The highschool my older sons went to was attached to a Baptist church. I recall being there in the quiet after hours one time – after a play rehearsal or a program, perhaps - noticing how the sanctuary was set up. There was a table with a large open Bible in the front. A spotlight from the ceiling was focused on it; no other lights. I wondered what a visitor from Mars would think about this particular religion. It’s not the first time I have mentioned bibliolatry, the worship of the book, as an evangelical problem. I am certainly not the first.
It occurred to me this weekend that evangelicals have a similar view of Bible reading that Roman Catholics have of sacraments – that good things happen to you from the mere act. Ironically, that is what evangelicals often criticise first about the liturgical churches, especially the RCC – that they recite the same things without understanding them and think they receive grace from the Eucharist whether they are working hard at worship or not. Evangelical, and especially fundamentalist focus on daily devotional reading can at times be no more than an insistence that eyes hit the page. Our heart isn’t always in daily disciplines, but we carry on anyway, trusting in God’s grace through the hard parts. Well, okay, but that’s sorta like centuries of mothers with small children barely making it through Mass, isn’t it? Just show up.
Note that not only does Jesus not do this – one could argue that The Word doesn’t need the word – but neither do John the Baptist, the Apostles, Paul, or any other NT figure. Or OT figure, come to think of it. I think the confusion of the word with The Word was fed by the general, more secular admiration or even worship, or books themselves. Where they were rarest were the very times and places that word-for-word literalist Bible was most common. The American frontier comes to mind.
3 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.