A few years ago, I came across an article from a pastor in the States decrying evangelical Christians as bibliolaters, that is, he suggested that our talk of “inerrancy” and “authority” turned us away from God to the writings of man. For him, it was okay to speak of encountering God in the Bible, but to suggest that the Bible in any substantial way embodied God’s authority was idolatry! Today, in a book by a supposedly Evangelical author, I read that it is not necessary to believe that the Bible is inerrant, that what it records corresponds to reality and does not contain error; if we affirm that the resurrection happened, we are good. What is going on here? Is our doctrine of the Word of God really idolatrous? Is confessing the Scriptures as God’s authoritative revelation unnecessary for the Christian—really just damaging fundamentalism? I suspect—actually, on the authority of the God’s Word, I know—that there is some false teaching floating about.
The suggestion that confessing the Bible to be God’s errorless and authoritative words for us equals idolatry is ridiculous. Picture with me a feudal kingdom; a king rules over all the local villages and they owe him their allegiance. In a world before TV, the king’s orders would go out by heralds and letters; if the king’s subjects received a letter from their king and rejected it—claiming that because it wasn’t spoken by him in their presence it cannot be free from error nor authoritative—, how do you think the king would respond? He would surely slaughter them. In the Old Testament, God’s people—from the peasants to the kings—repeatedly rejected God’s word spoken by His messengers; what was His response? He brought upon them drought, famine, destruction, and exile. By any reckoning, we don’t give the Word of God the attention and pride of place that it deserves. If it is God’s very words, then it will, of course, be inerrant—for He is completely true (cf. Psalm 31:5, John 17:17, Psalm 119:160, 2 Sam. 7:28). If Scripture is breathed out from God’s mouth, i.e. spoken by Him (2 Tim. 3:16), then surely it carries authority—because my bosses words have left his mouth, should I disobey them, what if they come in an email? In Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, a chapter dedicated to the Word of God, God speaks through the Psalmist about Scripture in a way that reveals how we fail to give Scripture the honor due it.
24Your testimonies are my delight,
They are my counselors
25My soul clings to the dust;
give me life according to your word!
37Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;
and give me life in your ways.
40Behold, I long for your precepts;
in your righteousness give me life!
43And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth,
for my hope is in your rules
47For I find my delight in your commandments which I love
48I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love,
and I will meditate on your statutes.
57The LORD is my portion
I promise to keep your words
62At midnight I rise to praise you,
because of your righteous rules.
92If your law had not been my delight,
I would have perished in my affliction.
105Your word is a lamp unto my feet
And a light to my path.
143Trouble and anguish have found me out,
But your commandments are my delight.
160The sum of your word is truth,
And every one of your righteous rules endures forever.
161Princes persecute me without cause,
but my heart stands in awe of your words.
162I rejoice at your word
like one who finds great spoil.
172Let my tongue sing of Your word,
For all Your commandments are righteousness.
174I long for Your salvation, O LORD,
And Your law is my delight.
Then there is Psalm 56,
3When I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
4In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me?
Far from idolatry, Evangelicals often neglect the weight God places on His own words; may it not be so for us.