A few months ago, a reader sent me an email asking me some questions about what I called “Bible deism” in one of my posts about hearing God’s voice (for the entire series on hearing God, start here.) I do not have time to write a thorough dissertation of the subject, as much as I wish I could. But perhaps I can highlight a few points.
When I talk about Bible deism, I’m talking about the belief that the Bible is the highest authority of all. This is very close to right, since the Bible shares with us the words of the highest authority–God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
However, the Bible and God are not one and the same. The Bible should not be an object of worship. Respect, yes, but not worship. It tells us about God and leads us to God, but it isn’t God.
God has given us many tools by which we can get to know Him. One of the best and most precious tools He has given us is the Bible. He also has given us other resources such as the example of the historical Church, the fellowship of the present-day Church, and the witness of nature. But if all those things were stripped away–our Bibles, other Christians, our families–knowing Him would be enough to take us through anything.
Many, many Christians across the centuries did not have access to a written Bible even though God’s Word was exceedingly precious to them. Yet their lives were so infused with God that they lived in a way that would put most of us who are very Biblically literate to shame. The Bible is not what makes a person a Jesus-follower.
We get into trouble when we start putting the Bible in God’s place. Will the Bible override the character and wisdom of God? No. Will the Bible tell us many things that help us live a Godly life? Yes. But is the Bible, in itself, enough? No.
Only God is enough. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Taking God out of the equation makes it impossible to be a genuine Christian. Taking God out leads to an utterly empty life, regardless how “religious” it is. The Bible can never replace the presence of God.
Becoming friends with God and living in a reverential awe of Him is not always easy. Our human bodies want concrete people and things to lean on. Our minds want to carefully figure out details so that our lives can follow a predictable pattern. The natural default is to worship something concrete that we can see and hold and figure out.
This is where the temptation to Bible deism comes in. If the Bible is higher than anything else–even God–then we can figure out a tidy religion by which to order our lives.
But when churches reject the living, active presence of the Holy Spirit, the practice of Christianity becomes a dead shell that people think is real. Fear and control become the primary motivators. The focus shifts to doctrine and external rules instead of living out of a heart in tune with God.
This doesn’t mean at all that the Bible is unimportant. God talks through Scripture often. I have read through the Bible countless times and find new manna every time. The words of Scripture are powerful; they convict, challenge, renew, restore. The Bible is a precious gift.
But God comes first. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. God is the only one who gives life.
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.John 5:39-40 (ESV) emphasis mine