June 17, 2008

Replacing Jesus

It is Vacation Bible School time, but not all VBS materials are created equal. As pointed out by Howie Luvzus, one of the songs in Lifeway's Outrigger Island VBS misquotes the Bible. It takes the first chapter of John and changes the meaning of "the Word" from Jesus to the Bible. Here is part of the song:
In the beginning was the Word and It was with God and was God.
Before an eye had seen or ear had heard, there was the Word.
I know the Bible is God's Word, His written promises to earth.
It is a lamp unto the feet of those who believe in its worth.
The Word is Perfect Truth. The Word is what I cling to.
Unbreakable, unshakeable Word of God.
I love the Word of God.
Jesus has been replaced by the Bible! (And it is not the first time the SBC has been accused of making such an error.) It seems pretty ironic that a song about knowing what's written in the Bible and clinging to it would make such a huge error. Sadly, this seems to accurately capture how some Christians act. Sometimes it seems we worship the Bible instead of Jesus.


UPDATE [7-23-08]: Ethics Daily has an article about the problems with the song.

22 comments:

  1. Brian,

    I am disappointed to see that you would endorse such a stupid and invalid assertion that Southern Baptists worship the Bible. This argument was so lame that no one ever attempted to offer any evidence of actual worship of the Bible. It is built upon a foundation of lazy, emotional, anti-intellectual reasoning. And I am further disappointed that you linked to an article so filled with holes that it could be made of swiss cheese.

    The truth is that God does not separate Himself from His word in the way that those who opposed the BF&M 2000 suggest. What He says reveals His character. In fact, we know absolutely nothing of God without His Word and no where does Jesus contradict the Word of God. The Early Church, so dilligent to speak only about God in terms of the OT and NT, refused to allow anyone to make up a doctine that could not be drawn straight from Scripture.

    Cyril of Jerusalem wrote:

    "This seal have thou ever on thy mind; which now by way of summary has been touched on in its heads, and if the Lord grant, shall hereafter be set forth according to our power, with Scripture proofs. For concerning the divine and sacred Mysteries of the Faith, we ought not to deliver even the most casual remark without the Holy Scriptures: nor be drawn aside by mere probabilities and the artifices of argument. Do not then believe me because I tell thee these things, unless thou receive from the Holy Scriptures the proof of what is set forth: for this salvation, which is of our faith, is not by ingenious reasonings, but by proof from the Holy Scriptures."

    Here is a great article on Sola Scriptura and the Early Church Fathers that clearly articulates how they viewed the Scriptures. Today Southern Baptists stand squarely in that tradition.

    As for the double meaning of the "Word of God" for Jesus and for the Bible, it's evident in Scipture as both Jesus and the words spoken by God are termed "the Word of God." If one truly believes in a verbal pleny inspiration, then the very words of the apostles, prophets, and other Biblical writers are indeed the Word of God. Would you not agree?

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  2. After reading my comment, I should clarify - the article to which I accuse of being full of holes, is the second one linked, which is by Bruce Prescott.

    Also, I want to point out Brian, as a means of encouragement and explanation, that I expect this sort of drivel from liberals and extreme moderates, but I have always believed you rose to a higher level of thinking than they. I sincerely hope I have not been wrong.

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  3. Another perceived opportunity to get in a dig at the SBC? I think so.

    The people--Bruce Prescott in particular--cited here as so concerned are the same ones who want to cover, under the protective umbrella of "soul competency," anyone's liberal, far-out interpretation of scripture.

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  4. Jeremy7:18 PM

    Kaylor - Kudos for pointing this out! I noticed this when listening to the songs and thought either (A)it was just not a well thought-out song or (B) oh no they didn't!

    We will not be using Lifeway's VBS again after this year.

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  5. ks for that clarification D.R. I was about to feel hurt!

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  6. Cat's Dad,
    No, some of us just want it rightly interpreted. There's no conspiracy here!

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  7. Cat's Dad: Do you consider it a "liberal, far-out interpretation of scripture" that the "Word" in John 1:1 refers to Second Person of the Trinity and not to the Bible?

