Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Saturday, March 26, 2011


The Oxford Dictionaries define bibliolatry as:
1. an excessive adherence to the literal interpretation of the Bible.
Sometimes people misspell it as Bibleolatry but we want to use the official English word here. As Wikipedia points out the word is used as a pejorative, it is not that there really are Christians that literally worship the Bible. It is just the impression one gets from the way they use the Bible. A couple of examples from my wandering across the Internet.

Over on a person by the name of David begins a post by saying:
in Luke 19 "if they are quiet the rocks will cry out''. Truth? egw in DA p573 says
“That scene of triumph was of Gods own appointing. It had been fortold by the prophet, and man was POWERLESS TO TURN IT ASIDE. Had men failed to carry out His plan, He would have GIVEN A VOICE TO INANIMATE STONES, and they would have hailed His Son with ACCLAMATIONS of praise."

God does not want the praise or worship of robots (weve talked about this many times here). Would the rocks have been robots 'acclaiming paise' ? would that have made Jesus happy? forcing rocks to praise Hiim?
The post goes on into some more questionable thoughts but to this point it is pretty clever. It shows a very good example of bibliolatry in Ellen Whites writing's. It is the tendency to take something that could easily simply be hyperbole into something that is meant to be taken literally. Jesus speaks the following in Luke's gospel account:
Luke 19:37-41NIV When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!" n "Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples!""I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it”
It is easy to see this as a jab at the Pharisees who wanted to quiet the crowd, it is more difficult to see this as a possibility of God causing stones to speak human language, after all stones don't say much most of the time and they are not thought to be all that smart or connected to spiritual things. Why would God want to make stones praise God...that would be pretty cheap praise. If God forces you, or an inanimate object to praise Him is it really praise at all?

In this case we have a combination of bibliolatry and Ellenolatry, though that last one is not currently a real English word and I hope it never becomes one. But it is sort of the idolatry that the Whiteites do exhibit. Whiteites is a term I do hope becomes a legitimate English word for those who uncritically accept Ellen White as prophetic spiritual authority who is without theological, historical or scientific error.

Let's look at another frequent example of bibliolatry, this one from Sherman Cox II on his blog Sabbath Pulpit. Speaking about the 2011 Japanese Earthquake and some Adventist responses he writes:
Now there is the whole “God is trying to tell God’s true church something” bit. Ok it is possible to read this as “God killing of thousands of innocent lives just to tell the church something.” I don’t know, but I don’t think that is Boonstra’s interpretation. I would guess that Boonstra would mean that “God is withdrawing God’s hand of protection and thus the evil one is allowed to do more and more of these things. Thus it is a signal to us that the end is near.” Certainly folks may disagree with that due to having a different theology, but is it really an insidious attack on God’s goodness.
Last week in my Sabbath School class I encountered this very similar idea that God is withdrawing His hand of protection, it is an idea based upon the following verse in Revelation:
Revelation 6:16-7:4 NIV They called to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?" After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree. Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: "Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God." Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.
This is another of those intersections between the Whiteites and bibliolatry, like the person in my class they did not seem to realize that their quote from Revelation about the four winds is very subject to interpretation, to the Adventist traditionalist when they point to that verse their minds actually refer to the following Ellen White quote:
The restraining Spirit of God is even now being withdrawn from the world. Hurricanes, storms, tempests, fire and flood, disasters by sea and land, follow each other in quick succession. Science seeks to explain all these. The signs thickening around us, telling of the near approach of the Son of God, are attributed to any other than the true cause. Men cannot discern the sentinel angels restraining the four winds that they shall not blow until the servants of God are sealed; but when God shall bid His angels loose the winds, there will be such a scene of strife as no pen can picture. (Testimonies to the Church Vol 6 page 408)
Now there is no real Bible teaching that God restrains His Spirit but the belief in the authoritative prophet with the aid of subsequent tradition, the interpretation of a specific Bible text though vague becomes an infallible truth. It then becomes bibliolatry.

