I believe “Bible-Centered Christianity” is an appropriate phrase to describe what much of modern-day institutional Christianity has become. Read the Bible, do the Bible, live by the Bible. This is not a compliment, because the faith of the early Church (I’m referring to the Ekklesia… the Body of Christ) did not center on the Bible like we see today. Although scripture did play a role in their lives, their faith and practice clearly centered around a Person (Jesus) and the love & life of God which was shed abroad in their hearts through the Holy Spirit. Any honest exegesis of the New Testament scriptures after the resurrection of Christ will reveal this.
If all Bibles were confiscated in the USA, I have a gut-feeling that many Christians would no longer be able to carry on in their relationship with God… having been led to know “the Book” rather than to personally know its Author.
I recently came across a John Hagee broadcast on TV. Hagee, in front of thousands of people, lifted up the Bible and loudly proclaimed over and over as only John Hagee can, “The Bible Is The Owners Manual To Life!!” If Jesus were in attendance and approached Hagee after the service, Hagee would be surprised when Jesus disagreed. Jesus IS the life, and He is not an owner’s manual.
If one cannot function spiritually apart from a Bible-in-hand, then the Bible is their idol; they don’t yet know what “living in Christ” actually is in reality… having yet to experience the all-sufficiency of the Person of Jesus Christ and the indwelling of His Spirit within. They may know their Bibles, but they’re relationally alienated from its Author.
There is precedent for what I’m sharing here. The Pharisees were the most scripturally literate people of Jesus’ day. Perhaps they could best be compared to some from the “religious right” of our day. Yet Jesus sees right through their dead, lifeless religion by proclaiming the following…. and what He says has implications for today:
“I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. I do not accept glory from human beings, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts.” (John 5:36-42, emphasis mine)
Wow. To those who treated the scriptures as the “owner’s manual to life”, Jesus declared that they were 1) spiritually deaf to God’s voice, 2) void of God’s love in their hearts, and 3) destitute of the “true life” they claimed they had.
Not advocating “anti-Bible” here; it’s great to have the privilege of reading, studying and learning through the Bible, and putting the insight we receive into practice. But we are not called to worship scripture; we are called to worship the Person of Jesus. There’s a huge difference between the two.
Being a walking, talking Bible Encyclopedia and having a Masters in Theology does not necessarily equate to knowing God Himself and possessing/expressing LIFE.
Perhaps A.W. Tozer brings everything “full circle” with this eloquent quote on the subject matter:
“The error of textualism is not doctrinal. It is far more subtle than that and much more difficult to discover, but its effects are just as deadly. Not its theological beliefs are at fault, but its assumptions. It assumes, for instance, that if we have the word for a thing we have the thing itself. If it is in the Bible, it is in us. If we have the doctrine, we have the experience. If something was true of Paul it is of necessity true of us because we accept Paul’s epistles as divinely inspired.”
What this world needs is not more of our Bible knowledge…. My goodness, don’t we have enough of that already? What this world needs is more of Christ’s very life being expressed through our mortal bodies, which will manifest itself in love, sacrifice and service to our fellow man, to the glory of God. Demonstrating the power of the gospel in our daily lives is the need of the hour.