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Biblical vs. Unbiblical

Morgan Guyton has a very strong (and, in my view, entirely justified) reaction to the abuse of the term “biblical.”

… In how many other “Bible” churches out there has “Biblical” become a code-word for an ideological platform that serves a purpose completely foreign to God’s mission but cherry-picks verses out of the Biblical text to justify itself?

Good question! (Of course, his question follows an example.)

Nonetheless I want to sound another warning: Let’s watch out about the abuse of the word “unbiblical” as well.

Declaring something unbiblical also requires a view on what the Bible does and does not require, but instead of declaring a particular view in bounds, it declares it out of bounds. It can be abused in the same way. The word “biblical” is a positive adjective which tends to lead people to accept a statement, even if it has no biblical warrant. “Unbiblical” is a negative adjective (in most churches) which tends to make people reject an idea, even without biblical warrant.

So am I saying one can never use the adjective “biblical?” No. What I am suggesting is that many of us use it, and its opposite, too much. We use it as a sort of shorthand for “you ought to believe this” (or not), rather than as a statement backed by the appropriate study and research.

Instead, I suggest that we skip the adjective and do the work. If you provide a sound backing from the Bible, appropriately interpreted, for what you say, others can apply the adjective “biblical” to it. If not, well, not so much!

3 comments to Biblical vs. Unbiblical

  • […] are those who adamantly insisted on the importance of observing the details of the Bible – or as some would put it today, they emphasized the need to be “Biblical.”In contrast, Paul characterizes as strong those who felt able to view all foods and all days equally […]

  • Another way to use the word “biblical” is in reference to some thing/event of epic proportions. When people, especially not of the faith, use the word biblical, it usually means something monumental. This to me shows that there is still a positive connotation for the word, and a sort of casual reverence of it. Very interesting post!

  • Pedro Morales

    Most of the time I hear the word being used is to label some unorthodox biblical (oops) teaching as diabolical. By casting aspertion upon someone or the denomination the person belongs to, the one putting labels hopes to dissuade people from even considering listening to what that person has to say.
    Most of the people using the term unbiblical believe they possess some kind of authority to use it any way they please without having to think too much about it- you know, do the hard work, use reason, examine the argument the other person presents in light of scripture.
    Today we have laws to protect people’s right to speak. But insulting, humiliating others remains a preferred way by intolerant and autocratic people to attempt to exert undue control over another person. Those in control of the religious establishments try to mask those methods of persuasion by asserting that what they do is for the sake of protecting the fundamentals of the faith, the unquestionable, and scriptural doctrines that have been part of the Christian tradition for ages.
    It is very sad if that is the only manner to protect them.

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