Do Evangelicals Make Studying the Bible Idolatry? Some Thoughts from the Senior Pastor of First Free Lincoln

The Wondering Eagle looks at a post by Mark Brunott’s First Free Lincoln in Lincoln, Nebraska. In this post I want to ask the question. Do evangelical Christians make the Bible an idol and worship scripture instead of God? After all some Christians have a good knowledge of the Bible and yet their life is just bland of love. I hope we can have a discussion on that topic today. 

“Initiative is doing the right thing without being told.” 

Victor Hugo

Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up.

1 Corinthians 8:1

Kansas at sunset

In writing about the EFCA its a challenging problem set as its a very diverse organization. There are a lot of problems internally to the EFCA such as the growth of Neo-Calvinism/Neo-Puritanism which I have been reporting on. However, the EFCA also has pockets inside that are robust, healthy, and encouraging. One of my goals is to promote and feature those elements so that the greater EFCA and community affected by it can be made aware. Today I am going back to First Free Church in Lincoln, Nebraska and Mark Brunott’s blog. Mark Brunott writes a very active blog in the Midwest District of the Evangelical Free Church of America. The blog is called Freshly Bru’d.  I found his blog when I was researching the Midwest District and calculating the growth of Neo-Calvinism/Neo-Puritanism within the district.  Mark Brunott  has led First Free Church since June of 1978. Mark went to Dallas Theological Seminary for his ThM in New Testament, and then went to Fuller for his Doctor of Ministry in Family. It appears he graduated in 1988. Today’s post comes from Mark’s “A few challenging thoughts.” 

Before I get into Mark’s post and comment in response, let me ask the question out loud. Are there many evangelicals who make the Bible an idol? Are they worshiping the Bible over and above God? Is the Bible an idol for many evangelical Christians? I have often found myself wondering this from time to time. I ask that based off of experience and how attached some evangelicals can become to their Bible. In some cases many know what to do, and yet many evangelicals can’t do what is required. Mark’s questions touch on some of this I believe, but I am hoping we can discuss the question do evangelicals make the Bible an idol?  My comments below are in red. 


 

This week’s Freshly Bru’d is going to challenge you, I hope. It is also going to cause some of you to question my spirituality. I have observed over the years of ministry that many Christians are thrilled about Bible study, but less thrilled about fellow believers, reaching the lost, and even prayer. It causes me to ask an honest question, “Can Bible study actually become a diversion to spiritual growth?” Now, before you write me off, let me remind you “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” (1 Corinthians 8:1)

From my perspective the Christian should be committed to truth. They should follow the truth no matter where it leads. In some cases people might be led away form teh faith but can come back with a deeper knowledge about faith. Truth should be the goal, after all aren’t Christians like us supposed to worship in spirit and truth? It with that in mind that I hope my blog encourages people to ask, inquire and pursue the truth wherever it leads. Life can last a long time, Christians should not become alarmed or upset by someone who has a few rough years early on in their middle years. Faith is a constant revolving situation that is always changing. Things like marriage, death, having kids, job changes, illness, family changes and more will all influence and affect faith in the course of time. 

Is it possible to be so prideful about what I am learning in my Bible study that it becomes more important than practicing what I am learning? I think so?

How do I know when Bible study has become spiritually diverting to my walk? Here are a few thoughts to get you thinking…

*I am more interested in Bible study than my fellow believers and living in community with them. I’m not suggesting you neglect Bible study, but rather evaluate it to see if study is causing you to neglect other things.

I find it sad that there are many people who engage in Bible study who in the process withdraw from the world. They pull back from people around them. I think many people would be shocked. Just completely and totally shocked if they knew what people around them were dealing with. Life is brutal, and difficult, and the hardship of life doesn’t discriminate either. But I hope people look around those who are around them and see what is going on. 

*I feel like prayer requests and sharing life wastes precious Bible study time. Remember our knowledge of the Bible should deepen our love for God and each other!

I am troubled by how many Christians who actually know scripture at times but who don’t have love in their life. One of the more disturbing aspects about evangelical Christianity is that many Christians will often say, “I’ll pray for you…” and really its a way to drive people off or say “screw you.” Christians can be so flippant in their prayer sayings that it leaves a world in hurt, and pain insensitive to Christians who try and engage. These are deep cultural issues that I think need to be addressed. 

*I can recite passages I never intend to obey. One of my professors used to say, “Most Christians are already educated beyond their level of obedience.”

It amazes me that there are many Christians who have deep knowledge but who can’t live it out. Some also downplay or look at things through the filter of a celebrity preached. My opposition to people like John Piper or Matt Chandler is due to the fact that they stunt and neuter people in the long run. People adopt their views and take it upon themselves. As a result many people don’t think for themselves. 

