into bread, to jump from the highest place on the temple, and to bow down and worship Satan, because those are all contrary to Scripture. In response to Satan’s temptations, Jesus replied with Scripture (Matthew 4:1–11). He submitted Himself in obedience to God’s Word.

In obedience to God’s written word Jesus allowed Himself to be betrayed by Judas: “I do not speak concerning all of you. I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me’” (John 13:18). In permitting Himself to be betrayed by Judas, Jesus was submitting to God’s purpose and plan as recorded in Psalm 41:9.

He also went to the Cross out of obedience to God’s Word revealed by the prophets: “How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus? . . . But all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled’” (Matthew 26:54, 56). In submitting to His arrest and crucifixion, Jesus was fulfilling many Old Testament prophecies such as Isaiah 53 or Psalm 22.

While on the Cross, even while He was dying, Jesus was submitting Himself to the Scriptures: “After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, ‘I thirst!’” (John 19:28).

No one can accuse Christ of idolatry of the Bible or of anything else.

Since Christ was sinless (2 Corinthians 5:21), no one can accuse Christ of idolatry of the Bible or of anything else. And yet He clearly submitted Himself to God’s written Word. Since we are to follow Christ’s example (1 Peter 2:21), we too are to submit ourselves to the authoritative words of God “which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). As fallible, sinful human beings, we certainly can do no less than our Master when it comes to obedience to His God-breathed Word (2 Timothy 3:16).

“Haven’t You Read?”

Jesus’ accusers, the scribes and Pharisees, knew the Torah (the Old Testament) inside and out. They accepted God’s Word as being true and, yet, when they challenged Jesus He pointed them back to God’s Word by replying “have you not read?” or “it is written.” Over and over Christ used Scripture to show them the error of their ways as well as the errors in their doctrine. Why? Because He viewed the Scriptures as authoritative!

Psalm 119—the longest psalm in the Bible—is a beautiful psalm whose theme is exalting God’s Word. The psalmist clearly thought that God’s Word was true and authoritative and that it needed to be obeyed. He writes, “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:9–11); “Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97); and “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). We are to love, meditate on, and obey God’s Word.

Psalm 19 is similar. In this psalm, Scripture and God’s law are described as perfect, sure, right, pure, clean, true, altogether righteous, and sweeter than honey (Psalm 19:7–10). Elsewhere Scripture says, “You have magnified Your word above all Your name” (Psalm 138:2). Clearly these are the words of someone who loved and reverenced Scripture. This is not worshipping Scripture as if it were a god. It’s recognizing that all of the Bible is “God-breathed” and is therefore “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Just as the biblical writers loved God’s Word, so should we. Indeed, God’s words are so important that Deuteronomy 11:18 says, “Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.

God’s Word Has No Expiration Date

Dr. Harris, the president of the school embroiled in the controversy, apparently said, “We can’t be guided and dictated by a first-century worldview.” But Scripture does not have an expiration date! In the Gospels, Jesus says, “the Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35) and “heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matthew 24:35). When tempted by the devil, Jesus replied, “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). He also said, “it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail” (Luke 16:17). Paul writes about the Old Testament, “now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition” (1 Corinthians 10:11) and “for whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4). Clearly, the Scripture writers did not think that God’s Word expired after the first century. They, and consequently the true Author of Scripture, God, intended for Scripture to continue to remain true and authoritative for other generations.

Sin Is, Well, Sin!

God’s Word has no expiration date, and it is the only authority for morality.

Just as we need to submit to God’s Word in all areas, so do we need to in the area of sexual sin. Homosexuality, like many other sexual sins, is a sin and needs to be recognized as such (1 Corinthians 6:9). It goes against God’s original design for marriage given to us in Genesis when God created marriage (Genesis 1:27, 2:24). Marriage is not a man-made or even government-made institution. It’s a God-designed and God-ordained institution and, as such, only God has the right to decide what a marriage is and is not. And, according to Scripture, marriage is for one man and one woman. Just because it doesn’t square with our modern, man-made ideas about morality is irrelevant. God’s Word has no expiration date, and it is the only authority for morality because it was written by both the Lawgiver and the Judge of the universe. Because of our love for Him (1 John 5:3), we need to obey His Word in all areas, including this.

Casting Doubt on God’s Word

Sadly, many self-proclaimed Christians cast doubt on the authority of God’s Word. Rather than upholding God’s Word and treating it the way that Jesus did, with obedience to its commands, many popular Christian leaders “love the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43). These leaders argue that we can change, reinterpret, or just plain ignore what God’s Word teaches. They then slanderously accuse those who obey the Bible of “bibliolatry.” But those who obey and revere God’s Word are not being idolaters—they are being obedient worshippers of the Lord. But those who reject, re-interpret, and ignore God’s Word are employing the same lie that Satan used in the very beginning, “Did God really say . . . ?” (Genesis 3:1) to try and get others to doubt God’s Word along with them. As believers, we need to stand firmly on God’s Word, obeying its commands and precepts.


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