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  8. d.r., the meaning of the term "Word of God" depends on the context. In John 1:1, it refers to the Second Person of the Trinity, not the Bible.

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  9. Rodney,

    You are certainly correct that in John 1, the "Word" refers to Jesus Christ. Yet, that does not take away from the fact that the NT writers (including John), chose to use "logos" to refer to the words spoken by God in the Bible. This double meaning enriches our understanding of the Bible and of Jesus Christ. The suggestion that Southern Baptists use the Bible to usurp Jesus because of the celebration of that enrichment is what I am concerned with. The lies in regards to charges of "bibolatry" should cease, especially in light of a lack of evidence.

    Would you not agree that we should not charge our brethren falsely and without evidence, especially of a moral evil as great as idolatry?

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  10. The charges have not been made with a lack of evidence. Brian shared some of the evidence in his post. You may find the evidence unconvincing, but it is there.

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  11. Rodney,

    You said, "Brian shared some of the evidence in his post."


    You must be referring to the article by Bruce Prescott, where he also offered no evidence that any idolatry was going on in the SBC. And he forgot to mention that the phrase taken out of the BF&M for the 2000 edition - "the record of God's revelation" - was not in the 1925 BF&M, nor was it in the New Hampshire Confession (upon which the BF&M was originally based), or in the Philadephia Confession, the 1st or 2nd London Confessions, or the Westminster Confession. In fact, prior to 1900, that phrase was NEVER in any Confession of Faith and the 1963 BF&M was the only Baptist Confession to ever use this phraseology.

    In reality, it came out of neo-Orthodoxy, and was used by professors to ignore the slaughter of the Canaanites directed by God (and other events and verses that liberals found distastful in the Bible).

    So, either Baptists prior to 1963 were "bibolators" or Bruce Prescott and his liberal buddies are way off course. I don't know about you, but between Bruce Prescott and Charles Spurgeon (and James P. Boyce, Andrew Fuller, William Carey, B.H. Carroll, J.M Pendelton, John Gill, and John Bunyan), I'll take Spurgeon (and the rest).

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  12. I was referring to the VBS material that Brian quoted in his post.

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  13. So Rodney, you think that the song created by LifeWay that takes into account the double meaning of "Word" is actually evidence that there is idolatry (Bibolatry) happening in the SBC?

    Is that what you are saying? Seriously?

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  14. There is no "double meaning" for the term Word in John 1:1, which is the verse quoted by the VBS material. Unless, of course, you believe the following to be a reasonable paraphrase of John 1:1,

    "In the beginning was the Bible, and the Bible was with God, and the Bible was God."

    Perhaps you do.

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  15. dunningrb,

    No, I don't consider your interpretation of John 1:1 to be far-out. My question is why do the same folks who cry "soul competency!" to defend far-out interpretations cry "orthodoxy!" at this VBS song. Is it because it involves the SBC?

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  16. Rodney,

    Perhaps a Greek lesson is in order. The word "logos" is the Greek term used for "word" in John 1:1. John uses this same term "logos" to refer to the words spoken by God in the OT and to refer to the written Scriptures. So, it is logical to assume that there is a double meaning there. Jesus was the Word spoken in flesh. God's Word is also the Law, the Prophets, and the NT. That's not to say that the Bible is Jesus, and to take it as such is to misread what LifeWay and the apostle John is trying to say.

    The criticism leveled here is simply another attempt to try to marginalize historic Christianity. Getting up in arms about the idea that the "word of God" refers to both Jesus and to the words spoken by God in the Bible is nothing new. It's historic Christianity.

    But maybe that's what your real problems is with.

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  17. D.R., I'm aware that "logos" is the Greek word translated "Word" in John 1:1. As it is used in that verse, "Logos" refers to Jesus Christ, not the Bible.

    While the meaning of "logos" is context-dependent, it does not follow that you can assert a "double meaning" anywhere that term appears. To say that the term "Word" can be applied to either Jesus Christ or to the Bible is to simply recognize that "Word" has a broad range of meaning, which must be narrowed by its use in a particular context.

