A High Regard for Scripture is Not Bibliolatry

A High Regard for Scripture is Not Bibliolatry February 14, 2017

There generally seems to be confusion when I have made the claim that some readers are denying the authority of the scriptures when they disagree on matters of orthodoxy (i.e. Trinitarian teaching, homosexuality, women pastors, and even pastoral blunders). Most will come back with a pithy reply that I am guilty of reductionism or even more simply, that I have a high level of arrogance in the confidence placed in my interpretive abilities. Others will make the charge that I am guilty of Bibliolatry, elevating the scriptures to a status that was never intended, usually because they sense the scriptures are merely the product of a less intellectually rigorous people.

Simply defined, Bibliolatry is an excessive adherence to a literal hermeneutic – but most people aren’t using it in this manner. It is meant to be a pejorative term to denote that I am indeed worshiping the Bible rather than the God of the Bible (Bible + Idolatry = Bibliolatry). The term Bibliolatry is designed to be a ploy, or buzzword, to reject the Bible rather than actually deal with the substance of what the text dictates, and the tracks carrying this train are built upon the foundations of denying the inspiration, clarity, sufficiency, and authority of the Bible.

Try as some might to say this is idol worship, the reality is that I follow a Protestant distinctive: scripture is the norma normans non normata, or more plainly, it is the norm that norms which cannot be normed. In other words, scripture is the final authority, even when I don’t initially like where that conclusion takes me in my studies. I don’t get to impose what I like upon the text; the text imposes upon my own faulty thinking and brings me into submission to it rather than the latter. If I am to study the scriptures properly, I must allow the text to speak for itself rather than make it say what I’d like it to say.

This means that ultimately, the scriptures are the authoritative means by which we develop a worldview and come to understand our culture through – not the other way around. The scriptures speak into cultural issues of the day, lending either credibility or incredibility to them. The scriptures determine morality and ethics, what is to be sanctioned, and what is to be practiced. The scriptures determine what is sinful and what is not – and it makes no qualms doing so.

The scriptures bring all ideologies, worldviews, and thought processes under submission and conform them to God’s own thoughts, placing one’s own thoughts (or the culturally sanctioned ideals) to secondary importance, and these respective processes are often in opposition to the scriptures. Most importantly though, the scriptures determine who God is and how He is to be worshipped and man has no freedom to treat this frivolously, and yet this is precisely what so many do.

Often, it is these same people would accuse me of bibliolatry, committing the ultimate heresy of placing the scriptures on a pedestal as “the fourth member of the Trinity.” However, I am going to suggest that what most people label “bibliolatry” is simply a pejorative expression that masks one’s biblical illiteracy or unwillingness to submit to the scripture’s teaching on some matters. In a more plain sense, those willing to throw around such a term are often the same who would adopt post-modernism or relativism when it comes to understanding of the scriptures, and subsequently, the authority of the scriptures is severely undercut.

Thus, they view the scriptures as ambiguous, unclear, subjective, and uninspired, and as a result, they are then free and clear in being able to reject what they will. This applies to the religious and the non-religious, for both have a set of particular blinders on that obstruct the clear meaning of the text. Part of this is due to the nature of sin, being that those in darkness love remaining in darkness, yet there are some subtleties and nuances particular to the individual. More clearly, subjectivism and relativism are the guiding hermeneutical principles, as they relate their own experience and understanding upon the text. The three dollar word for this is eisegesis.

Lest I am guilty of assuming I am incapable of some interpretive blind spots, I am the first to admit that we all have certain predispositions and biases that we come to study the text through. Quite naturally, I am going to see some things through Western eyes that my sub-Saharan brothers and sisters will see differently than I – yet again, scripture is the norm that norms, not our respective biases.

When I studied the scriptures as an atheist, my literary background forced me to reconcile with just how much I wanted to take certain genres out of their genre and read my atheistic views into the text. I had to let the scriptures be the norm that norms, meaning that I had to seek to the best of my abilities to let the text speak for itself. Scripture has one, clear, unambiguous meaning. Passages may have many applications, but they always have one intended meaning. The reader is obligated to draw this meaning out and submit themselves to it. The three dollar word for this is exegesis.

So why then would I be so bold to say that many are guilty of committing eisegesis on things like homosexuality, women pastors, the Trinity, the importance of the Virgin birth, etc.? Quite simply, for many, scripture is not the norm that norms which cannot be normed. There is a particular effort on their end to seek to “norm” the scriptures with the sentiments of a world opposed to God. Often enough, these arguments are peppered with enough bible verses shrouded in obscurity to cast aspersions on the clarity of the Bible, only to effectively save face. In a manner similar to Peter Enns, the only sin they see is the sin of certainty.

If you are to claim Christ, there is no other means by which you can effectively know the God that is. Many others have and will continue to deny the authority of the scriptures, whether by placing authority upon tradition, obscuring the text, seeking to find revelation of God elsewhere, and so forth. In the end, to them, the scriptures are not a sufficient and objective means to know God. To them, the scriptures are not the norm that norms all other things. Interestingly, the means by which we know of God’s redemptive plan from Genesis to Revelation, is due to there being a Genesis through Revelation. We know the early church was a literary church inasmuch as they were an auditory church; the contents of what was taught and heard in the early church is what we have today.

The aim of the piece is not to suggest that God could not, nor has not, used other means to reveal Himself to people throughout the ages – but simply that the scriptures are the primary means we know God and He has given us them for our benefit. Because this is the case, the scriptures are to be the norm that norms all other things. We are to submit ourselves to the teaching of the scriptures, understanding our rightful place under the authority of this God-given revelation. For those who claim Christ, it shouldn’t be a shocking thing that they submit themselves to the text, for Christ Himself believed this to be necessary.

