It seems to me that some Christians have fallen into the trap of idolizing the bible, making it the central and sole substance, as if that the bible was all there is to Christianity. To these people, studying and believing the bible is everything. What I’m attempting to communicate is a fairly subtle difference; while important, it can be difficult to communicate, so I hope this will make sense.
Before I continue I want to review a bit of history in order to clarify why the bible is emphasized. After the church became institutionalized—thanks to the political powers of the Roman Empire—the “official” church and leaders thereof assumed authority over Christianity. Basically, if the church by way of its leaders said something was true, you couldn’t question it. The view of the bible was one of the most important issues brought up at the time of the reformation. In essence (and to the best of my understanding), the reformers held that the bible was the authority on truth as opposed to the church and its hierarchy. So in Protestantism, the Bible is viewed as the ultimate authority for truth, morality, theology, etc.
Now some questions: If evolution was somehow proven true, would you still believe in Christ? If there wasn’t a literal seven day creation, would you still follow God? What if you discovered that everyone was predestined? Or that everyone actually has free will? Or that heaven or hell or judgement don’t work quite the way you thought they did? What if you discovered—heaven forbid—that the bible contains errors or isn’t 100% accurate? Would you still believe in God? Would you still follow Christ? If not, what is your faith actually in? Do you really have faith in God or does your faith lie in your understanding of the bible or some part thereof?
You may think I’m completely off track, but I think this reveals something important. While the bible reveals Christ, Christ is above the bible, not subject to it. Jesus says that he is the truth, not the bible. In other words, the bible is true insofar as it conforms to Christ, not the other way around. Don’t fear! I still hold that the bible is one of the primary ways of knowing Christ and is an indispensable resource. It’s very necessary for keeping us all on track.
But I want to keep us from making the same mistake that many of the religious leaders did in Jesus day. The old testament has a high view of the scriptures and the Law, so this is not itself the problem. The high view of scriptures was centrally important to the religious leaders of Jesus day. The problem is that some of them ended up holding scripture (or again, their understanding of it) above God himself. For them, God had to conform to the scriptures—specifically their understanding of scripture—or he wasn’t God. So of course when Jesus came, many of the religious elite—the scholars and those most devoted to the scriptures—missed Jesus and determined that he was a blasphemer rather than the messiah. In this they demonstrated that their god was their understand of scripture rather than the one true God of heaven and earth. They fought and protected their god at all costs.
The purpose of the bible is to teach us about God, Jesus, and ourselves. While I believe most Christians would agree with this statement, I feel like some Christians focus on the bible to the point of forgetting about God. It as though they think that if they just know the bible and correctly discern it’s theology, then they have it made. But to do this is to miss the whole point: knowing God (not just knowing about him). Let us get to know God and allow him to shape our understanding of himself and the bible through both scripture and the other means he uses to communicate to us, rather than requiring God to conform to our own understanding of the bible.