    In John 1:1, "Logos" refers to Jesus Christ, period. But the VBS material that Brian quotes conflates this singular, unequivocal meaning of the word "Logos" with the Bible. The first line of the song is a direct quote of John 1:1, where historic Christianity has always agreed that "Word" = "Jesus Christ." But in the third line of the song, "Word" = "Bible." Hence, in the mixed-up theological algebra of this song "Jesus Christ" = "Bible." And thus we arrive at the paraphrase I provided above:

    "In the beginning was the Bible, and the Bible was with God, and the Bible was God."

    Why you or anyone else would defend this is beyond me.

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  18. Rodney,

    What is beyond me is how you can assert that in some way this song is an example of "bibolatry" (a made up word that is completely void of any real expression).

    The song is an artistic expression of the relationship of the "logos" to both Christ and to the Words of God. While you are correct that in John 1:1, the word "logos" refers specifically to Jesus Christ, and that other times it refers to the words of God, you wrongly assume that LifeWay is trying to say Jesus = the Bible.

    You are viewing this from the same biased perspective of Bruce Prescott and others. It seems clear to me that LifeWay is simply celebrating that the "Word of God" refers to both Jesus and to the Bible in Scripture - and that John would hold the Scriptures in such high regard that he would use "logos" to describe both.

    Further, I don't think you've considered the fact that John's Jewish readers would have called the Scriptures, "logos". It is certainly true that John borrowed from Greek philosophy here to make a point, but we cannot lose the fact that John was Jewish himself and would have clearly understood that tradition and brought it to bear in his writings.

    So, just as John wasn't trying to say explicitly that Jesus = Scriptures, neither is LifeWay. And to read it that, as I said earlier, is to miss the point and apply an agenda.

    You're simply trying to build a theological mountain out of an artistic molehill - and accuse your brothers in Christ of idolatry at the same time.

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  19. D.R.,

    Bibliolatry is not a "made up " word. It's in the dictionary:

    http://dictionary.reference.com/search?r=2&q=bibliolatry

    The relevant definition is "worship of the Bible." I will try to explain why bibliolatry is an accurate term for the song Brian quotes.

    The verses Brian quote come from VBS material. I find it highly unlikely the author of the song was trying to communicate an "artistic expression of the relationship of 'logos' to both Christ and the Words of God" to eight-year old children. I think such a concept would be lost on 99% of the kids that attend VBS at my church. Perhaps the children in your church are different.

    I think it's much more likely the author of the song possessed such a degree of reverence for an inerrant, verbally-inspired biblical text, that he or she badly conflated two well-separated theological concepts: Jesus Christ, the eternal, pre-existent Logos, and the inspired biblical text. In doing so, he or she, perhaps unintentionally, effectively replaced Jesus Christ with the Bible.

    Allow me to explain: The first and second lines that Brian quote are clear references to the eternal Logos, Jesus Christ. The third line specifically mentions "Bible." The fourth line is drawn from Psalm 119:105, and obviously refers to the biblical text. The referent of the fifth and sixth lines may not be immediately clear. To me, read in context (working from line 3), the fifth and sixth lines refer to the Bible in terms that suggest worshipful reverence. But such statements are more appropriately made of Jesus Christ, not the Bible.

    Even though the Bible plays a central role in our faith, it is not Perfect Truth (line 5). The thousands of copying errors and mistranslations are proof enough of that. Jesus Christ alone is Perfect Truth. Indeed, he is Truth Itself. The Bible is not what we cling to (line 6). It is Jesus Christ that we cling to---or, more accurately, it is he that clings to us.

    The final two lines simply continue the progression started in line 3, and to me they clearly refer to the Bible.

    You are concerned that I'm neglecting what John's original readers would have thought of his text. But the relevant audience here is composed of the children who sing this song at VBS. When eight-year old children sing this song, they're not going to make any kind of theological connection between the "relationship" (whatever it is) that you're asserting between Jesus Christ and the Bible. After all, the words "Jesus Christ" do not appear in these lines at all, and the meaning of "Word of God" in John 1:1 is subtle. Rather, eight-year old children going to read "Word of God" in *every* line, even the first two, to mean the Bible, and will therefore be unwittingly lead to sing lines that effectively worship the Bible.

