Bibliolatry is the rendering of divine services to a leather-bound, paperback, or hardcover book called the “Holy Bible”. In all technicality, worship of the Bible is actually a form of idolatry that largely stems from forgetting its messages of simplicity. Thus, to avoid Bibliolatry, one must carry out the simple messages of the Bible. Too often though, theologians and Biblical scholars alike become guilty of Bibliolatry. So how does one avoid committing Bibliolatry? First off, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t go into Biblical studies or Biblical theology. What I am saying is that there is an inherent danger in going into these fields so one should pay attention as to how to avoid Bibliolatry.
1. Keep the overall message of the Bible simple! Advanced theologians can go into all these different metaphysics and what-not but the Bible isn’t a book written for the intellect, it’s written for the unsophisticated. St. John Chrysostom once said in regard to the gospel of Matthew, “neither did He say, you have revealed it to fools, but to babes; to unsophisticated, that is, to simple-minded men; and He implies that so far from their missing these privileges contrary to their desert, it was just what might be expected” (Homily 38 on Matthew).
2. Don’t forget the overall message of the Bible! Too often we forget the overall simple messages of the Bible and we want to make them even more complicated than they really are. We forget the following:
–God’s unconditional love–we want to say God requires “x” and “x” in order to be saved, truthfully, I was surprised the other night when I heard my deacon challenge our table group at our Eastern Christian formation class saying, “Show me what verse in the Bible does it say that if one isn’t baptised he isn’t going to end up in Heaven!” (in reference to some of us like myself who haven’t been able to hear the Gospel at all).
–Atonement with God–the Bible is quite simple on this. It doesn’t really explain the “how”, we just know that atonement stems from love and self-sacrifice. Anything short of this is a false atonement theory.
–Creation–the Bible doesn’t go into detail with this either yet we think it does with our old Earth, young Earth creation debates within the church. If we let go of this and let the Bible’s simplicity speak, we just end up with creation.
3. Some passages aren’t written for certain groups of people! I see street preachers holding signs out with 1 Cor. 6:9-10 being proclaimed to atheists! The problem is that there tends to be a contradiction between Paul and Jesus on these verses–or is there? There’s not. Jesus came for sinners, not the prideful arrogant (Rom. 5:1-11) and Paul wrote to Christians (1 Cor. 1:2). There is no contradiction between Paul and Jesus because Jesus was speaking to a broader audience than Paul was. Non-Christians need to hear Jesus’s message. When they become Christians, they can hear Paul’s message.
4. Understand that sometimes, the Bible chooses to be ambiguous. This is where speculative theologians and more advanced theologians can work out problems and we can either agree or disagree with them. But the point is that the Bible just chooses to be ambiguous at times and we are called to go no further. So don’t go further thinking that the Bible is crystal clear on everything, don’t treat the Bible as an ultimate answer book, and don’t stray from the simple message of the Bible and you should remain free from Bibliolatry.