When Does The Bible Become An Idol?
“Careful, that’s a slippery slope.”
That’s a phrase I’ve heard a time or two, mostly from well-intentioned friends, and almost always as a way to express disapproval regarding how I searched the Scriptures…
“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life, and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” John 5:37-40
Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees when He said this, the experts in all things scripture.
What happens when we search the Scriptures in search of eternal life? It’s not long before we start defining the words on the pages as “infallible” and “inerrant.”
And in my experience, an inerrant approach to scripture is a slippery slope into idolatry.
And yes, I smiled mischievously as I wrote the phrase “slippery slope,” but I believe it to be true.
Jesus, the Word made Flesh, is Life; and in whom we come alive. We can discover Him in scripture, but to conflate the two as the same is to make the bible a god.
In John 5 I think Jesus was essentially saying, “You’ve searched the Scriptures, the Old Testament, the law, you know it inside out; you’ve memorized it word for word, and yet you’ve completely botched the interpretation. Your approach to scripture as a source of everlasting life has blinded you to everlasting life. You have elevated scripture above love and your idolatry has cut you off from intimacy.”
To me, the Pharisees perceived scripture much like the church today, through the religious spirit of inerrancy. And it blinded them to intimacy.
An inerrant approach to scripture trades intimacy for certainty. And it’s a cruel joke because the only certainty we can have through an inerrant approach to scripture is that Satan is powerful, humanity is depraved, God’s salvation is predicated on our compliance, and most of us aren’t gonna make it.
I would like to suggest that an inerrant or infallible approach to scripture is one of the greatest stumbling blocks to experiencing intimacy with God. It literally cut us off from recognizing the whole point of scripture; Love, sacrificial, unconditional, transformational, measureless, always good, always restoring, Love.
If scripture isn’t taking us into a deeper revelation of God’s love, if we aren’t discovering our union in Christ, we are searching it wrong.
What if we searched the scriptures as a witness of Jesus so we might awaken to the eternal life that resides within us?
What if the whole point of scripture is to recognize Jesus in every person that stands in front of us?
What if, “in experiencing that He first loved,” we love God with all our heart soul mind, and strength, and our neighbors as ourselves. What if “all the law and prophets, all of scripture, were to be searched toward this end? (see 1 John 4:19 & Matt 22:37-40)
Praying happy searching and eternal life over you today. And regardless of the slope, may you always find your footing in His measureless love.
Jason Clark is a writer, producer, speaker, and lead communicator at A Family Story ministries. His mission is to encourage sons and daughters to grow sure in the love of an always-good heavenly Father. He and his wife, Karen, live in North Carolina with their three children, Madeleine, Ethan, and Eva.