    You continue to press the fact that "logos" is used to refer to both Jesus Christ and to the biblical text. Well of course it is. Its range of meaning is broad enough to encompass both concepts, in different contexts. When John used the term, he was careful to provide the context needed to distinguish which meaning he intended. The author of the Lifeway material fails to do this, and therefore badly conflates two well-separated concepts in a way that will hopelessly mislead the children that sing this song.

    You also impugn my "biased perspective." But whether my perspective is biased has no bearing on my argument or conclusion. My argument is either sound or unsound, and my conclusion is either true or false, regardless of my perspective.

    Lifeway probably does not intend to foster bibliolatry, just as those who worship money and possessions probably don't consciously intend to do so. But as the lawyers say, "intent follows the bullet." The lines Brian quote express sentiments of worship that should be reserved for Jesus Christ alone, applying them instead to the Bible. And that's the definition of bibliolatry.

    --
    Rodney Dunning

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  20. Rodney,

    Sorry I have not gotten back with you. I have been busy and the slandering of my brothers and sisters in Christ is a little more pressing of an issue.

    I have thought about what you said and I want to offer a few thoughts.

    1) When looking at this song from the perspective of a child, it would be confusing. I will give you that. I never said it was well constructed or beautifully written. It's a kid's song and it should do better in communicating clear truth than it does. But, do you know the content of the lessons that go along with the song? And if not, can you really make an informed decision otherwise?

    2) Having said that, when you look at the song, it obviously combines all meanings for "word of God" together in one song. The intent seems to be to show how the "word of God" means all these different things. And you, yourself, said that you didn't think the author intentionally meant to equate Jesus with the Bible.

    3) So, I still don't get how you can claim that "bibliolatry is an accurate term for the song." Poorly written? Sure. Idol worship? NO.

    4) As for the term "Bibliolatry", what I meant by a "made-up" word is that it is devoid of any objective meaning and that it is purely for propaganda. Just look at the vast definitions on the page you linked. One said, "Excessive adherence to a literal interpretation of the Bible." First, what is a "literal interpretation"? Adhering to seven day creationism, maybe? So, according to that Spurgeon, Calvin, Luther, and others were idol worshippers?

    Another entry said, "excessive reverence for the Bible as literally interpreted." What does that even mean? It seems obvious that these definitions force one to employ a subjective reading.

    Now, if it really is idol worship, then why doesn't it look like it? Why don't we see people bowing down to the Bible in the SBC? Or maybe praying to the Bible? Or making it somehow have a distinct personality? You see it's a ridiculous charge when you really think through it.


    5) As to your assertion that lines 5 and 6 suggest worshipful reverence, that is a bit much. Reverence, yes, but worship? NO. These refer to another use of the the term "word of God" in Scripture. In Hebrews, the word of God is active and cuts, and by it God created the world. In Proverbs it is called a shield. Jesus called it a seed that was to be sown. In Acts 19, the Word is said to prevail and grow. In Romans 10, faith comes by means of the Word. In Ephesians it is a sword. In 1 Timothy, it is said to sanctify along with prayer. And finally in Revelation, men are killed because of it.

    So, if you look at this song as simply an attempt to combine all the meanings of the Word of God together, you simply cannot say that there is any attempt at all to worship it.

    And that is why I asserted that your perspective is biased. You see it from your perspective, without any conversation with the artist or with LifeWay. And then you draw conclusions based on how you view it, apart from the lessons taught in VBS, which may very well explain to the kids the significance of the song.

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  21. D.R.,

    I'm glad we agree the song is confusing (at best) to children, and therefore should be rewritten. That was the entire point of the objection to the song: even thought the author may not intend to do so, he or she effectively replaced Jesus with the Bible.

    And I'm sorry you don't like my "perspective." Perhaps one day I will have "perspective-free" approach, like you.

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  22. Brian,

    Add Rodney Dunning to the list of those, along with Bruce Prescott, who disallow clean comments on their "blogs" from folks who won't submit to their way of seeing things.

    I do appreciate your Baptistic way of allowing dissenting opinions.

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