Christ regularly demonstrated His wealth of knowledge in the scriptures by quoting it at length as He expounded upon the meaning (Luke 18:20; Mark 7:9-13; Matt. 7:12), denounced others for not truly knowing the scriptures because they did not know Christ (Matt 22:29; Mark 12:24), denounced taking away from or adding to it (Mark 7:1-12; Matt. 25:31), He did not do anything of His own accord, but submitted Himself to the Father’s will and the fulfillment of biblical prophecy (John 5:19, 6:38-39; Matt. 26:56), He astonished the religious leaders of His own day who knew He did not have formal training by His knowledge of the scriptures (Jn. 7:15), and He also maintained that the scriptures contained the same authority as His own spoken words, serving as a greater witness to the truth than His miraculous deeds, in bringing people to faith and obedience (Luke 16:29-31).

While one can have a deep affection for theology and the scriptures – yet miss the grand narrative of scripture, a high regard for the inerrancy, sufficiency, clarity, and necessity to ground one’s beliefs in them does not equate with the oft claimed bibliolatry. Instead, it displays a willingness to stand corrected by the text rather than seek to correct the text; it places man in his rightful place under the authority of divinely inspired, God-breathed revelation. Perhaps the idea here is more summarily presented by Johann Albrecht Bengel who wrote, “Apply yourself wholly to the text; apply the text wholly to yourself.”

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  • Ryan Dabian

    I’m curious. What are these “atheistic views” that you brought when reading the scripture?
    It didn’t mean anything when I read the sentence out loud.

    • Gilsongraybert

      Understandable. What I meant by this is that I approached the text with the framework and predispositions of an atheist, meaning quite naturally, everything was under the guise that the simplest answer was the best (Occam’s razor). Nothing could be demonstrably proven, therefore, it was highly likely that everything was simply made up.

      I aligned with secular humanism at the time, so the idea of sin was altogether absurd (as was then the idea of redemption). It was even more absurd to me at that point when I saw things like the doctrine of the Trinity. But beyond that, the idea of a benevolent, all-knowing God, yet the reality that is the problem of suffering and pain, was a philosophical paradox in my estimation. Miracles, at best and only with some, could be natural phenomena – but were likely literary tropes used to illustrate the point or further bolster Christ’s claims to divinity.

      God was just another concocted being like in any other religion I studied; I misread texts simply because I already had rejected the core tenets. There was no real understanding of the difference between casuistic and apodictic laws, I made allegory of historical narrative, etc., to be able to find what I believed to be a more rational approach. The idea that man wrote the Bible, yet it was somehow supposed to be inspired, seemed just as asinine as the rest of these things, if not more so, since I already rejected nearly everything in the text at that point.

      More clearly, I already had my mind made up on how the text was false, so rather than reading it at face value or seeking to try and understand what the text was saying, I inserted all sorts of meaning that simply wasn’t there. Ultimately, I saw the Bible as just another means by which people sought to bring purpose and comfort to their lives because the logical conclusion of embracing a worldview (naturalism) without anything beyond this life is nihilism. Death is a reality that if we are all honest, scares the crap out of most people at one point or another – and I saw this as another coping mechanism to escape the reality of going into non-existence.

      I don’t speak for all atheists in my prior views and/or experiences, but there are a set of common beliefs at play that people can understand and assume when you say, “atheistic views.”

      • Ryan Dabian

        I see what you mean, in a way.
        I would like to point out that no, there can be no assumption made when mentioning “atheistic views” other than a lack of belief in deities. Besides that characteristic, all atheist can differ in any topic.

        While we’re on the topic. How did your disbelief in Christianity gradually led you into being an evangelical christian?

        You mentioned fear and although I disagree with your coupling of naturalism with nihilism, I can see why people find it attractive (heaven), but I can also relate to a lot of people that think that it is just a lovely fantasy.

        • Gilsongraybert

          Sorry for the delay in responding; unfortunately I got tied up with some other things but I don’t want to blow you off. And yeah, I completely get that – I am not trying to broad-brush atheism and say everyone who holds to the core tenet of rejecting God holds all of those other things, there are many who would reject nihilism, naturalism, etc., for various reasons.

          Honestly, I read the bible to disprove it. I enjoyed being the guy who would grab hold of Christians who didn’t know a whole lot about the scriptures and stump them because the whole thing was asinine to me. I figured the best way to do so was to go directly to the source instead of reading some of my favorite authors. The more I read the bible, the more things simply started to click, so to speak, but also the more I saw the bible wasn’t saying what many wanted to make it say. At first the allure of heaven was nothing that really baited me (and this was for many years) – it only seemed plausible to enjoy once Christ was seen for who He was.

          The language I would describe it in today is that the Spirit literally opened my eyes to wrestle with the claims of scripture and inevitably accept them. The text makes claims that one must either reject or accept; it doesn’t make room for one to hold to what they want out of it, simply because it is a cohesive literary unit. In that sense, it really is a literary masterpiece, but it also makes it so that one can’t simply leave it at that and move on. It continually positions the reader to grapple with the claims therein.

  • Tianzhu

    The denomination profiles in the ARDA (Association of Religion Data Archives) show a definite correlation between conservatism (both theological and political) and the reading of the Bible outside of church. For example, in the conservative Assemblies of God, 76.2% “read scripture outside of religious services at least once a week,” whereas in the very liberal United Church of Christ it’s 20.3%. For the Episcopalians (liberal), it’s 22%, for the Southern Baptists (conservative), 58.3%. Portions of the Bible are read aloud in all Christian worship services, of course, but in the more conservative churches, the ones that (to use the well-worn phrase) emphasize a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, there’s more commitment to reading the Bible on one’s own time. Of course, you can be a rotten person and know the Bible well, and, conversely, you can be a good person and be ignorant of the Bible – as every Christian is aware, because reading the Bible is worthless unless it is applied to life. But one’s positions on social issues such as abortion, homosexual “marriage,” and other lifestyle issues are definitely more conservative the more the person reads the Bible on his own time.