At its heart bibliolatry is never really about what the Bible says it is about what the chosen interpretation is. The one particular interpretation is the truth regardless of the other options involved. So the people don't even come close to worshiping the Bible as much as their respect is limited to their particular interpretation. If you don't agree with that interpretation then you reject the Bible and if you reject their interpretation of the Bible you are rejecting God. It reminds me of the text I found when looking at the only other Bible text where stones cry out
Habakkuk 2:11-12 NIV The stones of the wall will cry out, and the beams of the woodwork will echo it."Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by crime!
After that bit of poetic language the prophet moves on to another subject and we read:
Habakkuk 2:18 NIV "Of what value is an idol, since a man has carved it? Or an image that teaches lies? For he who makes it trusts in his own creation; he makes idols that cannot speak.
When the Bible text interpretation becomes an object of the human creator it becomes an idol, it can then speak lies, the text speak what the idol maker wants them to say because the trust is now in the idol (assigned meaning to the text by the idol maker). This is most easily done with vague and obscure texts such as the Latter Day Saints do with baptism for the dead or the reference to the Time of Jacobs Trouble or the four winds etc. Apocalyptic literature is ideal for this technique. Bibliolatry is a growing problem in Adventism. Next week. The myth of solo scriptura.


Jan McKenzie said...

I think your working some poor theology here, Ron. Throughout Scripture God clearly extends or withdraws his favour, from his covenant people as well as other nations. This is true of individuals as well. Both nations and persons can grieve the Spirit of God. The pleading of the Psalmist for a return of God's favor would be nonsense otherwise, as would the whole conditional nature of prophet fulfillment.

As for the stones crying out, nature is often literally responding to the presence of God in some way. There are literal signs in the "heavens", the sun, moon, and stars. The earth shudders at God's presence at Sinai. To equate rocks crying out with turning them into "robots" is far less than profound. No more so than God giving voice to dumb donkey.

The darkness and earthquake at Calvary were supernatural signs of a spiritual act in Christ. In fact, from creation, it is man, not nature that continual resist the will of the creator.

There is no idolarty of the Bible in these examples, rather, there is an idolizing of human reason over the divine prerogatives of God to act as and when he chooses.

Ron Corson said...

No it is very reasonable theology. God giving favor or blessing or a curse is not the same as withdrawing His Spirit from the world. There is no Biblical statement to the effect that God ever withdraws from the world. In Fact Christ said He would be with us to the end of the world.

The Psalmist pleads for forgiveness because the Psalmist has left God, not God leaving the Psalmists.

Nature does not respond to the presence or absence of God it has nothing with which to respond with it has no mind and no will power or choice. That God can effect nature we would agree like turning water into wine. It is not because the water wanted to be wine it is because God changed it into wine.

Rocks have no voice and no ability to choice to praise God or not praise God and we don't need to assume that Balaam's donkey learned human speech and developed the power to reason and understand human speech as well as all the other things that went into Balaam's actions. Again it would simply be God speaking through the animal quite apart from the animals choices. If you believe animals have those kind of abilities naturally then what business do we have making them work for us at all?

The darkness and earthquake at Calvary are likewise God acting on nature not nature responding to God. Man resists God because man as the ability to choose nature does not.

You have shown that my thesis is in fact correct by your statements which hold to an unreasonable tradition as if it were Biblical truth and that is what Bibliolatry does.

Have you ever considered what a wonderful way for God to prove to mankind that He does exist it would be for stones to vocally praise God and identify who the real God is? Would be a powerful statement of God's power. But God acts through reason which is why stones don't praise God and they never had and they never will.

Chuck said...

Ron, you say: "When the Bible text interpretation becomes an object of the human creator it becomes an idol, it can then speak lies, the text speak what the idol maker wants them to say because the trust is now in the idol (assigned meaning to the text by the idol maker)."

Ron, help me understand. I admit that I put my interpretation on the Biblical accounts. And, would we not agree that we all must interpret every word in Scripture, in fact, every word everywhere must be interpreted.

