Freedom From Biblicism
by Robert Brinsmead
Living under the bondage of the law rather than in the freedom of the Spirit can assume many forms.|
In our time, living under the law may assume the form of biblicism. Many suppose that the evangelical faith stands or falls on the matter of biblical inerrancy meaning that the very letter of Holy Scripture is without any error in everything it affirms, including theology, history, ethics, geography, biology and chronology.
The great danger of biblicism is that, instead of being used solely in the service of the gospel, the Bible becomes a book of rules about many other issues. Christians may become enslaved to the Bible just as the Jews became enslaved to the Torah their Holy Scripture (John 10:34,35). Just as the Jews barricaded themselves behind the letter of the Torah to oppose Jesus, so we may easily barricade ourselves behind the letter of a supposedly inerrant Scripture to oppose the gospel's festival of freedom.
There can be a false faith in the bible. In the proper spiritual sense faith is an act of real worship which should be rendered solely to the Creator (John 9:35-38). Saving faith is not faith in the Bible (for even the Christ-denying Pharisees trusted in the Bible John 5:39) but faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:22-26). While Catholics have been particularly susceptible to ecclesiology the worship of the church Protestants have been disposed toward bibliolatry the worship of the Bible.
The purpose of all Scripture is to bear witness to Christ (John 5:39; 20:31). The Bible in itself is not the Word of God. The Word of God is a person (John 1:1). Neither does the Bible have life, power or light in itself any more than did the Jewish Torah. These attributes may be ascribed to the Bible only by virtue of its relationship to Him who is Word, Life, Power and Light. Life is not in the book, as the Pharisees supposed, but only in the Man of the book (John 5:39).
The Bible is therefore to be valued because of its testimony to Jesus Christ. The Bible is absolutely trustworthy and reliable for the purpose it was given. It is designed to make us "wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 3:15), not wise on such subjects as science, history and geography which it is our responsibility to learn through general revelation.
That which makes the Bible the Bible is the gospel. That which makes the Bible the Word of God is its witness to Christ. When the Spirit bears witness to our hearts of the truth of the Bible, this is an internal witness concerning the truth of the gospel. We need to be apprehended by the Spirit, who lives in the gospel, and then judge all things by that Spirit even the letter of Scripture.
If we do not allow the Bible to be the Word of God the bearer of the gospel it might be better to follow Luther's advice to read some other book. For if the Bible is not used in the service of the gospel, it may either find people mad or make them mad.
We must stop using the Bible as though it were a potpourri of inerrant proof-texts by which we can bring people into bondage to our religious traditions. (For in practice the only inerrancy we ever defend is the inerrancy of our religious traditions and our way of reading the Bible.) We must no longer use the Bible as the Pharisees used the Torah when they gave it absolute and final status. Christian biblicism is no different from Jewish legalism. It is the old way of the letter, not the new way of the Spirit (Rom. 7:6).
Jesus and Paul declare that apart from the Spirit we cannot understand the truth (John 16:13; I Cor. 2:14). This means that unless we are caught up in the Spirit of the gospel, we cannot understand or use the Bible correctly. Apart from the gospel the Bible is letter (gramma), not Spirit (pneuma). "The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom" (II Cor. 3:6,17).
(Brinsmead, Robert D. "A Freedom from Biblicism" in The Christian Verdict, Essay 14, 1984. Fallbrook: Verdict Publications. Pgs. 9-14).