Are We Putting the Bible in Its Place?
The church might be suffering from infoenza.
The Bible, which chronicles God’s relationship with mankind, can easily become a substitute for relationship with God. Let’s be honest. The Bible is a real and tangible thing, where sometimes God is not. It’s not hard to understand why we would elevate biblical knowledge above any other spiritual indicator.
Our weakness propels us to work harder at things others can see and appreciate. I can demonstrate my biblical knowledge in all sorts of Christian contexts easier than any other discipline—so why wouldn’t I do that? This can make biblical study a no-brainer (and fool me into the believing that by knowing it, I’ve done it).
This scriptural infoenza manifests itself in a couple of ways:
1. Bible-quiz culture: In Bible quizzing, groups of kids get together and answer questions on predetermined sections of Scripture. The kids that are able to answer the most trivia questions about their passage are the winners. My daughter did it and seemed to enjoy it (hopefully this will stop you from yelling at me).
To me, Bible quizzing is a picture of how our Bible-study culture can elevate the knowledge of biblical trivia over the application of biblical concepts.
I place great value on the memorization of Scripture, but I don’t memorize the references. I want to get the Bible inside of me and memorizing verse reference numbers often makes the natural act of committing a passage to memory a more difficult action (for me). This places me at a huge deficit in a culture that elevates the Bible to a game-show levels of trivial pursuit.
I’d prefer a history professor who elevates history’s lessons, drama, and narrative over the rote memorization of dates, locations, and characters. Both are important, but the latter has to be informing the former or else it’s lost.
It’s easy to walk away from quiz culture without the idea that the key to respect is knowing more facts than anyone else. Hopefully our biblical knowledge is facilitating a relational understanding of God and a posture toward the things God cares about.
2. Conference culture: There seems to be a never ending demand for sermons, books, and conferences that offer new spins and fresh perspectives on biblical concepts. If you’re able to tell us the ancient story with in a contemporary way, we’ll make you the next big thing.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with presenting truth in new and exciting ways. The problem is introduced when we become addicted to sensational new views of timeless biblical truth. We have this idea that we’re a just a new perspective away from unlocking Christianity’s secrets in our lives.
The beauty of Christianity is found in the doing . . . in fact it’s the doing that gives the Word the proper context. You’re not going to unlock the mysteries in the parable of the sheep and the goats until you start visiting people in prison and clothing the naked. Eventually a goat’s going to have to leave a conference and do the work to become a sheep . . .
3. Theological culture: Where do you stand on debates surrounding issues like:
Know what? I don’t particularly care. I have my opinions and believe them strongly, but I have lived long enough to know that I don’t have the same view on some of these issues that I will have twenty years from now.
We expend so much effort and time brushing up on our side of a particular debate, posturing with those that agree with us, and bickering with those that don’t that we miss the greater blessing of the body. Jesus’ final prayer was that we would be one—like he and the Father were one. Our hyper-theological culture guarantees this will never be the case.
Instead of being informed and built up by our different perspectives, we expend so much energy trying to convert each other to a savior we already have in common.
Biblical study is extremely important, but it’s supposed to fuel something else. We don’t study to outshine each other. We don’t do it to chase the latest interpretive craze. We don’t study to win arguments. We study to enable us to understand God better and to call us to actions in keeping with his passion.
We print 1 Corinthians 13 on throw pillows and wall hangings, but we miss the significance. If we think that the purpose to of Scripture is to unlock all mysteries and give us all knowledge but we don’t use it to inform and inspire our behavior . . . we might as well not bother. Because, as Paul tells the Galatians, the only thing that matters is faith expressing itself in love.