  • Grayson, I think you fleshed the tension out well. There are those Bible worshipers who only use hermeneutics and no exegesis. With that said, it can go both ways on the theological spectrum. I’ve found the Wesley Quadrilateral helpful.

  • You can use as many $3 words that you like, this does not show your accuracy. You state even in the title the word scripture and then quote Jesus. However you are using a very broad brush to include under the banner “Scripture” all the bible, especially when you use Jesus as a reference. Sure it is all scripture but it is not all the scripture Jesus referred to as it was not written. The fact that the new testament is there is due to the council of Rome. If we include this then do we also include the catholic books are they or are they not inspired. Also to state that we need it to have it to know God is against what Jesus actually taught. He stated that the comforter would teach us all things, and remind us of the things Jesus said. He never said that a scribe who would somewhat inaccurately and with a bias to his own opinion record the events and that that written record would teach us all things.

    Sure the bible is a great resource to understand how men grew and understood God but that is all it is, to say it is more is actually against what Jesus showed us.

    Over a six year period in the USA the number of people that believed in creationism went from 47% to 36%, that is over 50million people. Why? I think largely in part because of our arrogance in making the bible something that it is not. Cognitive dissonance can make it say anything we want it to say. Something you have done here by intellectual manipulating.

    Jesus said that obedience to His commands would bring knowledge. However most of the church would have no idea of what you speak in this blog. That is the beauty of truth, it is always easy to understand by all that want it. And Jesus said the commands would bring knowledge. I think you have confused this word knowledge with theological understanding but it is not. It is directly referring to experience. After reading your last article I realise you place little value on experience or relationship with the comforter and rather seek a literal knowledge of a theological image that you see as God, sadly like most Americans as the errors manifest our God dissipates and we loose faith. Sure you might have a high IQ with lots of amazing words but you have forgot about us dummies, thankfully the comforter never will.

    More than ever I am convinced that you perceive the bible as the fourth part of God. You obviously think you know truth, but have you ever experienced truth, that is the real hard question we have to start asking ourselves. The only way to turn the flood away from God is to demonstrate that we know him. You can have all the knowledge you want and never know Him. Bart Ehrman is a great example, an amazing theologian yet an atheist, mind you one who I have a lot of respect for.

    If it is not real and manifest in our lives then it is just another fairy tale.

    • demonstrate that we know him”
      With all due respect, you haven’t convinced me that you, in fact, know Him.

      • I assume from your comment that you believe we can demonstrate this through what we write in a comments section.

        I wonder then how you are coping with all the fake news and warped media that is present now days. Then again, if someone does believe the bible is the literal ‘Word of God’ I suppose believing these things and judging someones experience by a comment they make to a blog is not a big stretch.

        I am however more than happy to reveal more of myself to you and am open to a friendship should you so wish.

  • Roger Leitch

    I am all for respecting the bible.
    The problem I have is with those who take the version that they have in thier hands and use it as a tool to condemn others.

    It was not written in our language or the context of our culture.

    Most of us do not know what it is like to live under the oppressive rule of the roman empire or the religious system of laws, festivals and sacrifices of the time.

    There are phrases and references used that simply do not relate to our culture, so as you rightly say we need to discern the message and not merely apply the words as translated.

    I have issue with your use of inerrant – did you actually mean infallible?
    Inerrant implies every single word is accurate – impossible and illogical given how many translations we have.
    Infallible means that it is truly inspired and that through it God speaks and transforms lives.

    It’s a big subject – too much for a blog or a comment.

  • LiteralStrawMan

    I tried reading this with an open mind, but I generally shut down after someone pulls out complementarianism in the “I don’t think women should be pastors” line of thinking; I’m like, are we still talking about this?

    • OJJegede

      Me too

  • Wheezy1952

    A comment from a “practicing” Christian who is not a theologian or Bible scholar.

    Don’t hold me to the actual numbers, but it seems that we have hundreds of Christian denominations, thousands of Bible translations in multiple languages, millions of books, study guides, books, commentaries, explanations, and interpretations, with few identical.

    The Bible was written by humans, collected by humans, the Books chosen by humans, translated by humans, transcribed by humans, explained by humans, and eventually distributed to the masses by humans.

    And, as humans, we are incapable of “knowing” that “The Bible”, however you choose or define it, is divinely inspired or inerrant, in whole or in part.

    That’s a matter of belief, and I think it is important that I, as a human, do not assume that my belief is the right and only one.

    And my belief is that it is inspired, that it is certainly not literal, that it is obviously open to multiple interpretations, that it is not a science book, that it is not to be cherrypicked to judge people we don’t like, and that the focus should be on me trying to lead a life that follows Jesus’ example of love for others.

    • tfoxsail

      Great response. You hit the nail right on the head. We fall into dangerous territory when being a Christian is defined by how one views the Bible. I am a Christian, but feel the same as you do about the Bible. I have, however, been told by some of my friends and family who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible that my views on it are misguided. My response? Who cares, as long as I do the following:

      “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

      • Wheezy1952

        Thank you so much.

