Biblicism at face value comes across as an honorable and proper approach to reading Scripture. What exactly is “biblicism”? Dr Lane Tipton gives an helpful definition of biblicism
is any approach to reading Scripture, that does not take the creeds and confessions of the church, (the Reformed confessions of the church) as normed norms that faithfully and accurately render the teaching of Scripture as it is set over against heresy and heterodoxy in various forms.
Dr. Tipton rightly articulates that the Biblicist is someone who reads the Bible without submitting to the Scripture, as it has been read in the orthodox creeds and Reformed confessions in the history of the church. At first glance, some may not have a problem with this, and may even happily embrace this definition. In this brief article I hope to demonstrate some of the dangers of biblicism and why the Biblicist is left exposed outside the safety of the time tested truths of the creeds and Reformed confessions of the church.
When conservative Christians think of a Biblicist, they may think of the conservative Christian that holds only to Scripture and rejects all creeds. However, it is important to understand that biblicism can be embraced by liberals or conservatives. Biblicism does not care if you have liberal or conservative tendencies. Biblicism only cares that you shed the “weight” of the historic creeds and confessions. And it is precisely at this point the Biblicist is in real danger.
One of the greatest negative impacts on the church in recent history has been the Enlightenment. When people began to read the Bible through the assumed lens of neutral history and considered the Bible as any other book, the results were tragic. Liberalism rose up with a force that left many dead churches in its path. They criticized the Bible as being a “community autobiography” that incorporated already existing pagan practices (syncretism). Liberal scholars began the quest for the historical Jesus as they attempted to determine the actual words of Jesus. And still others would accuse the Apostle Paul of having an entire different theology/religion from Jesus. Questioning the supernatural nature of Scripture and of course the resurrection made many abandon Christianity.
All of these schools of thought (and these were only a few examples) were Biblicists. They rejected the inherited traditions and with their new found freedom they led many to despair. The academies impacted scholars who taught men desiring to be pastors, who then taught churches. The Gospel left pulpits and the results were spiritually deadly.
The Creeds and the Confessions of the church play an important role in the history of the church and in the life of the Christian. The Bible is not an historically conditioned book. It is not a product of a community, but is a history of special revelation that has an organic, super natural core, aimed at realizing the covenantal communion bond with God in covenant. The Creeds and Confessions have withstood the test of time and stand not as weights on the heart and mind of the Christian but as a sentinel who has fought the errors of old and helps keeps watch over the church.