I concur that the interpretation must be reasonable. (See Isa. 1:18)
Will I come to the reasonable and correct interpretation of Scripture on my own, on my own through prayer with the help of the Holy Spirit, or should I take the interpretation of some other individual?

I further admit that I interpret Scripture through my understanding and belief of who God really is.
If I understand God to be loving, kind, forgiving, long-suffering, etc., I will interpret Scripture differently than if I understand God to be severe, exacting revengeful, and arbitrary.

For example, in Isaiah 9:17,21 the NIV says: "Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away, his hand is still upraised."

So, how does one understand/interpret these words?
What is "his anger" and how and for what purpose is "his hand still upraised"?

Should I take Dr. Peterson's interpretation: "And after that, he was still angry, his fist still raised, ready to hit them again"?

Or should I come to my own interpretation with the aid of the Holy Spirit? If I did this would it be bibliolatry?

I view the "anger" of God as God giving me or letting me have my own way. He gives me advice, counsels me, speaks to my mind--but he does not force me--he lets me go my own way--and yet after all this he is is still always there with "out-stretched" hand saying: Come unto me and be healed/restored to what you were meant to be.

Is this bibliolatry?

Sabbath School Comments said...

Ron, I have to agree with Jan's comments. But I'll leave a couple of my own.

First of all, concerning the withdrawal of the Holy Spirit from the world, we know that God withdraws His presence and protection from men to honor their choice. This is described three times in Romans 1 when God "gives up" idolaters to the tyranny of their carnal natures. Also, whenever Israel chose to reject God, they were not protected from other nations. The end result was the Babylonian captivity (and later their destruction by Rome).

Secondly, we should take the Bible as it reads, comparing text with text, unless there is obvious symbolism (such as the beasts in Revelation). As far as the rocks crying out, I suppose it has a symbolic interpretation. But I see nothing wrong with taking it literally too - unless you're a deist and don't believe in miracles. If you read Psalm 104, you will see that God is actively involved in His created works.

To conclude, I think a careful reading of Psalm 119 will reveal that loving God's word is not a form of idolatry. "Thy word is very pure," says David; "therefore thy servant loveth it" (verse 140). And when James says, "be doers of the word," do I become a bibliolater if I take this verse literally?

Ron Corson said...

Chuck's question will be answered more in my article on sola scriptura as myth. Because unless you apply God given reason to the interpretation of all the data the result will often be Bibliolatry.

As for Sabbath school comment's the Psalmist reference to thy word is not a reference to the Bible. The reference in Romans to God giving people over to their own choices has nothing at all to do with His withdrawal from the world. They choose to disregard God so they leave the Spirit of God. Those statements in Romans are also far from the universal world application.

If you choose to take the Bible as it reads then we know that Jesus lied because He said that unless a seed dies it cannot grow and produce it's own fruit. Seeds that do grow do not die. So you can't say take the Bible as it reads because it is written using common human ideas of the time as well as common human expressions such as hyperbole etc.

One final thing the Israel theocracy history does not transfer well to current non theocracy times.

Corey said...

Every church has its own interpretation of the Bible. In my opinion (and yes I am probably biased) Adventism makes sense -- especially in comparison to other theologies.

Have Adventists developed a "tradition" that colors how we interpret the Bible? Of course. We would have bedlam if each member were to come up with his/her own private interpretation. There would be disunity and confusion.

If you can attack Adventist doctrine for being unbiblical, then do so -- but not based on your private interpretation. Personal opinions don't matter and are not enough to overcome truth.

God Bless and Happy Sabbath.

Ron Corson said...

Corey says:
"Of course. We would have bedlam if each member were to come up with his/her own private interpretation. There would be disunity and confusion."

You have just given the explanation that the Roman Catholic church uses to move their tradition into authoritative truth. That is in my view one of the hallmarks of Traditional Adventism which is their tradition is truth.

Very little of what I ever write is a private interpretation. I mean what would be the point if it was only me against every other Christian in history. No I choose what makes sense and what is most reasonable and contextual and rarely do I claim what I have stated is the "truth" I may however use the term "the truth is" but that is idiomatic to our language usage.