Have you ever heard the word “bibliolatry?” I have, and it is usually in regards to someone who believes in the authority, sufficiency, and inerrancy of Scripture (like me). And, it is usually an accusation. Bibliolatry is a word that combines a Greek word for “book” and a suffix that refers to worship; bibliolatry is worship of the Bible. Additionally, the website gotQuestions.org had this to say: “The accusation of bibliolatry is that some Christians elevate the Bible to the point that it is equal with God, or to the point that studying the Bible is more important than developing a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.”
Concerning bibliolatry, let me say very clearly that we certainly should not worship the medium in which the Word of God comes to us. Paper and binding, mp3s, CDs, electronic documents, and all other media are part of the created order and are certainly not to be worshipped. But, in terms of the content of these various media-the canon of Scripture-it is not that simple.
Without going into a massive explanation and defense of my position on this, I’d like to share with you a few things in regards to this that I encountered in John Frame’s book on Scripture, The Doctrine of the Word of God. These ideas and verses from the Bible really got me thinking about God and his Word. In fact, I haven’t stopped thinking about it; it regularly resurfaces in the “Things to Think About” file in my mind.
First, Frame notes that God’s speech has divine attributes. Some of the attributes that God’s Word ascribes to itself are: righteousness (Ps. 119:7), faithfulness (119:86), wonderfulness (119:129), uprightness (119:137), purity (119:40), truth (119:142; John 17:17), eternality (Ps. 119:89, 160), omnipotence (Isa. 55:11), and perfection (Ps. 19:7).
There probably weren’t any surprises there, but Frame continues by noting that the Word does things that are only possible for God to do. It is likely best to read the whole paragraph:
“In Hebrews 4:12-13, the author says:
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two- edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Verse 12 speaks of the word of God discerning the most hidden aspects of our being. That clearly is something that only God can do. Verse 13 seems to mark a transition from talking about the word to talking about God but there is no grammatical indication of a change to a new subject. In both verses the author speaks of the powers of the word, and in both the powers of God. There is no distinction between one and the other. What the word does, God does, and vice versa. So the word not only has distinctively divine attributes, but also performs distinctively divine acts.”
That point might have caught you a little off-guard if you had never considered it. I know it caught me by surprise. And Frame’s next argument might have you picking up large rocks to stone the author with. Frame suggests that in the Bible, God’s words are an object of worship. Returning to the Psalms, Frame notes that the psalmists views the words of God with attitudes of reverence and awe which only seem appropriate for God himself. Consider these actions of the psalmists. In regard to God’s words, the psalmist:
- trembles with godly fear (Ps. 119:120)
- stands in awe of them (Ps. 119:161)
- rejoices in them (Ps. 119:162)
- lifts his hands to God's commandments (Ps. 119:48).
Furthermore, the psalmist also praises God's word in Psalm 56:4, 10 which are as follows:
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me? (Psalm 56:3-4 ESV)
Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call.
This I know, that God is for me.
In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can man do to me? (Psalm 56:9-11 ESV)
Frame notes, “This is extraordinary, since Scripture uniformly considers it idolatrous to worship anything other than God. But to praise or fear God's word is not idolatrous. To praise God's word is to praise God himself. “
The argument continues in The Doctrine of the Word of God but that is mostly enough for this post. I hope that these ideas and Scripture passages have given you something to think about. If, like me, you found them a bit startling, I’d encourage you to prayerfully meditate on them. I think that Frame sums up the chapter from which these quotations come in a way that is helpful and instructive. He writes,
“So the word is God. When we encounter the word of God, we encounter God. When we encounter God, we encounter his word. We cannot encounter God without the word, or the word without God. God's word and his personal presence are inseparable. His word, indeed, is his personal presence. Whenever God's Word is spoken, read, or heard, God himself is there.”