“Hey, bro, would you like to meet together on occasion and work through something like Calvin’s Institutes with me?”
“Nah. I don’t follow men. I follow Christ. I’ve barely got time to read and so I just stick to my Bible reading. I don’t have time for the words of men.”
I could have replaced Calvin’s Institutes with any other Christian book and the point would be the same. On occasion I’ll encounter a superhero, whom I call Bible-Only Man. This superhero can quote Scripture like a champ. His knowledge of Old Testament stories could rival any OT scholar. You don’t dare play this guy at Bible trivia.
I’m always a bit concerned when I meet a Bible-Only Man. In part because his life is usually falling apart.
You’d think the two wouldn’t be together.
After all, it is generally true that a person whose Bible is falling apart usually is living a life which isn’t. And so why is Bible-Only Man about to make shipwreck of his marriage?
I think his inability/refusal to read good solid Christian books is a symptom of a much greater problem. And it’s why I’m immediately concerned for someone who, in an uber-spiritual tone, tells me they only read the Bible. That bigger problem is the failure to properly apply and live out what is written in the Scriptures.
Reading through the Institutes (or other Christian books) helps me in application of the Scriptures. It also grounds me in a historic community. When I only read the Bible I’m shielding myself from the application of the rest of the church.
Of course if you’re ever at a spot where you have to decide between the Scriptures and other books, you choose God’s Word every time. The Bible cannot be replaced. But at the same time the best Bible study is done in community. Good solid Christian books are part of that Bible study within community. Forsaking that is usually an indication that the tangible local community is also being forsaken. This is why I’m concerned for Bible-only man.
Besides if Bible-only man were really reading his Bible then he’d know that sheltering himself from the community isn’t all that biblical.