Periodically, the accusation of “bibliolatry” pops up in a book or a blog, usually as a shot at those who hold to a high view of Scripture. The idea that the Bible is the written Word of God, authoritative and free from error in all it teaches, is an uncomfortable one in an increasingly pluralistic and relativistic culture. It’s too… absolute, so it doesn’t sit right with many people today.
But is it fair to call a high view of Scripture—one that takes Paul’s words in 2 Tim 3:16-17 seriously, and therefore demands that all aspects of our lives be brought under Scripture’s authority—idolatry?
Can someone really make a false god out of the Bible?
As I’ve considered this question, I wonder if the accusation isn’t confused—that it’s not that people are not making an idol of the Bible; rather they are making an idol out of a preference or position?
Take the ”King James Only” crowd for example. While some might be a bit more hostile toward them, a lot of these folks are legit brothers and sisters in the faith—they’re just convinced that the only translation worth using the is the King James. While I don’t have an issue with having a preferred translation (I prefer the ESV myself, but enjoy the HCSB a great deal), where things get a bit dicey is when we start taking our preference and making it a primary issue. At that point, we risk turning our preference for a translation into an idol.
Still not bibliolatry. KJV-olatry maybe, but not Bible worship.
Then there are things like the Conservative Bible Project, which started up a few years ago to translate the Bible into modern English “without liberal translation distortions.” That… that’s just a whole mess of something that I don’t want to get into. But do they risk turning the Bible into an idol? Not exactly. They risk turning their political and/or theological position into an idol (from what I’ve read, they’re far closer to the outer fringes of conservatism than most theological conservatives). One might make a similar argument about those who put together the Poverty and Justice Bible, Thomas Nelson’s The Voice translation, or any other number of examples.
Whether it’s a theological position, political view, or translation preference—all of these can easily become idols when we try to give them authority over the Bible, rather than the Bible having authority over them.
But I don’t know if the same can be said about the Bible itself.
Truthfully, I don’t know that it’s possible for someone who truly believes what the Bible says to worship The Bible doesn’t allow for that, because it continually points us to the only one who is worthy of our worship—that is, our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. And I’m not sure that it’s possible to have too high a view of that which reveals Him to us.
But who knows? Maybe I’m out to lunch.
It’s something to think about, anyway.
An earlier version of this post was first published in October 2009.