When does “Bible believing” become idolatry?

Holy_BibleI tend to cringe whenever I hear people identify themselves as “Bible believing” Christians…or  that they go to a “Bible believing church.”

I want to ask, just what exactly does that mean to you?

Now, before you start picking up stones, let me say that I believe that the Word of God is 100% inspired, God breathed and infallibly true…in the original language and manuscripts. Of course, there are some very minor human derivations in the translations. But I really don’t sweat those things.

The real rub comes in the interpretation of what we believe the Bible is saying. Everyone has an interpretative lens by which they view Scripture. And our hermeneutics and exegesis only mitigate this bias in a minor way. Just pick up a few (hundred) commentaries and you’ll soon find out!

And consider this….just about every kooky, odd ball, heterodoxical fringe form of Christianity uses the Bible to vehemently defend their position. And even within evangelical Christianity, Bible believing cessationists condemn those Bible believing Christians who believe that the gifts of the Spirit are still for today. One Bible believing part of the body accuses another part of the Bible believing body of being a cult or teaching false doctrine.

So we have to ask ourselves honestly, does saying you “believe the Bible” make your view biblical? And does it automatically mean that the opposing view isn’t? That they’re not just as committed to God’s living Word as you? If one actually cared to see the obvious, the conclusion would have to be that this is not the case.

The issue at hand is much more systemic than whether one is Bible believing or not.

You see, we tend to condemn or dismiss those who disagree with us, or anything we don’t understand.

Disagreement feeds our fear and so we must disconnect in order to feel secure. This is because we have not yet been made perfect in love, we still act like orphans rather than sons of our Father in heaven.

And…nobody likes being wrong.

But it’s problematic because from what I’ve seen there’s just about no one more divisive and critical, even to the point of demonizing other believers, than self-identified “Bible believing” Christians.

So, here are a few of my thoughts and observations about how “Bible believing” can become idolatry. These assume all agree that the Bible is the infallible Word of God…

When knowing the Bible becomes more important than knowing God

When our theology doesn’t lead us into transformational encounters with the God of our theology

When we relate to other Christians based on our doctrinal agreement rather than out of the love of the Father

When the diversity of the body of Christ becomes divisiveness over Scripture

When particular translations of the Bible are more important to us than Holy Spirit revelation of the Bible

When being doctrinally correct is more important than being loving (1 Cor.13:1-3)

When teaching is more important to us than the manifest presence of God

As Bill Johnson has said, “The church has been gathering together for decades around a sermon. Israel camped around the Presence.”

When our study of the Bible does not penetrate the thoughts and intents of our heart (Heb.4:12)

There’s probably more but this is a good start.

So, yes, we do need to read and believe the Word of God in order to know the objective truth that makes us free. But we also need to understand that this objective truth often becomes subjective to our bias and limited human understanding.

And if this Bible believing “truth” doesn’t lead to our transformation, and become incarnation–making us more like our heavenly Father, believing like Jesus, leading to greater intimacy and affection for Him and for other people, loving more unconditionally, even those who disagree with our understanding of Scripture–then we actually risk becoming more hard-hearted like the religious Pharisees in Jesus’ day. And not only is that ugly and repulsive to the world Jesus is trying to reach through us…that’s idolatry.

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About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 36 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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15 Responses to When does “Bible believing” become idolatry?

  1. Oh, you are preaching to the choir. Love and unity. Jesus and Paul. Amen.

  2. I enjoyed this and agree with your points. I wrote about this, with less discussion of doctrine myself in my blog. The title was called Bird Party. I come from a Protestant background with parents with various denominations, have a Roman Catholic husband, several other faiths in the family including Judaism and Muslim. I did. not have a personal relationship with Christ until late in my adulthood. I want to concentrate on knowing the Word of God so that I can hear Him.But to really know Him, I must have a Relationship, not a doctrine or a theology based on what my pastor or priests says it all means. Jesus said go out and make fishers of men….pretty sure He didn’t name any denominations….blessings on your efforts. 🙂

    • melwild says:

      Amen. I think God is in the diversity of the various streams in the body of Christ, just not the divisiveness. I was raised a Catholic myself. And I appreciate the passionate relationship with Jesus that some of the mystics had over their long history. But most of my adult years I’ve been an evangelical Charisbapticostal, I think. 🙂

      And, yes, the Word of God is critically important to our relationship with Him but it should never replace it.

      I will check out your post. Thanks for your comments and blessings to you too.

