Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Hebrews 1, Evangelicals and Bibliolatry

I remember one of the first times I realised that I was in a slightly different place theologically to some of the people around me who were generally regarded as "sound".

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.
Hebrews 1:1-4, NIV

As far as I can see, this passage makes it obvious that God's perfect revelation of himself is in Jesus ("the Son"). God reveals himself better through Jesus than he does through the apostles and prophets. Jesus is God's perfect self-revelation.

Of course, I think that the Bible is perfect too, but it is necessarily limited because it is a book, and Jesus is a person. Jesus can therefore reveal God better than the Bible does. The Bible is, as books go, perfect, and helps us to know God, but it helps us to know God primarily by pointing us to Jesus. The Bible is about Jesus, all of it, but it is not Jesus. The Bible is not God's perfect self-revelation, but it is God's perfect pointer to his perfect self-revelation.

I think studying the Bible is really really important, because it's the best way to get to know Jesus, along with doing what Jesus tells you to do through the Bible.

Some people think that evangelicalism is about saying that the Bible is God's perfect revelation to the point where Jesus gets pushed out a bit. Some evangelicals think that's what evangelicalism is too. I remember one good friend who, when I asked him about Hebrews 1:1-4, tried arguing that Jesus in some sense was the Bible. (I think that's blasphemous - it's certainly leaning towards bibliolatry - worshipping a book.) Jesus speaks by his Holy Spirit through the Bible, but they are distinct.

Since then, I've got to know a lot more evangelicals, and I've realised that the bibliolatry thing is mostly restricted to some, but by no means all, conservatives. But it's still annoying, and painful for me when I see it.

Here's cartoon about it.

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