This concept came to my attention today because BioLogos has printed a response to Ken Ham’s response to a testimony piece by a chap called Daniel Hamlin. Daniel used the word to describe the Scylla and Charybdis of “bibliolatry” and atheist dismissal of all biblical truth between which he was trying to steer. I don’t want to comment either on his article, or on whether I agree that his theological ship is on course, but on that word itself.
“Bibliolatry”. You can find definitions for it, of course, but it is significant that it is not a synonym for any historically accepted theological term, or even for a standard English word. It is, in fact, a buzz-word, and regular readers will know that my antennae always go up when buzzwords like “puppet-master” or “robots” are used to drive theological debate. Or even words like “kenotic“, “logos” or “incarnational“. Give me an emotionally-loaded buzz-word and I’ll show you a theological confidence trick.
Now I could remark on the misuse of the Bible that sometimes provokes this terminology, particularly in the individualistic and anti-intellectual Evangelical desert of the USA. Or I could go into a defence of the Bible as God’s word, and point out the morass of heterogeneous doctrine that results when one begins to erode its authority. I could suggest that to use, say, liberal scholarship to judge inspired Scripture is … what shall we call it? “Scholarolatry” perhaps. Using science to judge the Bible ought to be “scientolatry“, but that’s too much like “scientology” so let’s not go there.
Instead I’ll just attempt something more modest, that’s easy for anyone to do. “Bibliolatry” is proposed as an aberration of Evangelical Christian truth, an over-reliance on the Bible, making it into the rule of doctrine and practice, and failing to draw attention to its shortcomings and limitations. With that in mind, I suggest to you a challenge.
Try and establish the unchristian nature of such overdependance using:
- (a) The words and teachings of Jesus,
- (b) the teaching of the Bible itself,
- (c) The writings of any of the Patristic writers,
- (d) The writings of any of the mediaeval Catholic or Orthodox writers,
- (e) The writings of any of the mainstream Protestant Reformers, up to and including Arminius if you like,
- (f) The writings of any of the early Methodists,
- (g) The writings of any Victorian Evangelical leader (maybe we have to exclude America from this point on – that’s when the rot set in).