The Jewish faith culture assumes that the divine laws had been carved into stone by Moses who received them directly from God. Their Holy Scripture was for them the “Word of God”.
Jesus brings a revolution to this understanding of what a Holy Scripture means to a religion.
I call biblicism when you believe that the Bible has been “written by God himself”, that it is the Word of God, that it is inerrant, or an “infallible authority” or the “authoritative revelation” of the divine law system.
I believe that this understanding of the Bible is a misconception. The only authority regarding ethical questions is reality or, if you prefer that name, God. We may personify reality and call it “God”, but we must not forget that God’s name remains “holy” to us: beyond our imagination and unreachable to our mind. Consequently we cannot fit God into a collection of texts. The Bible can be illustrative and inspiring, but not authoritative.
For Christians the Bible is the historic trace of God’s revelation in Jesus, but it is not the revelation. In You and your bible! I try to imagine what God might say about biblicism.
Examples of biblicism¶
The screenshot on the right is an example of extreme biblicism. Note how the Bible is listed even before God.
A biblicist explains (here) : A proper view of Scripture is that the Bible is the ultimate authority. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). (…) Since the Bible is “God-breathed,” it is in fact authoritative, infallible, and internally consistent. It must be allowed to have the final word on everything. How could Scripture be profitable for “training in righteousness” if it cannot be trusted as absolutely true and consistent?” My reaction: How can you believe that a text is “God-breathed” just because it claims to be so? And when you read “All Scripture”, how can you exclude other scriptures than those that were selected into the canon several hundred years after the text you quote was written? And when you read “profitable”, how can you extend this into “in fact authoritative, infallible, and internally consistent”?
Another scaring example of biblicism is the following text, which was not written 500 years ago, no, it was published in October 2020 when Donald Trump was trying to become president for another time. Evangelical author Grayson Gilbert writes:
The Democratic Party has built its entire platform off of two major issues: abortion and sexual anarchy. I will state at the beginning of this that no Christian can support the Democratic Party. I have no qualms expressing such. I find it hard to believe that professing Christians could even find this topic worthy of debate. Per Scripture’s own stance on the evil of abortion and sexual licentiousness, these issues really are about as black and white as they can get. There is simply no room within the historic Christian faith to disagree. What we are dealing with then is a simple rejection of these issues as matters of primacy. Scripture is quite clear that the shedding of innocent blood is abominable (Pro. 6:17). –You Can’t Be a Christian and Support the Democratic Party
I didn’t waste my time to read this text until the end (enough other people did this because it was a few weeks before the elections). My reaction was to just quote what pope Francis writes about it in paragraph 86 of his Fratelli Tutti):
I sometimes wonder why (…) it took so long for the Church unequivocally to condemn slavery and various forms of violence. Today, with our developed spirituality and theology, we have no excuses. Still, there are those who appear to feel encouraged or at least permitted by their faith to support varieties of narrow and violent nationalism, xenophobia and contempt, and even the mistreatment of those who are different. Faith, and the humanism it inspires, must maintain a critical sense in the face of these tendencies, and prompt an immediate response whenever they rear their head.
My opinion about biblicism¶
Biblicism is an expression of our desire to “give a name” to God, to understand Him.
Biblicism is our answer to the healing effect of reading the Bible. When you discover how much these texts help you to get a healing glimpse into the Good News, then you are tempted to conclude that the texts themselves are the source of your salvation.
Biblicism is partly caused by an old vocabulary problem. See Don’t mix up “Word of God” and “Bible”.
Biblicism is a religious hypertrophy.
Biblicism is when you worship the Bible instead of worshipping God.
Biblicism makes you refuse to accept scientific evidence when it conflicts with something you read in the Bible. Refusing to see scientific evidence as a more trustworthy tool than a Holy Scripture is a form of superstition and leads to unrealistic results.
Jason D. Bradly has some interesting thoughts to share for people who believe to know the Bible quite well: Biblical Illiteracy Is a Big Problem–for Christians. Some highlights: “Saying that reading the Bible cures biblical literacy is kind of like saying that malnourishment is cured by eating. The truth is that a lot of people are malnourished because of how they eat.” “[Y]ou need to be careful not to read Scripture in a way that merely supports or champions your position.” “If you think the Bible always agrees with you, that’s one of the biggest signs that you’re biblically malnourished.” “The problem is that the people who should be reading [the Bible], usually don’t. And when they do, they’re scouring it for confirmation and not inspiration.”
How to get out of biblicism¶
My advice to every biblicist:
Realize that a same text can have different effects on different readers depending on their personal history and the social and emotional context.
Realize that avoiding to cultivate biblicism does not mean to cultivate an individualistic faith. “It is by Jesus’ own teachings that we come to learn how to evaluate and discern when to apply or ignore those same teachings. (…) it’s not so much about our freedom to ignore Jesus, but rather quite the opposite: our necessity to become better disciples of Jesus, paying closer attention to the principles that undergird his continuing spirit filled will, rather than puppets who merely echo his historical words.”1
Vi La Bianca has some interesting questions for biblical literalists.
Matthew Distefano names 7 Reasons the Bible is NOT the Inerrant Word of God:
The Bible Never Claims to Be
The Bible Says Christ Is
The Bible is Human
The Bible Contains Errors
There Are Different Bibles
The Bible Has Been Edited … A lot!
Jesus Didn’t Have a Bible
I have no problem with designating the Bible as “fully trustworthy” and “our highest authority for faith and life” (found here). These statements are normal because the Bible is our Holy Scripture and the only written definition of our faith. The statement that the texts of the Old and New Testament are “God-breathed, since their writers spoke from God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” is a bit useless because this applies also to many other texts.
Some Eric English quotes taken from Biblical Inerrancy Does NOT Glorify God
“Biblical inerrancy is one of the most sensitive issues within the Christian culture. Those who adhere to its doctrine cannot fathom a world where the Bible can be from God and not inerrant at the same time. Inerrancy is the cornerstone doctrine for evangelicals. All theology for evangelicals is built upon this premise.”
“It is not the purpose of the Bible to be a metaphysical treatise on truth.”
“Most progressives care more about the truth of Scripture above and beyond the doctrines some traditions assert.”
“The doctrine of inerrancy takes away from the message of Scripture because it necessitates that some interpretations be false for the sake of preserving the doctrine instead of the message.””
- Bible idolatry¶
When you worship the Bible instead of worshiping God.
This was the name I gave to biblicism before I knew that name.
A less offending synonym for Bible idolatry. A narrow theology that refuses to recognize the plurality of the biblical canon.
- biblical literalism¶
A methodology used in law, history and theology for interpreting biblical and philosophical texts and other content (like pictures, sculptures, sound or movies).
- Biblical inerrancy¶
The belief that the Bible is inerrant, i.e. does not “fail”.