Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Taking the name of the Bible in vain

It’s time for people to stop using the adjective “biblical” in trivial ways.

The Bible claims to be God’s revelation to humanity of what he considers most important. He has also given us “general revelation,” which is what Paul refers to at the beginning of his letter to the Romans.

General revelation is what we can understand about the cosmos, ourselves and the Creator by observing “how things work.” We can learn a lot from general revelation. But there are some things we would never know if God hadn’t told us in the “special revelation” of the Bible.

So the Bible is the “gold standard” of revelation.

General revelation (This includes our ability to reason and draw conclusions based what we observe.) can even help us understand the Bible better. There was a time when Christians thought that the Bible taught that the earth was the center of the universe. (This was based more on Aristotle’s philosophy than the Bible, but that’s what people thought.) Scientific observation helped us to realize that this was a misinterpretation of the Bible.

Even though general revelation sometimes helps correct our understanding of the Bible, the Bible remains the final authority.

For this reason, Christian teachers, speakers and writers like to label their ideas as “biblical.” This gives them more authority. In some situations, it means that there can be no disagreement with a position because it has the official biblical endorsement. It is almost as if we have a symbol of a B in a circle (like the R for a registered trademark) that certifies our opinion as biblical.

But Christians are guilty of taking this endorsement “in vain.” They label all kinds of speculation, narrow interpretations and cultural norms as “biblical.”

But this is so subtle that we often don’t see it.

Here’s a list of some of the pretexts that people use to label something as “biblical”:

  • Someone in the Bible did something similar to what is being suggested.
  • There’s a statement in Proverbs that seems to support it (more on this later).
  • There’s a statement in Job (even worse) that seems to support it.
  • It is good practice or common sense and a verse in the Bible alludes to it or mentions it in passing.
  • It is good practice or common sense and a verse in the Bible can be twisted to appear to suggest it.
  • It is a narrow interpretation based on a few isolated statements in the Bible.
  • It is tradition or culture validated by a narrow interpretation of certain parts of the Bible.
  • It is a general teaching of the Bible, but its claim to be “biblical” is validated by a proof text.

All these are guilty of taking the endorsement of the Bible in vain.

The only valid use of the adjective “biblical” is when it is used for something that is a deep principle taught by the Bible. In a future post I’ll try to start a list of core biblical principles. You may want to suggest some in the comments.

Pastor Rod

“Helping you become the person God created you to be”


Don B Johnson said...

One example of this is the "Biblical" form of marriage. There are many "Biblical" forms of marriage, including polygamy, concubinage, marriage to a female slave, and 2 slaves marrying.

If someone claims to have a Biblical marriage, you should ask them what kind.

Pastor Rod said...

Good example, Don.


Tiber Jumper said...

The most common use of the word biblical I find is when someone is trying to validate their own particular and often novel personal interpretation of Scripture.
Question: When Muslim folk try to prove a point from the Koran do they say it's Koranical?