How Should We Respond to Scripture? -- By: Ray Van Neste

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 019:1 (Fall 2001)
Article: How Should We Respond to Scripture?
Author: Ray Van Neste

How Should We Respond to Scripture?

Ray Van Neste

Instructor of Christian Studies
R. C. Ryan Center for Biblical Studies
Union University
Jackson, Tennessee 38305

In recent days the old charge of “bibliolatry” has been trotted out again to castigate the revised Baptist Faith and Message 2000 and its supporters. This seems to be a favorite tactic of those who would prefer to sidestep Scripture than bow before it. The charge is that those who would say the Bible is the revelation of God in some way worship the Bible rather than God. Of course the charge is ludicrous, and I would be very interested to see if someone could actually produce a verifiable historical incident where this actually took place within a group that claimed to be within the historically orthodox stream of Christianity. However, I do not think they mean that there is explicit worship of the Bible going on but that in a more subtle form we attribute to the Bible a reverence which is appropriate only to God. I would like to pose two questions to this.

First, is this really a pastoral problem in the churches? I must confess that in my pastoral and preaching ministry from the southern “Bible Belt,” to the upper midwestern United States, to northeastern Scotland, I have yet to find this a problem. Not once have I felt a need to ascend to the pulpit and admonish the people to calm down in their affection for the Bible, to pull back from so much study of it, or to stop talking about it so much, lest perhaps people think we worshipped it. Of course not! Rather, the problem I have seen is precisely the opposite: People fail to take seriously the teaching of Scripture when it cuts across their plans or current cultural norms, or they fail to esteem the Scripture enough to study it daily. Indeed, this has been confirmed by a new Gallup poll which indicated that Bible reading among Americans is down significantly even from the 1980s with only 37 percent saying they read the Bible at least once a week and only 16 percent saying they read it daily. Where then is this menacing ogre of bibliolatry which threatens to damage the churches? Is he real or simply a “boogey man” invented to scare people into embracing a preconceived agenda? I must confess to doubting his existence, as I have yet to see him.

Secondly, do those of us with a high view of Scripture actually attribute to the Bible an inappropriate level of reverence? To answer this question, one must ask what is the appropriate type of response to God’s Word. The charge of the moderates is that we give too much reverence to God’s Word. It may be that we

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