There is a hatred that is downright charity: that is the hatred of erroneous doctrine.
–J. C. Ryle
I have seen the results, and if I may say, I have experienced the bitter results of unbridled “Biblicism.”
By that, I do not mean a healthy Biblical fundamentalism or Biblical literalism, but a Biblicism that is characterized by an over-emphasized text here, a twisted passage there, a string of proof texts with a forgotten context… and presto… a new denomination is born!
At times, I have seen these devoted and sincere people who, when perplexed by some obscure passage, even receive “visions” or “revelations” introducing some new and novel interpretation to scripture. When questioned, they may assert that these visions have confirmed “lost truths”; truths that were recovered through the divine guidance of the Holy Spirit.
As I have said, I am convinced that most Biblicism is not committed by people who are intentionally trying to lead anyone astray. Instead, I believe that Biblicism is most often committed by people ignorant of the proper principles of biblical interpretation (hermeneutic), and who get carried away by the intoxication of their own excitement; a farmer who receives a “vision” on how to interpret the book of Revelation while walking through his cornfield, or a woman who is convinced that an angel has stood at her shoulder and pointed out books in her library with certain passages to copy to pass on to others.
These people are undoubtedly religious people, sincere people, who in the end, are still totally wrong.
The worst part of it is, that as part of the process, these fervent souls have inevitably, in some way, changed the focus of the Gospel. Most certainly, when the focus of the Gospel has been changed, they have added something of their own to the work of Christ. Therefore, they are fearfully judged by that Gospel they have so ignorantly denigrated.
Even if by some fortune of Providence, these spiritually deluded people (We cannot really call them Christians) were to actually discover or restore some “ancient path,” it would be like, if I may quote the book of Proverbs, “a fine gold ring in the snout of a pig.”
“Those who set up a fictitious worship, merely worship and adore their own delirious fancies; indeed, they would never dare so to trifle with God, had they not previously fashioned him after their own childish conceits.”
― John Calvin
In the words of Dr. James Renihan:
What is Biblicism?
D.B. Riker provides a helpful definition: “biblicism is the rejection of everything not explicitly stated in the Bible, and the concomitant dismissal of all non-biblical witnesses (Fathers, Creeds, Medieval Doctors, Councils, etc.)”
What are the results? Effectively, they are idiosyncratic interpretations of Scripture. The strange reality of all of these attempts to interact with the pure Word of God is that when the results are compared and contrasted, you almost never get the same conclusions. There is an unending stream of doctrines promoted under this rubric: the Jehovah’s Witnesses use it to deny the deity of Christ (following the same method as Arius long ago), the Campellites use it to teach their form of baptismal regeneration. Heretics have always employed this message. More sober men likewise use it, and produce strange results. Someone, somewhere studies Scripture, draws out a system…
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