    • Gilsongraybert

      Despite what you say in the beginning here, you are still a theologian in your own right. In a very simple way, we all are (we make theological claims, and you’ve laid out your argument following that initial assertion). In the end, the point is simply that the scriptures have a proper way to be understood – and we have to reconcile with that. When I make a statement, the same holds true (that there is a proper way to understand it); this doesn’t make every interpretation of that statement valid.

      • Wheezy1952

        Thanks for your response.

        “Proper” is the difficult word for me. As I attempted to point out, there are probably infinite possible interpretations, big and small, of this collection of books we call the Bible.

        I have a right to choose the proper interpretation for my own life as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else, but I am very wary of telling someone else that my understanding is absolutely the proper understanding for you.

        Absolutism by fallible humans citing the Bible can cause, and has caused, a lot of problems throughout history.

        I’m much more trusting of theologians and pastors who admit that there are things in the Bible that they don’t understand, or just don’t make sense, or that may have made some sense thousands of years ago, like some of the dietary and cleanliness requirements, but don’t make sense today … or that were declared in the patriarchal society of the time that we no longer believe is just.

        And it is my personal opinion that, if God wanted a document that gave us insight into God’s mind and instructions for living, God could have come up with something infinitely more clear and simple.

        • Gilsongraybert

          My point here was not to say that I understand every single thing within the scriptures, but that God has given an intended way to understand any given text. The difficulties presented in our day and age are owing largely to a few things, but one of them is the tendency to lean toward subjectivism and relativistic truth claims. In the end, we do well to acknowledge our own limitations, but we ought not present it as if our limitations are the text’s. The difficulty I find is that you are quite willing to make a personal opinion, so as to say that God has shrouded us in obscurity and not given us a means to understand Him (nor understand how we might live) – yet the scriptures say that this same God is not a God of confusion. Sadly, you are making the God who has revealed Himself to be the “Unknown god” whom the Athenians built an alter to – except in this scenario, you’re acting as is Paul (and the other writers of the scriptures) did not make Him known. What would make this God worthy to follow if He cannot even be known?

          • Wheezy1952

            Do you take into consideration the context of the times in which the biblical texts were written, the customs of the time, the knowledge of science, medicine, the world outside that small section in the Middle East, etc?
            For one example, do you believe that women today should play the same role in families, society, government, education, … as they did in Biblical times?
            In other words, if God had waited until the 21st century to send His Son, would Jesus have a few female disciples?
            Or is that the relativism that you condemn?

          • Gilsongraybert

            To answer your question, yes, I believe women should have the same role as they have had in biblical times – but you’re acting as if they’ve been suppressed or subjugated in some manner, when the reality is that is far from the truth. And no, Christ would not have female disciples today. He routinely eschewed social and religious convention without any care. You really think He would have been embarrassed in some capacity to have female disciples if that was intended? I mean, what a small and insignificant controversy comparatively to His claims to divinity!

            When I do exegesis for sermon prep or classwork, yes, I do consider history – yet the grammatical function ultimately dictates the interpretation because words and clauses are used in specific ways. Interestingly, I don’t believe biblical truth to be limited strictly to a place and time; Christ maintained that those who are His shall worship in Spirit and in truth and not be limited in a spatial or temporal manner. The writer of Hebrews maintains that Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and several of the Psalmists maintain that the word of the Lord endures forever and is unchanging.

            What stops you from using that line of reasoning to abandon Christ?

            More clearly, what actually gives you assurance that He went to the cross to pay for your sins, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven – so that you (today) can know salvation?

            What stops that from being limited to the early church?

            You will either come to submit to the claims the text makes, or you will subjectively deduce what you think is right. Currently, you are subjectively making decisions on the text that have no true foundation in the text, but it seems as if you are doing so without much thought besides, “I think that everything can be interpreted in multiple ways.” That is patently and demonstrably false; there is one correct interpretation, and there can be many applications. To say that the text can be interpreted in many ways and each interpretation is equally true, is simply false. Two contradictory things cannot simultaneously be true.

            Again, God is not a God of confusion – will you take Him at His word when He says that?

          • Wheezy1952

            “The writer of Hebrews maintains that Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever”. You are using the Bible as evidence for validity of the Bible.

            And you are accusing me of “abandoning Christ”, an accusation I would respectfully suggest that you are not qualified to make.

            So we have a fundamental disagreement. I believe that human beings, including Christians, can learn and grow, not stay stuck in the societal mores and the “sun revolves around the earth” science of an ancient time.

            And I think a lot of (hopefully almost all) Christians would disagree with your idea that women were not “suppressed or subjugated” in Biblical times.

            One example I think of regarding the Biblical status of women is in the story of Job. God allows Satan (or whoever He was arguing with) to kill Job’s wife and family (a house collapsing on them, if I recall correctly). Then, after Job passes the test, he is ‘made whole’ again, rewarded by more crops and animals than he had before, and a new wife and children (I think the story even implied ‘better looking’ children). But the original wife and children are still dead, innocent and forgotten victims of a celestial game. I would call that ‘subjugation’.

            God may not be a “God of confusion”, but there is a lot of confusion in the Bible if you read it objectively.

            Another major example – In Genesis God supposedly got disgusted with his human creation and decided to slaughter all but a chosen few – men, women, children, infants – in one of the most horrible ways possible. I learned about the Flood in Sunday School, with the positive and happy images of the dove and renewal and sunlight replacing the clouds.

            Now, after reading the Bible again, I can’t help but picture a young woman desperately trying to hold her child’s head above the raging water, and the Ark surrounded by thousands of decaying bodies after the water receded.

            Of course these are not literal stories, but intended to teach a lesson and keep people in line in olden times in terms that they could understand. So I don’t believe that God really did this.

