The term bibliolatry comes from combining the Greek words for Bible and worship. In a Christian context, simply stated, bibliolatry is the worship of the Bible. Typically, the accusation of bibliolatry is used as an attack on those who hold to the inerrancy, infallibility, and supremacy of Scripture. It is often employed as an inflammatory and derogatory attack on believers who hold to “sola scriptura” and/or a literal interpretation of the Bible.
It is important to note that the charge of bibliolatry does not claim some Christians literally bow down before a Bible and worship it, as if it were an idol. While there may be some strange cult out there that literally worships the Bible, that is not what bibliolatry is referring to. The accusation of bibliolatry is that some Christians elevate the Bible to the point that it is equal with God, or to the point that studying the Bible is more important than developing a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. Is the charge of bibliolatry accurate?
First, it is important to understand what the Bible says about itself. Second Timothy 3:16-17 declares, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” So, if the Bible is “God-breathed,” and “God does not lie” (Titus 1:2), then every word in the Bible must be true. Believing in an inerrant, infallible, and authoritative Bible is not bibliolatry. Rather, it is simply believing what the Bible says about itself. Further, believing what the Bible says about itself is in fact worshiping the God who breathed out His Word. Only a perfect, infallible, omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient God could create written revelation that is itself perfect and infallible.
Do some believers emphasize the Bible to the point that other things of importance—such as tradition, nature, reason, and experience—are neglected? Yes. However, the Bible, based on what it says about itself, must be a higher authority than any of these and must, in fact, be the authority against which they are judged. God would never contradict Himself by revealing something in nature, reason, or experience that disagrees with what He revealed in His Word. The Bible is not to be worshiped, but the God of the Bible is to be worshiped. To ignore what God has revealed about Himself in His Word and instead elevate the subjective “revelations” of nature, reason, and experience is idolatry (Romans 1:18-25).
The Bible is not God. The Bible does not contain all of God’s knowledge. While the Bible gives principles that apply to every situation, it does not explicitly give us all the information we need to daily live our lives. Part of the problem is that some Christians take the saying “the Bible says it, that settles it, I believe it” to extremes. While the statement is absolutely true and should reflect how we view the Bible, God’s Word does not instruct us to abandon our brains or ignore our experiences. True reason is completely compatible with Scripture. Experience can help us in our understanding of Scripture. While the Bible must be our authority, we must also use it to confirm and verify the conclusions we reach with our God-given reason and God-directed experience (1 Peter 3:15). Believing what the Bible says about itself is not bibliolatry. Rather, accepting God’s Word for what it claims to be is in fact worshiping the God who breathed it.