Authority in community, the Bible as Idolatry

I was recently asked by a friend of mine, whether, as Christians, the Bible is our Authority?  My reply was no.  Ultimately faith, theology, tradition and such things are the interpretive domain of community and the individual.  The authority is in our common & diverse exploration of God and our seeking of him: common in that we who call ourselves Christians are all seeking, diverse because we all see him differently.  That is messy and not monolithic in any sort of organizational sense.  The fact that there are differing ideas about God, differing interpretations of holy writ all contribute to a lack of power base for those who would like to add uniformity of thought and expression.  

Now my friend who asked me the initial above question is not the sort of guy who is looking to extend any power base or necessary uniformity of belief.  He was genuinely asking the question that he was currently wrestling through in his Christian journey.  But his question has continued to bounce around in my mind, not because I am questioning the answer I gave him, I’m not, but because I am thinking about how bible has become an idol in western protestant Christianity, especially for the fundamentalist and the evangelicals.  Like any idol it does not reflect the divine but the maker and the gazer.  The blind spot (the reflection) in bible and faith is interpretation…we are all converging upon the same collection of words but we are all bringing different perspectives, experiences and theology to that interpretive process and coming out with different ideas and beliefs.  Additionally, we are swapping off the experiences of others, or rather our interpretation of another’s witness of those events, in place of our own.  If God is real, if he is involved in human affairs, then he should be at work in the 21st century just like in the 1st, only the places, the ways, our understanding of how and where he is at work should be different if only because of all the history behind us.  Really the bible, as it is used today reflects back our views and interpretations, not necessarily the divine.

Now I don’t want to throw out the bible; far from that I think it needs to be brought back to a place of appropriate function within the community of faith.  I think that the bible is something that we should be in dialogue with (Borg) and to the extent that we are in conversation with those stories and living a explorative Christian life, seeking to find where God is working in our day, we are living a Christian life.

Why do some wish to have bible as our authority, I think that has more to do with power than with faith.

What do you think?

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8 thoughts on “Authority in community, the Bible as Idolatry

  1. I think you nee to spend more time reading it if this is what you think.

  2. I do, most everyday. Its not the bible that I am talking about…it is our interpretations of the bible.

  3. What do I mean by authority? Authority is that which we look to for meaning and from which we speak. Do we find justification in our Christian living from our or an interpretation of holy writ, or in the God in whom our living is aimed? Some would say that Bible is our “ultimate authority.” But I am saying that (in that scenario: Bible as ultimate authority) it isn’t really Bible, but our interpretation of Bible and that probably points back to us more than to God.

    I find justification for my Christian living from more existential sources, like our common exploration into God, faith and things Christian. Now Bible certainly fits into that because it is one of the places that points at God’s purpose, love, kingdom, grace etc. But it it is set on too high a place (not realizing our interpretational imposition) then we set up for ourselves an idol.

  4. “Authority is that which we look to for meaning and from which we speak.”

    So, the antithesis of this is that the Bible being no authority does not speak for you, and you do not look to it for meaning?

  5. NO. I didn’t say that the Bible holds not authority for the Christian Community. It does. I am saying that we all approach this text and that our engagement with that involves an interpretive process that will always impose much of what we bring to the text, which in turn affects what we take away. That which we bring to the text comes from cutlural, religious and experiential sources. Therefore we cannot suppose that our interpretation is completely accurate, nor in any way absolute.

    This however is the how many Christian groups view Bible (missing that they impact meaning through their interpretation). This leads to an idolatrous perspective of Bible.

    For me The Bible has tremendous meaning and has fundamentally informed my understanding of God, the world and myself. I have spent years reading, studying and trusting it. I took Greek and Hebrew in Seminary so that I might be a better student of the text.

    However we must keep in mind that no matter how diligently we study, the goal is not the bible but the one to whom it points.

    St. Thomas said, “The primary object of faith is not a proposition, but the reality that it designates.”

  6. Well, you did say:

    “I was recently asked by a friend of mine, whether, as Christians, the Bible is our Authority? My reply was no.”

    Maybe your no should have been changed to not completely?

    “This however is the how many Christian groups view Bible (missing that they impact meaning through their interpretation). This leads to an idolatrous perspective of Bible.”

    So, misinterpretation is idolatry? Do you presuppose that you have interpreted it correctly?

  7. Do you presuppose that you have interpreted it correctly?

    absolutely not. My post merely puts forth my perspective and thoughts. They are helpful to me but not necessarily helpful, nor do they make good sense to you. But that’s okay because I am responsible to God for my beliefs, with which I am at peace.

    So I am not sure why we keep the comments going. Are you hoping to change or “convert” my opinions to what you think or are you just curious and want to understand what I am thinking?

    If it is the latter, I am more than willing to continue to have a discussion with you, if it is the former, I think we’re done.

    peace to you.

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