All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. -- 2Timothy 3: 16-17 (NIV)
Excessive Bible Study Produces Arrogant, Judgmental Christians was the title that screamed out at me from the website of Pastor Brian Jones. Having just finished reviewing his work that claimed Christians read the Bible too much this piece (linked above) appears to be the forerunner. Shorter in length it is still valuable to peer inside the mind of a carnal pastor raised on purpose driven theology instead of God's Word. Someone in charge of over 2000 weekly churchgoers who apparently thinks that studying the infallible Word of God will automatically produce arrogant and judgmental Christians. Let us reason together beloved in reviewing this short article:
Years ago there was a lady in the church I served who was really into John MacArthur. It seemed that every time she saw me in the hallway she was sticking a John MacArthur sermon CD, book, study guide, or pamphlet in my hand. "Pastor Brian, this teaching is so powerful. You MUST listen to/read this." I could tolerate all the MacArthur paraphernalia and the not-so-subtle hints about how shallow my sermons were, but the one thing I couldn't stomach was the condescending way she used to talk about the new people who were coming to faith in our church. "Pastor Brian, the baby Christians here aren't quite where they need to be"" "Pastor Brian, we need to get these baby Christians in the word"" "Pastor Brian, have you seen those"" I wanted to hurl every time I talked with her. -- Brian Jones
Hurl? Are you a pastor or a 12 year old girl? I just love the fact that this congregant, whom he is responsible for growing in the Lord, essentially tells him his sermons are starving the baby Christians and his response is to blame the sheep. The truly sad thing is that the congregant was probably being nice. The real issue is not that the baby Christians had no spiritual discipline to read the Word of God but that they were probably still goats who Jones had promised were saved. Answering an altar call and repeating a three sentence prayer is not "coming to faith." It is sad that the sheep seemed to know that when the shepherd did not. Based on this opening tale, Jones makes his over-arching point:
Here's a simple fact: most Bible consuming Christians I've met over the years have been painfully arrogant. No-one is as spiritual as they are. They confuse Bible knowledge with spiritual maturity. They've turned the study of scripture into a recreational hobby, as if the act of studying the Bible itself is what pleases God. And worst of all, they've committed the most subtle form of idolatry of all -- they've replaced the centrality of the risen Jesus in their life with a book that talks about the risen Jesus. And then they look askance at anyone who dares to differ with them. -- Brian Jones
Where to begin to break this nonsense down? Let's take them one absurd claim at a time:
1. While it is true that some Christians can come off sounding arrogant in the way they wield Scripture to say most people who consume the Bible are arrogant because of it is insulting and it does not seem to speak well for the Bible itself now does it?
2. The super spirituals I have encountered have actually not been bible consumers at all. They have been more into the experiential Christianity that Jones is a fan of. They wear Jewish prayer shawls even though they are not Jewish. They speak in tongues or prophesy it seems in every service.
3. Spiritual maturity is based upon bible knowledge. The truths the Spirit leads you into are found in Scripture. There is no spiritual maturity apart from growing in the Word. The Bible is explicitly clear that we are to grow up spiritually through His Word.
4. The act of studying the Bible does please God but the idea is that the Word is then applied to your life. If Jones wanted to make a point that an academic understanding of the Bible is fruitless I would agree but that is not what he is arguing here. He is apparently arguing that reading the Bible does not please God and remember he is a pastor!
5. Jones makes a silly point about Bible worship that I have heard from many preachers who do not care about the Word. The fact is the John's Gospel teaches us that Jesus is the Word. You cannot claim to love Him and have disdain for His Word. It is not idolatry to love the Word of God recognizing it is indeed God Himself!
Perhaps the most telling and pathetic statement is when Jones says that the Bible is just a book that talks about the risen Jesus. Last year Andy Stanley preached that it was just a collection of ancient writings. There is no centrality of Christ in your life without His Word having preeminence. So yes Mr. Mega Church Pastor -- I am looking at you askance but not because you disagree with me. I am nothing. You disagree with God and as a result are leading people away from Christ. If the Bible is just a book to you sir then it is time to find a different job. He concludes:
What pleases Jesus more? A "baby Christian" who has never read Jesus' command to be humble, yet is radically self-effacing? Or the person who has memorized every verse in the Bible that talks about humility yet remains painfully arrogant? I believe that Christians need to read the Bible every day. Five minutes a day. An hour a day. The length doesn't matter, but the goal does. We study the Bible not to simply know it, but to get to know it's author and obey Him. That's a fine line of distinction, but an important one. -- Brian Jones
Neither pleases Jesus. God does not want us crawling around like babies and He does not want us hypocritical either. Jones acts like it is somehow more desirable to be tossed around by every wind of doctrine because we have no biblical grounding. How telling it is that Jones correctly summarizes that it is a fine line of distinction but then fails to see the line at all. I agree the object is to not merely know the Word but you cannot get to the point of "knowing the author" or "obedience" by not reading and studying the Word. It really is that simple. The key verses today remind us all that the Word is good for. Why God has given it to us. So that we will be thoroughly equipped for all good works. Not knowing the Word will starve a Christian. They will have the label of Christian but know nothing about the Master they claim to love and serve. They will be a spiritual infants crawling around not knowing anything. There is no greater scheme of the enemy in these end times then to undermine to dire importance of every believer knowing His Word inside and out. He will stop at nothing to ensure that Christians everywhere are unarmed and he is recruiting pastors to do his work for him. Brian Jones seems to be on the front lines leading the charge against the church, from within.