            Accuse me of ‘not using much thought’ if you wish. But there is quite a bit in the Bible that I would classify as ‘confusing’.

            So we’ll have to agree to disagree, and I won’t ask my church to fire our fine female pastors, telling the Church Council “The Bible Says It, I Believe It, That Settles It”.

          • Gilsongraybert

            I made no accusations of you abandoning Christ; I made the assertion that you ought to hold each portion of the scriptures in consistent skepticism based on your reasoning, including the gospel narrative. If you held your logic consistently, you would have no real grounds to suggest that the gospel narrative is true.

  • Grayson – I applaud your effort here, but I willingly admit I have come full circle from your story of atheism to belief to a more humble understanding of faith as being what you referred to in your “atheist” stage – as human attempts to make sense of a seemingly senseless world.

    In your studies, you likely have encountered (or certainly will at some point) the term “theology from above” and “theology from below.” The “theology from above” holds to a high view of revelation (i.e., God speaks to us, because we cannot otherwise know anything of God), while the “theology from below” holds to a more “humanistic” view of revelation (i.e., since humans are the vehicles of writing scripture, scripture holds flaws of its human origins – this view is often accused of being an “anthropological” view of theology).

    I would argue for an existentialist view that we cannot see theology as anything but “from below,” for that is our position – we are here, not in heaven, and whatever we report scriptures to be reflects our POV as humans living in this world. We may choose to believe that scriptures are given by God, but this in an unprovable assertion – it is untestable. What changes us is the decision itself – we become the product of our decisions, and our faith is one such decision.

    To see the Bible as an either/or paradigm is to miss its point – as the Buddhist saying goes, the finger pointing at the moon is not the moon. As the theologian Karl Barth put it, the Bible points to the Word, which is Jesus Christ. The Bible is a witness; no more, no less. While we refer to it as the authority for the rule of faith, its larger themes are justice and fleeing idolatry, which were the reputed causes of the Babylonian captivity of Judah. Jesus stands squarely in this prophetic tradition with his teachings in the Sermon on the Mount.

    One encounters problems with science when one tries to take every verse in the Bible at face value. Even John Calvin said that “all truth is God’s truth,” including truths determined scientifically (such as the age of the Earth, etc.). To Calvin, the Bible addresses to the truth of salvation, not all of truth itself. To Origen, the Church Father, truths of salvation are often metaphorical, not literal.

    Those who take the Bible absolutely literally would be compelled to eschew pursuing monetary profit, and would do well to embrace communism, as this was the model of the early Church in the book of Acts. Many theologically conservative Christians take exception to this, but it is biblical.

    Good luck with your studies. Remember Apostle Paul’s advice to the Corinthians: “We know in part and we prophecy in part, but when to complete comes, the incomplete will be done away.”

    • Caspian

      Lot’s of good stuff in this comment. Thanks Jeff.

    • Jeffrey Courter wrote:”

      Those who take the Bible absolutely literally would be compelled to
      eschew pursuing monetary profit, and would do well to embrace communism,
      as this was the model of the early Church in the book of Acts. Many
      theologically conservative Christians take exception to this, but it is
      The “early church in the book of Acts” expected to go with Christ into the millennium at any time and that is the reason for their “selling all” etc. Because national Israel disbelieved in Christ, the Little Flock became poor eventually and were given relief by members of Paul’s churches [The Church, the Body of Christ.]

      • Outside the Book of Acts, Luke has Jesus saying “Blessed are the poor,” (Matthew has it “poor in spirit”), and Mary’s Magnificat in Luke’s gospel (Lu 1:46-55) is a hymn of liberation theology if ever one was written. Paul himself argues for “a fair balance” (2 Cor 8:13), so that ‘the one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little.” (2 Cor 8:15) While this may not be pure communism, it surely supports it in theory. As for riches themselves, Paul said the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil (1 Tim 6:10), and Matthew quotes Jesus saying it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Matt 19:24) – this after telling the rich young man to sell all his possessions and give to the poor. Clearly the NT is slanted towards the poor, and against the rich. If we take it literally, as the early Church did, we would have no rich Christians, and few poor ones.

        • Fair enough but the point I made was, i think, missed; that is, we in the Body of Christ don’t emulate the action of “selling all etc.” or
          other distinctives of the Little Flock that [ when and if Israel believed in Messiah] would immediately go into the promised kingdom of heaven on earth. Or do you not hold , with Paul, that the Body of Christ, on the other hand, has a heavenly inheritance and not an “earthly?”

    • Edward Silha

      Your reference to “communism” is not rational, nor would a reference to socialism. A more applicable set of attributes would be charity, compassion, empathy, and love.
      a political theory derived from Karl Marx, advocating class war and leading to a society in which all property is publicly owned and each person works and is paid according to their abilities and needs.
      a political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.
      the voluntary giving of help, typically in the form of money, to those in need.
      The response to the suffering of others that motivates a desire to help
      The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
      Luke 6:35 – 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.
      Mark: 12:30 – 31 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.”

    • Gilsongraybert

      Jeffrey, I appreciate your comments, though I disagree wholeheartedly. I firmly believe it is the expositor’s responsibility to submit to the text, not the other way around.

  • Jim

    “The scriptures determine what is sinful and what is not – and it makes no qualms
    doing so.”
    People who have never read the Old or New testaments know right from wrong.

