I’ve noticed that many Christians view the Bible a certain way. In their eyes, the Bible contains all knowledge and is the only thing you will ever need. The Bible is nothing more than a crystal ball where you simply gaze into its pages and you’ll be empowered to do anything you want. Many view the Bible along these lines, as a mystical spell book with the verses functioning as different magical spells. Depressed? Read this verse here, pray a bit and you should be all better now. Your spouse of 15 years filing for divorce? Here, read this and your problem will be solved. What’s that? You’re problem isn’t solved? Hmmm… you must have done something wrong. Too bad none of this is true.
Funny thing is that many Christians that hold to this view also tend to look down on other kinds of knowledge. These Christians tend to disregard or ignore the lessons of history, science, philosophy and psychology or see them as useless or even unchristian. I remember someone close to me who struggled with depression, partly due to a broken home. She went to get counseling at a church. When she came back and showed me the papers outlining the church’s plans to counsel her, I was in for a shock. Apparently the counselors from this church relied exclusively on biblical teaching, i.e. verses for their counseling. These counselors had no formal training in psychology, counseling or how to deal with children from broken homes, at least, none that I know about. After all, they only needed the Bible.
Later on, I asked this friend how counseling was going. She said her counselor did nothing except quote Bible verses and tell her to trust God more. That’s why she was depressed, because she wasn’t trusting God. Unsurprisingly this did not help my friend deal with the problems and hardships she was facing. In fact, it made her feel worse. She felt it was her fault this was happening because she didn’t trust God enough. She eventually stopped the counseling because it was a waste of time.
The counselor saw the Bible as the only thing needed to counsel this young woman with depression and broken home. We only need to change the scenario to see the futility of this kind of thinking. Imagine you had brain cancer. Who would you go to for help? Would you go see an atheist neurosurgeon who planned on operating on the tumor? Or a pastor well-educated in the Bible who planned on quoting verses and telling you to just trust God? This scenario should illustrate the foolishness of seeing the Bible as the only source of knowledge you will ever need. Yet this is what many Christians do when faced with the girl from a broken home, the teenage guy struggling with same-sex attraction or the husband with a divorcing wife. All this results from the improper view of the Bible as a crystal ball or magic spell book.
See, the Bible has one very specific purpose. That purpose is to reveal God. It doesn’t even try to prove that God exists; that is already assumed. This is something that many Christians seem to forget. Yes, there are other things included: some history, instructions on proper Christian behavior, etc. Sometimes reading the right passage at the right time might even be encouraging, but all that takes the backstage to the revelation of God.
There are so many things the Bible would be useless for. You wouldn’t use the Bible to file your taxes or design a skyscraper. Even if you were a full-time missionary. You would still need knowledge found outside the Bible. You would need to learn the language and culture of the people you were visiting. If you planned on opening a homeless shelter, you would need to learn about real estate transactions, property law, business management and more. There are many things the Bible is inadequate for.
Now, I know some people reading this will chafe at my last sentence and think I’m diminishing the importance of the Bible. I’m not. As I said before, the Bible is meant to reveal God to us. Knowledge of God forms the foundation of our lives. Others use science, patriotism, women, sex, money or any number of things for their foundation. Though the Bible will not give the knowledge you may need to practice law, medicine or economics; it does something far more fundamental. We gain a worldview with God at the center. This is so important, that we don’t even think about it. Without this foundation, our goals, the meaning of life, our purpose, our basis for morality all change or disappear completely. Despite the importance of this, we must remember that the Bible does not give us everything. You cannot simply quote bible verses and build a marriage out of it. You can’t practice law on bible verses alone.
Sometimes, I believe Christians use the Bible as an excuse to not get out there in the world and do something. I know a few people who go to Christian schools, then to Bible colleges with the hope of making their living in some kind of church ministry. There is nothing wrong with this. But if that’s what all Christians do, we end up closing ourselves from the world around us. We then act surprised when the surrounding culture changes in ways we didn’t think about.