Using “Biblicism” and “Biblicists” is an Attack!

I just listened to a podcast where they talk about “biblicism.”

Disclaimer: I was not pleased with it, I apologize up front if anything below sounds unkind!

What does biblicism mean?


Biblicism definition

Biblicism: I think it’s Justin who says of biblicism, “we are isolating those words, we are not taking those words in the context of the entire scripture we are trying to divorce the Bible from theological Frameworks ….and just take it you know in a vacuum as it were and understand it.” [I downloaded the subtitles]

Jon says it’s isolationism, basically taking verses out of context.

If you google the word, it’s used an aspersion (!) against those who believe the Bible.

All my reference works describe it as derogatory (!)

It is used “disparigingly” says Dietrich Ritschl, in the article “Biblicism,” The Encyclopedia of Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI; Leiden, Netherlands: Wm. B. Eerdmans; Brill, 1999–2003), 255.

It is a “derogatory” term says the Pocket Dictionary of Biblical Studies (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 20–21.

GotQuestions says it is used to “cast an aspersion against” certain people.

It’s an attack, it’s ad hominem. It’s not good.

“Guilt by association” logical fallacy

And then they give an example of biblicism using Arius and how he concluded that Jesus is created.

They associate the following:

  • Arius
  • John MacArthur 
  • Those who do not believe in limited atonement (LA).

Each of these are not equally deserving of disparaging term!

Their presentation seems to be one big “guilt by association” logical fallacy.

At the very least “biblicism” is an imprecise term but because it is derogatory, are they being uncharitable or arrogant against those who disagree with them?

It seems if you can use that word “biblicism” in theological discussion, it’s a trump card and you auto-win.

Jesus not knowing the time of His return: do Jon and Justin commit “biblicism?”

They also give the example of Jesus and His relationship to the Father, how Jesus could be God and not know the time of His return.

They say in that podcast, “that is a reference to Jesus in his Humanity saying this it is not that God the son who is fully God equal with the father doesn’t know the plan it’s that Jesus in his Humanity because he is truly human and he has in one sense limited himself, emptied himself to use the language of Philippians 2 and has become truly human in order to represent humans he is saying nobody knows only Father knows.” 

But merely asserting that the issue relates to Christ’s human nature and/or to the incarnation fails to explain why He was able both to possess and act upon other similar types of divine knowledge during His earthly ministry (e.g., knowledge of the thoughts of others, Jn. 2:25; see also Mt. 9:4; Jn. 1:48; 6:64; 13:11).

So, in the context of “biblicism” do they commit biblicism that they supposedly reject?

Did they just isolate the verse about Jesus not knowing the timing of His return and limit it to the wrong theological context?

Random Q: Martin Luther a biblicist?

Was Martin Luther a biblicist? He was going against most of “church” history’s beliefs regarding soteriology and ecclesiology.

Could the Roman church accuse him of going against 1000 years of church history?

Is there no room for reformation and progress?

John MacArthur a biblicist?

They give the example of John MacArthur  … do these men believe that John M. didn’t know the history behind eternal sonship?

They said, John was not “allowing history, other people who’ve wrestled with the text to help inform you.”

They believe John M. didn’t let others inform him? That he didn’t do his study on the issue?

I agree John M. was wrong, as John M. himself agrees, as Jon and Justin point out, but if you get something wrong, are you a biblicist?

Further, is there no room for disagreeing with the majority position on a matter in church history? 

Again, the majority position would argue against Martin Luther’s soteriology.

General atonement adherents are biblicists?

They also give the example of LA. And they say of LA, “I am taking what all of scripture says and allowing it to inform what I see in this particular text [John 3:16].” 

What theologian doesn’t do that, LAer or not? This isn’t the issue in the debate between LA and general atonement. 

It just seems that what they are saying is that whoever doesn’t agree with me is a biblicist.

That’s ad hominem, that’s not wrestling with the arguments themselves.

Working from the whole to the parts?

Jon and Justin say in theology, you work from the whole and work down to the individual parts.

But how can you have the whole without first getting the parts?

You don’t start a building project with buildings, you start with bricks!

Words, phrases, verses, paragraphs, chapters, books, then theology.

Now, since we have many “buildings” already, sure, match it with history.

Does Jesus teach a theological system in John 5:39?

They reference John 5:39. “[Jesus] is saying there is a particular way that you need to study and understand the scriptures and here he’s talking about the Old Testament and an appointed way he talks about the book of Moses in verse 46 he says you need to understand these scriptures as a testimony about me.”

  • CT says that passage defines the hermeneutical framework we should use for Scripture.
  • DT says for that to be the case, you would need the word “only” in there.

Of course, the OT talks of Christ…but does Moses’ writings only talk about Christ? Are there at least some verses in Moses that do not talk of Christ?

Does Jesus teach a theological system in Luke 24:25-27?

They teach concerning Luke 24:25–27 that Jesus “explained unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” and to them that means “there’s a way in which we read the scriptures.”

So, they equate Jesus explaining where in the OT Bible He occurs with developing a system on how to read the Scripture.

But why couldn’t Jesus just be saying what the text says, that he “explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures” meaning, He was simply turning to passages that directly addressed Him and the messianic prophecies concerning Him and that’s it. Why do we have to say that Jesus was giving a theological system on how to read the OT?

I could say “I’m going to explain unto you in all the OT scriptures the things concerning Maher-shalal-hash-baz.”

If I said that, you would assume that I probably wouldn’t steer too far away from Isaiah 8.

So this doesn’t mean that what I’m saying is you need to develop a theological system with Maher-shalal-hash-baz at its center and read everything in the OT in light of him.

Do you see the point?

So, why do CTers assume Jesus is developing a theological system in that statement?

Now, if I disagree, does that make me a biblicist?

If I were these men, I would refrain from using the term, since it is derogatory and an aspersion, as the dictionaries and encyclopedias call it.

I’m sure these men have a lot of good to say, but frankly, I’m a little heated concerning the lack of precision and that the whole structure of their podcast was a “guilt by association” fallacy.

If I can be shown wrong, I’ll modify this post, gladly.

But by all means, rest in Christ! =)

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