  3. Awesome post! Was just thinking something very similar just before I sat down to read your post. So many of us Christians have things around the wrong way. We try to do the religious rules of a Christian life: read our bible, do all of the Christian things etc, we look good on the outside and sprout the ‘right’ stuff, but we don’t have intimacy with God and others. We hear it preached from our pulpits, we speak it out of our mouths: live a godly life, not in the flesh, do this, do that. But our focus is wrong! It’s on rules and not on relationship, it’s on the how, not on the why. Our focus should be the other way round, focusing on having a love relationship with God and others. When we read our bible and desire to live a life (a righteous life) that is pleasing it should be because of the why. Because we want an intimate relationship with God, and don’t want anything to inhibit this relationship.

    • melwild says:

      Amen. We’re definitely tracking here. It’s faith working through love, not rules (Gal.5:6). I wrote awhile back that we seem to have the proverbial cart before the horse in our common view of Christian living, putting the rules and doctrine ahead of our relationship with Him. I remember having a life-changing encounter with Jesus when I got saved, then I promptly set out to try and “behave” like a Christian in my own strength. How absurd is that! I’m so glad I got free. It’s really an Old Testament version of Christianity when you think about it, living by the “should do’s” and “don’t do’s” instead of out of the overflow of His love and grace empowering our lives. I guess erecting a fence around us and being told what to do is more familiar and comfortable to us than being managed by the Holy Spirit. That’s scary! 🙂

      Thanks for your great insights here. Blessings.

  4. I so totally agree with you. It has always really bothered me that some pastors here say KJV or your are going to Hell. I have never understood that. To me, it is all about the relationship we have and deepen with the LORD. The Bible draws us nearer but you are correct, we can’t make it our idol. Great post dear brother! 🙂

    • melwild says:

      Yes, I agree. And I’m really bothered by any leader who would says that you’re going to hell for ANY reason other than not believing in the finished work of Christ. That is irresponsible and manipulation of the worst kind. It’s works-righteousness, based in fear, that puts people into religious bondage which Paul called “another gospel.” (Gal.1:6-9)

      Now, there are better translations than others, but all have minor mistakes. Some are based on different manuscripts so they don’t read exactly the same. The KJV has some mistakes but they are well known. It’s a very reliable translation. But unless you’re reading in the original language it was written in, from the original manuscripts, you are dealing with something that is less than perfect. Nonetheless, when the Bible isn’t an idol to you, and not more important than having a growing relationship with Jesus, based in love, that’s okay. 🙂

      The only thing that ever matters is what those words are doing in your heart. Are they making you more like Jesus, and are you growing in a greater capacity to receive the Father’s love and give it away to others. Otherwise, we’re no better than the Pharisees.

      I appreciate your comments as always, dear sister! 🙂 Blessings.

  5. I find that it’s a difference between “Bible-agreeing” Christians, and “Bible-believing” ones.

    The agreers (made the word up!) *agree* that God wrote the book, and they can quote long passages from it to prove that they agree with its words.

    The believers, on the other hand, *act* as if they believe it’s true…and their transforming lives prove it.

    I can *agree* that the Bible says to love my neighbor…while treating him/her with contempt.

    I can *believe* that the Bible says to love them…and do so even when I don’t want to .

    Additionally, the agreers have a relationship with book knowledge, while the believers have a relationship with the Author of the Book!

    Hey, you quote Bill Johnson often. Do you get your info from his books/online messages? Or from his church (which is in my town)?

    \o/

    PS I greatly enjoy your posts. They are well-written, inspiring, and encouraging. I learn something new every time I read. Thanks for your ministry to this sister!

    • melwild says:

      Thanks. I really like what you bring out on the difference between the “agreers” and the “believers.” Great points! I wrote before that you can agree with the Bible but not necessarily believe the Bible.

      On Bill Johnson, first of all, he’s about the most quotable person you could ever want. 🙂 He must have thousands of profound one-liners!

      He, along with people like Mike Bickle of IHOP, were an influence on my life around 2007 and after, through books and messages. Some of my life-changing encounters with the Father’s love came through Bill Johnson’s ministry and other’s associated with him. I may talk about that later sometime. I’m also a member of the Global Legacy network of churches so I see people associated with Bethel pretty regularly. My friend, Mark Hendrickson (who I re-blogged today) has kids on the worship team there (three on the “Loft” videos!). We also have a few students from our ministry school living in Redding now; one is actually a student at BSSM. I believe Bill Johnson is an elder statesman articulating what God is doing in this hour as He is waking up His bride to her true identity and purpose. He’s also hated by a lot of religious, witch-hunting Christians, which says a lot. 🙂

      Thanks for you comments about my writing. I’m using this blog to process my thoughts for a possible book. So I really appreciate that and you! You are a blessing. 🙂

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