But the greatest indicator of Christians who don’t obey is one of the reasons why Christianity can be so profoundly ugly in the United States. Christians don’t say they are sorry. They often don’t admit mistakes and they leave a trail of pain in their wake. Its profoundly tragic but its what many evangelicals do. If an evangelical Christian hurt you my advice is this…good luck in hearing them admit their mistake. Benjamin Corey has a good article about Christians who shun. Its called “Christian Ghosting.” 

*I substitute Bible knowledge for faith. Often our excuse for not acting is that we don’t know enough. “I can’t witness to my neighbor. I don’t know enough answers.” Yet, we know Jesus, isn’t He out answer? Salvation is by grace through faith – not how much knowledge a person has.

The Christian faith is not complex, instead its very simple. If you can love a person unconditionally you have done a significant part of it. Talking about faith comes with time on a person’s own terms and time. If Christians loved I believe the world would be different. Many do not and that is why the church causes so much pain and problems. 

*Do I love God’s word more than I actually love God? We can learn His commands, yet not obey them. We can memorize verses, yet do we go to those lengths to help others? Yes, we should turn to God’s word for comfort. But more importantly, we should turn to God. The word of God is active, not passive. Our worship belongs to God, not to His word.

I actually believe that many Christians follow practice a different faith at times. Many love the Bible more than they do God. They are inches away from the faith and yet they probably don’t realize how lost they are. It honestly baffles me when I interact with people who are atheist or otherwise who can be more living, kind, and compassionate. And then at the same time others can have their nose buried in the favorite Bible translation of the day, know this and that and yet be so cold toward people in their midst. It baffles me..it really does. 

Just some food for thought.

Blessings

 

Its long past time in my view that evangelicals have an honest discussion about worshiping God vs. worshiping the Bible. Many have those two topics confused and that is one of the reasons why the church is so sick today. You can worship the Bible and still not worship God in my opinion. The fruits of the spirit are what you should look for in a person. That’s what should be remembered. Okay that’s it for the day guys, remember I love you. 🙂 Feel free to push back! 

13 thoughts on “Do Evangelicals Make Studying the Bible Idolatry? Some Thoughts from the Senior Pastor of First Free Lincoln

  1. Hi WonderingEagle,

    I have visited your blog a few times but never conversed on here. I really liked this point: “One of the more disturbing aspects about evangelical Christianity is that many Christians will often say, “I’ll pray for you…” and really its a way to drive people off or say “screw you.”” I have felt this in my experiences sometimes and it sounds like James 2 where you dismiss a poor person with “be warm, be filled” but do nothing to help!

    I take a slightly different angle with regards to this statement: “Truth should be the goal, after all aren’t Christians like us supposed to worship in spirit and truth?” I certainly agree that truth is essential. God is faithful and true to his word but the ultimate goal is love. Jesus said that the entire law and prophets hang on the commandments to LOVE God and your neighbour (Matthew 22). Romans 13 said that he who loves his neighbour has fulfilled the law. Paul says to follow the Spirit and not the letter (2 Corinthians 3, Galatians 5) James 2 says it is “the royal law” and John says “he who loves knows God”. God’s faithfulness and truth grow out of his love for his creation. We don’t want people to lie to us and God would never lie to us.

    If there is a conflict between the letter and the goal of the law, the latter takes precedence. We see this with the Hebrew mid-wives where they are not exactly honest with Pharoah and preserve the Hebrew children alive (Exodus 1) or when Rahab is blessed for misleading those who persue the spies. Jesus also validated David’s men for taking the bread that was marked for the temple priests – they technically broke the divine rules but Jesus said they were “innocent”. I share this because I have encountered many Christians who say “rules and rules and that is that.” They would condemn me for buying food for a hungry person on Sunday (or Saturday) for “violating the Sabbath” and I could give many other examples. They are the ones worshiping the Bible and have missed what it is all about.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Funny, I thought “it is written” is what Jesus started his responses to Satan’s 3 temptations during his 40 days in the desert.

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      • So if I beat you into submission with barrage after barrage of Bible Bullets; if I deny reality because “I have a Verse! I Have a Verse! I Have a Verse!”; that makes me Jesus Christ?

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  2. 1 Corinthians 13:1-2 “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”

    Having spent some time in a church that was long on Biblical doctrine but short on love, this point was emphatically driven home to me. James 2:17 tells us that faith without works is dead. I have come to believe the same thing about truth without love.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. The Bible is a great and wonderful thing. And as far as holy books go, it has no equal on the planet. But I also think it’s prone to two dangers. Not giving it the credence it deserves on one extreme, and making way too much of it at the other.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I liked this post and ma encoured my former denomination has some good guys in it. Bibliolatry is a huge problem in my past experience in the evangelical world. Glad I retired to be a Chistmaa and Easter Lutheran.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Analysis of The Western District of the Evangelical Free Church of America | Wondering Eagle

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