by J. Randal Matheny, editor
A friend posted a link to an article on how to go paperless. The link wouldn’t open for me, so I assume the article dealt with one’s office or home use, to diminish or rid one’s space of paper documents. Since I couldn’t read it, I took his message about going paperless and joked that I’d prefer to keep the paper in my bathroom, thank you very much.
More businesses and offices are maintaining their records in electronic form, dispensing with the need for producing, filing and storing paper documents. The practice saves money and space, as well as making retrieval of documents much easier.
My friend’s invitation to go paperless reminded me that some churches are attempting, to their harm, to go Bibleless. To be Bibleless doesn’t mean to go from using a printed volume one can hold in the hand to an electronic version, but to give up the standard of doing Bible things in Bible ways in the faith and practice of the church. Copies of the Bible may abound, but respect for its teachings is scarce.
Churches go Bibleless when they seek guidance from the Spirit on a matter that has already been revealed. As one man said of his congregation’s decision to use female leadership in worship, “We prayed about it a lot,” as if their prayers could change what Scripture had already settled.
Churches go Bibleless when they hire preachers to think for them and spoonfeed them the will of God.
Churches go Bibleless when they use secular material for Bible class readings.
Churches go Bibleless when they consider Scripture as a human compilation, full of errors and mistakes, rather than the God-breathed Scripture inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Christians go Bibleless when they leave off reading and studying their Bibles and go with a condensed devotional or a single verse out of context to carry them through the day.
Christians go Bibleless when they fail to teach the lost what to do to be saved eternally, preferring disaster relief and humanitarian help.
You can probably extend the list with your own examples.
Such churches and Christians are similar to Amos’s prophecy in the Old Testament that there would come a time of famine of the word of God in Israel (Amos 8:11). God’s people then were Bibleless, because they refused to hear and obey his word.
Jesus denounced the Pharisees and scribes for canceling out the word of God on account of their traditions (Matthew 15:6). They paid so much attention to their way of doing things that no place was left for hearing and responding to the word of God. The Jews of Jesus’ day were Bibleless, too.
At some points in Israel’s history, the written word of God was actually lost, misplaced, because of the people’s neglect. But we can still be just as Bibleless with the Bible sitting right in front of us, when we surrender it as the inspired, authoritative standard in every teaching and practice in the church.
With the many versions available, with the electronic (paperless) access to the Bible and study tools, with the research and language studies now being done, there is no reason for any church or Christian to remain Bibleless. Unless self-willed stubbornness insists on adapting to the world, conforming to pagan tastes and uniting with the religious world at large to celebrate human wisdom.
For such as these, the Bible has no attraction, so they will see a Bibleless faith as a greater advantage than a paperless office.
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