My wife and I go for exercise on many mornings. We walk, ride our bikes, etc. We pass by a lot of churches in the process. Today we saw a church which proclaimed by its slogans beneath its name: "A Christ-centered, Bible-centered Congregation." I asked my wife: "What does it mean to you when you read the phrase "Bible-centered?" She answered me as if she had been listening to me talk about this for some long time, which in fact she has.

I find this phrase puzzling at best and sectarian at worst. First, where in Church history, do we find a church that would use such a term until the early 20th century in America? The phrase is reallt code language for something like "inerrancy" or "a high view of the Bible" and the like. It is much more likely that it means, "the Bible is believed here, not like in those other churches that are not Bible-centered." Christ-centered I understand, to a point. But even that can be a slogan with little or no insight. Face it, the more provocative term of the two, by far, is "Bible-centered."

Second, if this church is "Bible-centered" then what happened to God? Could you be a Bible-centered church and not a Trinitarian church? Well, of course. The fact is that this is very often the case. I see it all the time. Could you be "Bible-centered" and not really understand the Bible’s story very well? Absolutely. Such churches very often tell you they are "Bible-centered" when in fact they  are centered on a few things that draw out of the Bible.

Third, "Bible-centered" never tells me a single thing about how these folks actually interpret the Bible. I have an idea how they do but even that is deeply rooted in certain cultural contexts about how this phrase is used in America. More than likely "Bible-centered" means a whole list of things, many of which are not found in the great ecumenical creeds at all.

So I found this phrase put me off as I pondered it this morning. I do not think I would much like a church that says so abruptly: "Bible-centered." It sounds like all the things that I fear continue to divide Christian from Christian. Xpemblemx
By the way, this particular church has no denominational name so "Bible-centered" serves as a denominator. (This is true of a whole generation of such churches that came to the fore after World War II.) One might as well say "fundamental" with "Bible-centered" but then that word is not popular these days. 

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  1. John Briggs May 8, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    I usually understand the term “Bible-centered” to be a modern expression of the Reformation slogan, sola scriptura. The church is telling me that authoritative Apostolic teaching is found ultimately only in Scripture.
    So, by way of introduction, that church has told me something meaningful about themselves in that two-word slogan.
    Slogans really are denominators, even within formal denominations. I’ll have to get inside the church and look closely to see more fully what the slogan means in that local congregation.

  2. Jim Byrne May 10, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    What was signaled by the migration from old Princeton to Westminster (1929), to Faith (1937) and finally to Biblical (1971) seminaries?
    If I had to choose a name, I’d prefer Faith — emphasizing historic, non-sectarian orthodoxy — but in terms of contemporary focus, that’s not necessarily the case, and Biblical Seminary strikes me as the most interesting community today.
    Should Biblical Seminary change her name to better identify her missional focus for the third millennium AD?
    Or does Biblical aptly point to a sola scriptura emphasis that still applies as she seeks to transcend confessional and modernist traditions?

  3. Jack Isaacson May 13, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    “Should Biblical Seminary change her name to better identify her missional focus for the third millennium AD?” I believe we can say”touche” to Jim’s comment.
    “Second, if this church[dare I write Biblical Seminary] is “Bible-centered” then what happened to God?”
    May we ask that question to the staff at the Seminary?
    They might want to change their name to Missional Seminary. This better conveys their mission than biblical.

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