Is There a Danger of Worshipping the Bible Instead of God?

Perhaps you’ve heard someone say something like, “My faith is in God, not the Bible” or “Be careful you’re not worshipping the Bible or making an idol out of it.” 

I agree that there is a danger of having our faith in the wrong object. And there have been some people who seemingly hold the Bible in higher esteem than they do Jesus. But seen properly, the Bible is not a competitor with God; on the contrary, it is our God-given means of knowing Him through His revealed truth.

God’s Word is the only trustworthy revelation of His character and will.

How can we know what God is really like? We can’t know without an authoritative revelation from God. Everything else is guesswork.

Anselm wrote, “Intelligent nature . . . finds its happiness, both now and forever, in the contemplation of God.” But we can only contemplate God with confidence if we have a source of information about God we can trust.

Scripture says this about its own nature:

  • Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:16, NET)
  • No prophecy of scripture ever comes about by the prophet’s own imagination, for no prophecy was ever borne of human impulse; rather, men carried along by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (2 Peter 1:20-21, NET)

The people in Berea were commended for subjecting the apostle Paul’s words to God’s Word: “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11, NASB).

Everything the Bible says about God is true; everything anyone says about God that contradicts the Bible is false. Apart from a belief in the authority of God’s Word—as well as a growing knowledge of what it says—we’ll be vulnerable to deception. This is why one of the greatest needs in churches today is the consistent teaching of sound doctrine. Without it, and without people reading good books that reinforce a biblical worldview, God’s people will drift along, swept away by the current of popular opinion.

Faith is not inherently virtuous. Its value depends on the worth of its object. The Bible, understood in context and given precedent over our own instincts and preferences, is our dependable guide for faith and practice. Only by learning what Scripture says about God can we know what’s true about Him.

When we delight in God’s Word, we are delighting in Him.

Imagine this scenario, from an age before e-mail, social media, and FaceTime: a young woman is in love with a soldier serving overseas. Every day she checks her mailbox. Whenever a letter arrives, she opens it and eagerly reads and rereads every word.

Wouldn’t it be accurate to say she delights in her fiancé’s love letters? Would anyone correct her, “No, you should only take delight in him, not his letters”? That would be a meaningless distinction. Why? Because his love letters are an extension of him.

Yet I’ve heard people say, “Don’t take pleasure in the Bible; take pleasure in God.” But to study God’s words is to take pleasure in God, because His Word is an expression of His very being.

Anyone who finds happiness in God must find happiness in God’s words:

In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. (Psalm 119:14)

I find my delight in your commandments, which I love. (Psalm 119:47)

Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. (Psalm 119:97)

Notice such Scriptures demonstrate that to delight in and to meditate upon God’s Word is to delight in God Himself.

A woman self-consciously told one of our pastors that before going to sleep each night she reads her Bible, then hugs it as she falls asleep. “Is that weird?” she asked. While it may be unusual, it’s not weird. This woman has known suffering, and as she clings to His promises, she clings to God. Any father would be moved to hear that his daughter falls asleep with letters he wrote her held close to her. Surely God treasures such an act of childlike love.

The point of studying God’s Word is to know Him.

There is a danger of idolizing our own knowledge of the Bible rather than remembering the point is to know Him better. (If we fail to understand that, the problem is with us, not the Bible!) J. I. Packer, in the first chapter of his book Knowing God, says this:

To be preoccupied with getting theological knowledge as an end in itself, to approach Bible study with no higher a motive than a desire to know all the answers, is the direct route to a state of self-satisfied self-deception. We need to guard our hearts against such an attitude, and pray to be kept from it. …there can be no spiritual health without doctrinal knowledge; but it is equally true that there can be no spiritual health with it, if it is sought for the wrong purpose and valued by the wrong standard.

…Our aim in studying the Godhead must be to know God himself better. Our concern must be to enlarge our acquaintance, not simply with the doctrine of God’s attributes, but with the living God whose attributes they are. As he is the subject of our study, and our helper in it, so he must himself be the end of it.

May we see Bible study and doctrine as a basis for humble worship of our King and Savior, not for prideful posturing.

God’s words have the power to bring heart-happiness.

As a new believer in Christ, I couldn’t get enough of God’s Word. At night I sometimes fell asleep with my face on an open Bible. Other times I would listen to Scripture on cassette tapes (if you’re 35 or younger you may need to Google that!). As I drifted off to sleep, my last waking memories were of God’s words.

When Jeremiah said that God’s Word “became to me a joy and the delight of my heart” (Jeremiah 15:16), he was suggesting that Scripture has a cumulative effect that increases over time. Happily, by God’s grace, I can attest to this. As our dear sister Joni Eareckson Tada says:

If you want to increase your desire for God, then get to know Him in a deeper way. And there is no better way to know Him than through His Word. Get into God’s Word, and you will get a heart for Jesus. Get passionate about Scripture, and your passion for Him will increase. Feelings follow faith…and faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.

God promises that His Word “will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). We live in a time where the Bible is increasingly minimized. Let’s be committed to doing everything we can to uplift and honor God’s Word, as a means of knowing and loving Him.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries