Stop Abusing the Word “Biblical”!

I’ve got some prophetic fire that I need to let out so I’m going to try to do so in a way that doesn’t compromise my office as a pastor. I am sick and tired of seeing people abuse the word “Biblical” by attaching it to causes and ideas that have nothing to do with the Bible. The spiritual lava started building up started last month when I was sitting in a meeting at church. We had sent out spies to test out how other churches welcome their visitors. Well one of our spies went to a local “Bible” church and the topic of the sermon for that week was “The truth behind the Arab Spring.”

Seriously? That’s the message that they had to encourage people to give their lives to Jesus Christ and spur them on to love and good deeds in His name? To fill their heads with anti-Arab propaganda? Somebody thought it was okay to call that a sermon which represents the word of God? I imagine they probably quoted the Bible as part of this “sermon.” But what is the kingdom purpose of giving your congregation ideological talking points about a foreign policy issue? How does that help them to live more like Christ? Is it still the purpose of people who wear the title of “Biblical” to live like Christ? In how many other “Bible” churches out there has “Biblical” become a code-word for an ideological platform that serves a purpose completely foreign to God’s mission but cherry-picks verses out of the Biblical text to justify itself?

How did this problem arise? Here’s my theory. One of Satan’s greatest victories in the American evangelical church has been to convince the vast majority of us that the “faith” of salvation is about “beliefs” rather than “trust.” Instead of trusting in Christ for their salvation, many evangelicals think they are saved by having the correct opinions on a set of theological topics, such as believing that hell is eternal conscious torment (which is the most important one), that Mary really was a virgin, that Jesus really did miracles, that Jesus’ death on the cross could only have been penal substitution (even if you don’t know what that means), that the world was created 6000 years ago, etc.

There isn’t necessarily consensus on how long the list of correct opinions is, but this list is what the word “Biblical” has come to signify. “Biblical” opinions are contrasted with what evangelicals call “worldly” opinions, some of which may include that a loving God won’t send people to hell, that Jesus’ death was the political assassination of a non-violent social justice crusader, that people come from monkeys, etc. Since Biblical opinions are defined against worldly opinions which are perceived to be shaped by secular authorities like political correctness and science, then political incorrectness and contempt for science correspondingly become the standards by which “Biblical” truth is evaluated. Since believing in a literal interpretation of Genesis is unscientific, then not believing in global warming must be “Biblical” also. If it’s p0litically incorrect to call premarital sex a sin, then it must also be “Biblical” to expose the politically incorrect “truth” nobody wants to admit that all Muslims are born terrorists (or perhaps that Obama was born in Indonesia no matter what paperwork those sketchy Hawaiian officials claim to have).

Let me give you an example that seems to support my theory. Ken Hutcherson is the pastor of Antioch “Bible” Church near Seattle. He has been the leader in the fight against same-sex marriage in Washington state. Here is a list of the “Biblical” principles by which he defines himself in a short bio:

How would you like to be a big black man who is conservative, friends with the likes of Dr. James Dobson and Rush Limbaugh, someone who believes that there are no mistakes in the Bible, doesn’t care what people think of him, thinks the only way to make your enemy a friend is to defeat them or kill them, thinks it is okay for prisoners to be executed, thinks that the human race is at the top of the food chain, thinks it is okay to drill for oil in our own country, to kick illegals out of that same country, and thinks it’s okay to enjoy life? I am about infusing the culture with biblical truth, where ever and whenever I can no matter what the cost. Join me as we explore God’s Biblical Blueprint for an ordered, just and fair society.

Ken Hutcherson’s words suggest that “Biblical” and “politically incorrect” are basically synonymous. He says he “doesn’t care what people think of him,” so he has no problem declaring boldly that “the only way to make your enemy a friend is to defeat them or kill them.” Sure, saying that is politically incorrect and the antithesis of all those devious ideas about getting along with people who are different that communist propagandists like Mr. Rogers put out there. But it’s also the opposite of how Jesus calls us to live.

What does the support for drilling oil have to do with God’s “Biblical Blueprint”? What about kicking illegals out of the country? When did God become an advocate for capital punishment? I’m guessing that calling the “human race” the “top of the food chain” is a dig on environmentalism. I’m not sure what it means to say “it’s okay to enjoy life,” but since everything else in the list is a pointed ideological talking point, I’m assuming that he means rich people shouldn’t be frowned upon for using their money to “enjoy life.”

When a list like this is what “Biblical” has come to mean, the actual 66 books of what was once called the Bible no longer have any meaning. Christian leaders who really are invested in promoting the teachings that are actually in the Bible ought to be speaking out against the flippant use of the “Biblical” label. The latest example is Alabama state senator Shadrack McGill who says that “it’s a Biblical principle” that giving Alabama teachers a pay raise would “attract people who aren’t called to teach.” He didn’t cite any Biblical passages; he was just speaking about the concept of “having a calling” which the Bible talks about generally without making any stipulations about what people should or shouldn’t get paid for following their call. Notice the damage done to the sacredness of the word “Biblical” to toss it around like that.

We can no longer sit back and watch while Satan destroys our church’s witness by making a mockery of our sacred book. If we allow people to call it a “Biblical truth” to say that “the only way to make your enemy a friend is to defeat them or kill them,” then we will be doing our best to promote a more thoroughly complete secularization of American culture in a couple of generations. What makes us think that God is going to be happy to see us in heaven if we allow His name to be blasphemed so thoroughly among people whom we’re supposed to be inviting into His kingdom? To stand up for the Bible, we must stand up to the “Biblical” imposters.

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11 thoughts on “Stop Abusing the Word “Biblical”!

  1. And I’m side-eyeing the comment that called Pastor Wright’s preaching Anti-White and Anti-American. 45 years ago ppl said the same thing about King. Wright is not neither Anti-White or Anti-American. He preaches a lot against imperialism and for justice. Which I believe Christ preached as well.

    • I think if I were Wright, I would have used a different word choice in some of those sermons, but he definitely got scapegoated unfairly.

  2. I find myself using the word “Biblical” when addressed with the SSM issue. I hate the fact ppl use this issue to gauge my liberality on societal issues or my orthodoxy(which they see has an outdated faith). I almost don’t want to answer the question bc the intent behind the question is to either use my response to affirm their POV or to affirm their misconception of Christianity.

    • Yeah but you’re talking about something that’s actually in the Bible. The beef I’ve got with Hutcherson is for him to say that drilling for oil and a bunch of other “conservative” political positions that have nothing to do with the Bible are somehow “Biblical” because they’re Republican.

      • I agree. I just hate the way that issue has divided the American church. When I read your post last week on Father Hopka u used the phrase “rupturing of communion”, I immediately thought of this issue. This post made me think if my response to SSM or other hot button issues was hindering a chance for me to witness or giving credence to a Hutcherson type of ideology that reduces Christianity to a set of moral beliefs.

        • I think you can be true to your beliefs and just not have that be the first thing people know about you if it’s going to be a stumbling block. If they’re giving you a hard time, there’s only so much you can take responsibly for. Speaking the truth in love. One of those things I hope to learn how to do.

    • Good example, Martie. Preaching the word of God is supposed to be about the discipleship of people in your congregation, helping them to be better Christians. If it becomes about bashing people who are not in your audience, then you’re not being a pastor or a prophet.

  3. Pingback: Biblical vs. Unbiblical | Participatory Bible Study Blog

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