  • I recently wrote the following in the form of a tract:
    Can I be saved by reading the bible? What you get from reading the bible depends upon your spiritual condition; that is, are you an insider or an outsider? One
    famous Bible teacher wrote: “Justified, reconciled believers are
    instructed, in Romans 6:13; “yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive
    from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.”(1)
    But are you to be counted among the “justified, reconciled believers” as were those to whom Paul wrote in Rome? To answer that question let’s consider exactly how those believers reached their “justified, reconciled” position by learning
    what “good news” or “gospel” Paul had announced to them
    while they were still ungodly Gentiles [idolaters] or unbelieving Jews. By the
    Providence of God, the Holy Spirit operating through apostle Paul led him to
    leave a record [in his letters] of the words he used to introduce sinners to
    the gospel of Christ; and one of the clearest passages is found in his letter
    to the Corinthians Chap. 15:”1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you
    the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein
    ye stand;2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached
    unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.3 For I delivered unto you first
    of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according
    to the scriptures;4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third
    day according to the scriptures:”
    Now you have the answer to the question “Can
    I be saved unto eternal life by reading the Bible?” God’s unfailing and
    infallible Word is before you, and simply by heartily believing what it says to you as to all sinners, by the grace of God you will be saved once and for all, and all your sin– past, present and future is forgiven– just as Paul wrote to all his saints, whether in Rome, Corinth, or where you live.

    1. The All-Sufficient Much More Over-Abounding
    Grace of the God of All Grace,by Pastor J. C. O’Hair, 1955.

    • Charles Winter

      According to the Bible, you cannot be saved by reading the Bible, but only by loving your neighbor as yourself (and your neighbor is all of humanity).

      • I assume you didn’t bother to read my post.

  • barry

    If most Christian preachers are correct to say that everyone worships
    something, that is, even atheists worship something, even if not God,
    then just because you aren’t singing praises to the bible, doesn’t mean
    you aren’t worshiping it.

    Merriam Webster give three definitions relevant to this debate:
    2 : reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power; also : an act of expressing such reverence
    3 : a form of religious practice with its creed and ritual
    4 : extravagant respect or admiration for or devotion to an object of esteem
    from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/worship

    Regarding “2”, most Christians “reverence” the bible itself, and if they don’t,
    then apparently they never read the Psalms. Furthermore, conservative
    Christians agree that actions speak louder than words, so you don’t need
    to sing praises to the bible to reverence it. If you pay just as much
    attention to it as you pay to God himself, that action overrides any
    spoken assertion on your part that you “don’t reference the bible”.

    Regarding “3”, little needs to be said. Conservative Christianity wouldn’t be
    what it is, if the bible didn’t play a centural role in their religious
    practice, creeds and rituals.

    Regarding “4”, there can be no doubt that by the words AND actions of conservative Christians, they happily admit to their extravagantly “admiring” the bible, even if they admit nothing else relevant to this $ 4 definition.

    Hence, it is not merely technically proper, but practically proper, to characterize conservative Christians (i.e., Christians who reverence and admire the bible and include it in their various religious rites and practices) as bible-worshipers.

    If this doesn’t seem to square up with the bible’s insistence that only “god” is to be worshiped (Luke 4:8), then I’m afraid that’s not my problem.

    But perhaps some “apologist” will assert that because we are to worship Jesus (Matthew 28:17), and Jesus is the “word of God (John 1:1), worshiping the word of God would constitute worshiping God himself.

    Such can only be tomfoolery, given that bible inerrancy is too controversial to be exalted in one’s mind to the status of governing hermeneutic, and therefore, it is far from obvious or even reasonable that you can arrive at actual truth by slamming two bible verses together.

    • barry

      “reference” should be “reverence”.

      “$ 4” should be “#4”

  • billwald

    Who has the authority in this century to define the one clear meaning of scripture? What if my clear meaning of scripture differs from your clear meaning?

    • The believer has the aid of the Author of scripture, the Holy Spirit. The scripture explains the scripture; however, study is necessary to understand the Word and not every believer has apprehended the same truth. The admonition to study is in II Tim. 2:15 “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to
      be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

      • billwald

        There must be equivalent opposing truths or there are believers, believers who really believe, believers who really, really believe, who really, really, really believe . . . how many “reallys” are you?

        In the last 60 years I have lived in at least 8 places, attended maybe a dozen denominations, and only met one preacher who said, “I don’t know the answer to that question.”

        I think truth is where you find it.

        • Both Peter and Paul were Jews and the Lord took 3 years with each to teach them what He wanted them to learn. At the end of 3 years Peter didn’t understand what his Lord was “up to”; and Paul was so “steeped in the Law of Moses” that it took almost his lifetime to gradually understand what the Lord had progressively revealed to him. Peter said near his death that he found Paul’s scripture “hard to understand.” (2Peter 3:15,16)
          Where there are “opposing beliefs” it is because someone has not yet learned a truth.

          • billwald

            Then there are very few Bible truths. Boggles my mind that denominations can deny the ecumenical creeds and claim to be “Christian.

      • Charles Winter

        And what is the “Word?”

        Bart D. Ehrman describes in “Misquoting Jesus” how Gospels and Epistles were transcribed by semi-literate scribes, sometimes employed by men with their own agendas.

        Greek texts in the First Century were written without punctuation and without spaces between words. This fact was exploited by Dan Brown in “The Da Vinci Code,” which focused on the letters “SANGREAL,” which may be read either as “San Greal” (Holy Grail) or “Sang Real” (Blood Royal, the claim to legitimacy of the Merovingian kings of France).

        • Why would I trust my eternal life to a Christ unable to provide me with
          His Word in printed form?

    • Gilsongraybert

      Ultimately, it matters very little if your understanding is different than my own with regard to the authenticity of a valid interpretation of the scriptures. Fortunately, the correct interpretation of scripture is not dependent on you or I arriving at that correct interpretation. Truth is a transcendent principle.

