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Thursday, May 11, 2006


I have recently completed a book called "Christianity without God" by Lloyd Geering. I'll be reviewing this book at my local Freethought & Humanist book club* in July, so I'll save a detailed review for then.

But one thing I found very interesting was a point made by Geering about idolatry and the bible. Biblical literalism, as it stands today in Protestant denominations, seems to be largely a result of the reformation. The Protestants had to have some competing authority on which to base criticism of the Catholic church. By the time of the Westminster Confession of Faith, supreme authority of the bible itself was placed as a higher Article than even talk of God.

As Geering points out, this had the affect of "demoting God". Geering suggests that biblical literalists are practicing idolatry by making the bible itself into an idol.

After reading this I was reminded of a conversation I had with someone prior about Jesus. In Matthew, chapter 5, verses 17-48, Jesus points out the distinction between laws and goodness. In several examples he points out what the law says, and then goes a step further into the issue of how we think. Jesus is written to be saying that these principles should extend into our minds and our character; not to be based on mere legalism.

Although the meaning of these verses is little appreciated, the essential meaning is that the Law does not exist on stone tablets, but must live in our hearts. Jesus was said to be the 'word made flesh' and making the word flesh was to be an example for others. So what do Christians do after Jesus? They spend the next several centuries taking everything he said (and much of what he didn't say) and inscribing it into immutable law; more stone tablets.

There is a word for the idolatry that biblical literalists and those who hold it to be inerrant practice - Bibliolatry.

*Actually it's called the "Ideas Club" because, rather than merely a book club. We use the concepts in the book as a springboard into discussions of the ideas they present.

1 comment:

  1. This reminds me of Buddhists taking the Buddha's words and then doing practically the opposite of what he taught. Something about "don't stare at my finger when I'm pointing at the moon."