There I said it. It is a stupid word. I cannot stand the word biblical – at least not the way it gets used.
As a concept, “biblical” is a pure one. The progression is easy to follow:
- The foundation of Christianity comes from the revelation of God through the Bible
- As we travel through life, it becomes easy to buy into ideas about God that have little or no basis in anything God actually says in the bible
- Therefore, we ought to make sure that everything we profess to believe and try to do should have some basis in the word of God.
- We ought to define ourselves and our actions as being “biblical”.
Now if that was the only motivation behind using the word “biblical”, then maybe I wouldn’t have such a problem with it. But let me give you three good reasons why the word “biblical” should be banished from our vocabulary:
1. It treats the Bible as a set of instructions
How often do you hear preachers referring to the Bible as a “users manual” or a “guidebook”? I don’t understand how you can read most parts of the bible and still believe that. The biblical narrative (OK, there’s a way you can use biblical) can’t be moulded into a clear set of instructions that delineate beautifully between good and evil. When we use biblical to describe our actions, we’re bringing with that the implied authority of the Bible, as though the bible can be read as a list of recommended deeds. It’s primarily a narrative, which leads me to quote Inigo Montoya:
2. “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means”
Biblical: of or pertaining to the Bible. Slavery could easily be considered as biblical. Polygamy could probably be considered biblical. These sound like they’re a bit of a stretch, but over the course of history the bible has certainly been used to justify these positions, with the thought that because they were a part of the narrative which seems to go unchallenged through the course of scripture, they must be approved by God. When we tag our own actions as “biblical”, we make it far more likely that we’ll make the same mistake. But my biggest frustration with the usage of the word “biblical” in church contexts is that:
3. It has become another way of saying that I’m right and you’re wrong
This is really why I’ve written the post. I’m sick of hearing about churches that embrace a “biblical model” of church, or activists who have embraced a “biblical worldview”. What that is trying to say is: “I’m right, I have the authority of the bible behind me, and if you disagree you are disagreeing with the authority of the bible.” And it stinks. Because there is barely an issue of biblical interpretation where there aren’t honest, genuine, God-fearing men and women holding violently opposite viewpoints. And to call one point of view “biblical” is to call into question the authenticity of someone else’s search for the truth in the word of God. It pushes people to become defensive, rather than allowing for a reasonable discussion around why you might believe in a particular concept.
I don’t like that word, and I do think it’s stupid. But nobody is likely to stop using it because of some nerd in Australia. So if you want to call things biblical, then don’t use it in an argument. Don’t use it to invalidate someone who interprets the bible differently from yourself. Because quite often you’ll find out later that you’re wrong.