  • Joe Monte

    The idea of Scripture in and of itself is problematic. If I were to go to a Berber in North Africa and say to him, “I’d like to be your guest.” He would gladly put me up at his home for a few days – guests are a gift from Allah. If I did the same thing in certain parts of Iraq or Syria I would loose my head before sundown. Both get their inspiration from Scripture.

    I’m sure you are aware that some (maybe you?) cited Clinton’s womanizing as a reason he should be kicked out of office but Trump’s crotch-grabbing as foretold in Two Corinthians is excused y none other than Jerry Falwell.

    • Gilsongraybert

      We did quite a bit to urge Christians to vote according to biblical precedent, meaning, to urge them to steer clear of Trump. Yet to your original point, two differing interpretations do nothing to revoke the valid interpretation. The idea is that truth is not relative, but objective. If I say an apple is a papaya and other declares it to be an orange, the truth of the matter is that it is an apple, regardless of our claims otherwise.

      • Joe Monte

        I’m glad you see the problem of objectivity with regard to fruit but Scripture claims to deal with more high-stakes issues. I’d really like you to tell me why your interpretation of Scripture is valid and Jerry Falwell Jr.’s is not. To the extent that his hold of the “truth” is not yours does that mean he is going to Hell?

        With history as a witness Scripture (of whatever religion) has done little to ensure people will arrive at the truth. Water boils at 100 deg Centigrade everywhere and every time in the universe but what did Jesus mean when he said to turn the other cheek? That can differ between two people standing five feet apart or even the same person within 30 minutes.

        The highest of the high-stakes issues that the Bible covers is “Where will I spend eternity?” Well, can you answer that? Now, mind you, just telling me what you believe is immaterial. Can your Eternal Salvation be proven to another person? I don’t think it can. If there is a Heaven and a Hell how do I know where you will go when you die. Again, don’t tell me what you believe.

        • Gilsongraybert

          I earnestly don’t know what is so confusing in what I am saying. The scriptures are objective. If you reject them, so be it – but that does nothing to revoke their objectivity. If you have another interpretation than I, so be it – but that does nothing to revoke the objectivity and intended meaning.

          Put words in my mouth all you like – but regardless of where you think this is going, I am speaking fundamentally of the scriptures here – not one’s interpretation. Albeit, the scriptures are not all that hard to understand in the fundamental propositions (you cite heaven and hell).

          There are doctrines which are not intrinsic to the gospel where legitimate disagreement can happen – but you’ve done nothing but suggest throwing out any certainty that something has an inherent meaning, which is simply a foolish proposition. It isn’t even an argument, truthfully, because reality itself attests that relativism is a dead concept and doesn’t hold water.

          You can say it over and again, but you’re simply side-skirting the claim and inserting your claim as the original proposition. The bible has a clear meaning, whether or not you understand that meaning. This is basic philosophy.

          • Joe Monte

            Basic philosophy? Side-skirting? I asked you to support your claim – that you are going to heaven. You have offered no proof! What is the purpose of believing/practicing all that stuff anyway?
            I’ll make it easy for you: Are you going to Heaven and if so can you offer me proof?

          • Gilsongraybert

            What’s basic philosophy is the original claim of both the post and my comment above that the scriptures have an intended meaning that is not subjective or relativistic – which you have clearly side-skirted. That much is painfully clear. I stand on the witness of the scripture’s testimony, as should also be painfully obvious to you on the basis of this post. I believe they provide sufficient evidence of their accuracy, veracity, and inspiration. You reject these claims, which is fine, but you’ve done nothing beyond assert that, which brings me full circle to say again: that does nothing to challenge the actual substance of the claim. You have nothing to actually appeal to beyond your own reasoning. I can give you scriptural references if you would prefer, but methinks you would simply double down and reject them as you already have, and we’re just going to be left yet again with the “You can’t prove anything!” argument, even though you fail to see your negative assertions are even less founded than you claim my own to be.

          • Joe Monte

            How can you say I am “side-skirting”. You never asked me a question. All you need to do is ask me a question like this:

            Do you believe such-and-such?

            and I will answer.

            The Bible is wholly relativistic! If someone were to ask me at what temperature water boils at I’d tell them 100 degrees C or 212 F. If they didn’t believe me then I’d encourage them to experiment themselves. If they came back and told me it was 50 degrees C then we can both do the experiment together. Maybe I am wrong. Maybe there is some misunderstanding. Whatever the case the data don’t lie. There is no way to do that with the Bible! Can you give me one ***meaningful (and numinous) example of how you can? Here is an example:

            Q: What must I do to inherit eternal life?

            A: Believe in the one he has sent. Okay, now that you believe here is a telescope to see the Book of Life. You see that guy with the white robe? That’s Jesus. He’s writing your name in it as we speak. Here is your blood-signed receipt. See you Sunday.

            Outside of that I can only take your word and that is not enough. Neither is Pat Robertson’s, Jerry Falwell, Jr., Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, Pope Francis, David Duke, Peter Popoff, Josh Duggar, Bill & Hil Clinton, Barack Obama or any other person who claims to be a christian.

            I don’t care of what witness of standing on anything – whatever that means. You may as well tell me you stand on the witness of Green Eggs and Ham. Maybe you truly believe you are a graduate of Hogwarts. The strength of your sincerity is meaningless.

            How can you criticize me for using “[my] own reasoning” as if that were a bad thing? Of course you are subtly claiming that your reasoning comes from God – something that remains to be proven. If that is what you think reasoning is you have little understanding of philosophy if any.

            I know the Bible very well. It’s one of the reasons I don’t believe it I also have Bible Gateway. Have you read any books that criticize the bible? Which ones? I’ve read lots of you guys’ books.

