Fulton County Gospel News

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Bibliolatry, Are We Guilty?

By J.A. McNutt


In recent years I have heard the charge of "Bibliolatry" applied to faithful brethren and loyal gospel preachers. If I understand the implications of this charge we are being indicted for a form of idolatry, where the literal book (the Bible) is being made an idol, an object of superstitious reverence. If any of our brethren have made the material, leather bound, copy of the Bible an object of worship, instead of God who gave us the message that it contains, they are showing less common sense and understanding than I have always given my brethren credit for having. Who worships the book? I doubt that many intelligent religious people, or any informed Christians would be guilty of this charge.

Who Is Guilty?

Christians have always been known as a Bible-believing, God-fearing people. It is not wrong to be known as a people who respect and follow the Bible because this book contains God's message to man. It is not wrong to quote it extensively in a sermon, to depend upon it for authority, and to honor its precepts. I have heard gospel preachers who give numerous quotations from the Scriptures referred to as "Bible bangers," but I still like to hear the preacher cite Bible authority for what is being taught from the pulpit. One can hear lectures on social issues, economic problems, and human philosophy elsewhere but when we attend religious services it should be to hear the Word of God proclaimed.

According to the divine record (Acts 2 and Acts 8), gospel preachers in the first century preached the word, preached Christ, preached things concerning the kingdom of God, and preached the gospel with the results that thousands were converted to Christ. The powerful and effective work of Apollos as a gospel preacher is described in these words: "For he mightily convinced the Jews and that publickly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ" (Acts 18:28). If this is "Bibliolatry," Apollos was guilty.

The Key to Growth

I have just finished reading a book titled The Ten Largest Sunday Schools, And What Makes Them Grow. It is interesting to note that every single one of the ten schools mentioned is operated by conservative and aggressive religious bodies that profess to preach the Bible, and makes an appeal based on biblical teaching and a rejection of modernism. Although I do not concede their claim to biblical authority on several points of teaching, I am convinced that the basic reason for their growth is their strong appeal to a public that is sick and tired of the "social gospel" and want to hear the Bible preached and taught. It is both ironic and tragic that at the very time that denominationalism has failed to meet the world's desire for biblical teaching, some of "our pseudo-intellectuals" have decided that plain Bible preaching is no longer relevant.

Power in the Written Word

Paul tells us, "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12). When our Lord was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, he rejected every temptation with a direct appeal to the written word of God. Three times our Saviour said, "It is written" (Matthew 4). If this is "Bibliolatry," our Lord was guilty.

The liberal claims to trust in the person of Jesus and to imbibe the spirit of Jesus apart from the word, but there is no such thing as trusting in and believing a person while rejecting the words of that person (John 6:63).

Peter affirms that Christians have been "born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever" (1 Peter 1:23).

James also asserts the power of the Word in transforming our lives by the declaration: "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures" (James 1:18). God's Word has the power to create life and transform human personality.

The Literal Book?

I am sure that God never intended that anyone should worship the literal book composed of paper, ink, and binding that holds it together any more than he desires that we should worship the cross, but I would hesitate to trample on a likeness of the cross because of what it symbolized. I do not worship it, but I respect that for which it stands.

I do not worship the Bible, but I believe that it contains the Word of God;¹ I love to see people bring a Bible to church services, and to see Bibles in the home that are being used and read frequently. I would handle the Bible with respect because of what it contains and for what its contents have meant to countless thousands of dedicated followers of Christ. I have my mother's Bible with the notations and the passages that she underscored with her own hands, I read the notes that she made on the margins, and I have a picture of her sitting in her chair and reading God's book, and it means something to me. I have a deeper faith in God's Word because of her example; as a child I believed that book because she did, and now I believe it because of the same reasons that she did. If this be "Bibliolatry," make the most of it, because I plead guilty.

1 Certainly the Bible, or the canonical text thereof, is the word of God (Psm. 119:160; John 16:13; 1 Cor. 2:13; 13:10; 14:37; 2 Tim. 3:15-17; 2 Pet. 1:3; Jude 3), as I am certain brother McNutt would have affirmed. Here I understand him to be speaking of the fact that the material-the leather, paper, binding, and ink-contains the word of God. - Editor.



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