            *** Meaningful does not mean : “Egypt is in the Bible so the Bible is true.”

          • Gilsongraybert

            The difference is that you’re not taking my word for it – by all means, go pick up the scriptures once again. That is what you are having to deal with here. The scriptures make these claims; when I cite what one must do to inherit eternal life (as you well know), I am citing the scriptures. This is what you seem to miss here; I’m not making a claim of my own sufficiency, and you are well aware of that, hence why I have continued to say you’re side-skirting the issue. The basic claim that something (in this case, the bible) has an intended, objective interpretation, was the philosophical claim, which again, I’m fairly certain you know by this point. You’ve raised several straw men and red herrings throughout our interaction, especially when the simple premise in the blog post was that the scriptures are objective in their aim; proper hermeneutics is an altogether different point.

          • Joe Monte

            Are you saying is that all I have to do is pick up the Bible and I will find out that Gilson Graybert is right about slavery? BTW what is your position on slavery?

          • Gilsongraybert
          • Gilsongraybert

            Hahahahaha! Well, at least you revealed your earnest intentions instead of hiding behind them any longer. Thank you for the chuckle, this was fun while it lasted.

          • Joe Monte

            One of many things I revealed is that you are a theological lightweight. You dodged an issue that has a lot of Scriptural support. I revealed that you resort to GIFs as a way to distract (yourself) from hard questions. I revealed that despite how much you like to tell people how much faith you have in Scripture you showed everyone how much contempt you have for it.

            Let me school you on philosophy while I am here…

            You are supposed to start with a hypothesis. After testing you either revise or reject your own hypothesis. If the data support your hypothesis then you come to a conclusion. You have it backwards. you start at a conclusion and then reject or ignore any contrary data. You are as much a philosopher as I am a Christian.


          • Gilsongraybert

            You failed to even stick to the actual first premise, hence the slight bit of sarcasm. You had no intentions of actually interacting with the initial claim, and you know that full well. You may slander me all you wish all I simply tried to do was get you to actually interact with the first claim that scripture is objective and you routinely brought up red herrings. I have no desire to go on to other topics if you can’t be bothered to discuss the first premise.

          • Joe Monte

            Did you ever see the movie based on the book The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco? About midway through the movie the local abbey hosts a debate about the hot topic of the day: did Jesus own his own clothes. While the scholars are franticly shouting at each other and jumping up and down just beyond their doors the local populace is living in famine and squalor.
            I don’t even know what you mean when you say that you have a high regard for the Scriptures – unless it is to mean it is evinced in the way you live your life.
            How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? Were the Virgin’s eyes blue or brown? Or, how about this one: What does the Bible say about (yawn) homosexuality? When people engage in these conversations it tells me that they think they have arrived.
            Have you noticed the death and war and suffering that our played out on live TV? Did you see that Syrian boy’s body laying face down on a Turkish beach. I have small children, Gilson. I don’t care about people’s religion or sexual orientation or politics. I just want to see and end to suffering. It’s just that I’m too powerless to do much except send money.
            I know a lot of Christians who’s knowledge of the bible quite frankly sucks! If you really believe that the Bible is the INSPIRED WORD OF GOD you had better know it more thoroughly than I do. Furthermore, I had better see a higher occurrence of saintly behavior in the aggregate of those so-called Christians. If you engage in frivolous conversations about what strangers do with their naughty bits in private you must think that all of these other, more pressing problems have been solved.
            I have to agree with you about one thing. When I hear ostensible Christians twist themselves into pretzels trying to show us that the Bible really is okay with homosexuality it makes me want to tear my hair out!

  • Charles Winter

    But who is the author of scripture? Note 2 Chron: 14-18 and 2 Kings 22: 3-10. The “books of the Law” were discovered in the Temple by the High Priest Hilkiah during the reign of King Josiah. Were these books discovered, or were they written by the priests under Hilkiah? Note that biblical scholars distinguish several authorship styles in the Torah/Pentateuch, particularly the Priestly and Yahwistic styles noted most obviously in Genesis 1 v. Genesis 2.

    Then note the problems with the New Testament described by Bart D. Ehrman in “Misquoting Jesus.”

    Like much ancient literature, the Bible contains much wisdom for life. We should love each other as ourselves and do unto others as we would have them do unto us. But we should be wary of specific proscriptions, such as those against eating shellfish or pork or avoiding masturbation.

    Also note that there is no prohibition or mention of abortion in the Bible. The Assyrians banned abortion, but the Israelites did not.

  • Ken Abbott

    Mr. Gilbert: You’re arguing on the side of the angels here. Persevere!

  • Tianzhu

    John Wesley described himself as a “Bible bigot,” claiming “I follow it in all things.”

  • Nathan Brasfield

    I don’t know how to avoid something like Bible-worship when you hold the text up as “the Word of God.” If that is so, you choose what God has to say whenever you want. You can pick it up and have God speak your favorite part of Corinthians but remain silent on the difficult things Jesus has to say about turning the other cheek. Or, for so many of us most of the time, the actual words of God are left unopened on coffee tables. I thought like you did when I first became a Christian, but I started to realize that this doesn’t make any sense at all. Just who was it and when and why that decided that the Bible is the Word of God, anyway? Was it God?

  • wll777

    Nonsense. The inspired Word of God is in the breath of Life itself, in us. The Scriptures are a confirmation and a reflection of that. No words of men, even those transliterated directly from God are equal to the Word of God as incarnated in the reality of flesh and blood. The Scribes and the Pharisees spent their whole studying scripture yet they didn’t understand the prophet of Israel, the Son of God, when he told him that the kingdom of God had already arrived and was among them.