I’m Curious: What Does the Term “Not Biblical” Mean To You?

photo courtesy Stanford.edu
photo courtesy Stanford.edu

This isn’t a blog post so much as an honest inquiry to get some feedback from my readers, and maybe create a dialog in the process.

When someone says that something, whether written, spoken, or what-have-you, is “not biblical”, what does that term mean to you?

I have some thoughts and ideas. But I would like some feedback from others before I wade in on the discussion.


(Also, this “I’m Curious”-type of post is something I would like to do more often, especially if I get any type of good feedback or discussion going on some of these topics.)

NEVER be afraid to question!

17 thoughts on “I’m Curious: What Does the Term “Not Biblical” Mean To You?”

  1. Well, I’ve always taken it as meaning something that doesn’t have scriptural support. Of course, that can get tricky, depending on one’s view of scripture.

        1. …and as Unkle says above, the minute you start talking of things that aren’t in the bible at all, that opens up a whole ‘nuther can o’ worms!

    1. I agree with Nate, but even the term “scriptural support” gets contentious. I am sometimes amazed at what folks say is or is not Biblical. But I am sure they feel the same about me. 🙂

      1. That’s true, and thanks for the comment, Todd. What I’ve been surprised at is when people are faced with something that isn’t in the Bible, but doesn’t necessarily run counter to scripture, the speed with which they still deem the subject “not biblical”. I think, a lot of times, these are the same people that equate questioning with doubting; that if you begin to question your faith, you may doubt and might even walk away…which honestly could happen (ask Nate!). And yet, in my own experience, questioning–even doubting–has only increased my faith. I’m only more intrigued when faced with the myriad, dangling “what-ifs” within religion, which is probably why I get along with a lot of my skeptical friends so well.

        1. That is an interesting point and one that I think scares many of the religious. They feel like they must have an answer for everything and the that answer must always have a scripture reference. It seems to me that this was one of the central messages of Jesus; that we must stop looking so much to a list of do’s and don’t and start looking to the Holy Spirit (God).

          Humans already proved we cannot do the “commandments” thing. Not the original one commandment, not the ten commandments, and certainly not the thousands of commandments humans have tried to tack on since then.

          To me “Biblical” truly should mean what we have learned from the Bible. From the attitude of Christ in the Bible and what the people in the Bible learned in their experiences with God. Notice how seldom the authors of the New Testament tell you where the scripture they quote comes from. They just speak of scripture like it is part of them.

          God’s promise was that He would put his word in our hearts, not put His book in our hands. Frankly, regular people reading the Bible is a very new thing. We are so blessed. But we have to get past being proud of our new found power and start using it for something beside beating people with it like the Pharisees did.

  2. Hi Kent, I think this can be taken 2 ways – (1) it doesn’t have Biblical support, as Nate says, or (2) it is contrary to Biblical teaching.

    Literally, it means (1), but I think maybe people more often mean it like (2). Cars are not Biblical #1 (i.e. they aren’t mentioned in the Bible) but they are probably not anti-Biblical #2 – except for the Amish!!

    The major problem I have with the term is that there is clear progression in the Bible, both within the OT and between the OT and the NT. A thing may be in accord with the OT Law but not be in accord with NT teaching (e.g tithing, Sabbath observance, an eye for an eye), or vice versa (e.g. the Holy Spirit is within us, Jesus instead of a goat as sacrifice). For this reason, I’m more inclined to note whether something is NT or not.

    A second problem is that the term doesn’t account well for the Holy Spirit, who can give us new understanding and application of NT truths. If we want to discuss whether something is right or wrong for christians, I suggest we need to consider 4 aspects:

    1. The NT teaching
    2. What the Spirit is saying to the churches (corporate discernment)
    3. What the Spirit is saying to me (individual responsibility)
    4. What our culture is saying (so we stay relevant).

    1. Thank you Unkle! Your initial point was my intent behind this question and one I was hoping people would pick up on: It’s not as cut-and-dried as people initially think (as, I’m coming to learn, very few things “religious” are) In fact, as I thought about the term myself, the more I thought, the more complicated it became: mostly because of your example #1 above. Just because something is not in the Bible, does that mean it is not biblical? My gut tells me no, though someone else’s may tell them yes. And the weird thing is, we’d both be right. (i.e. your example of the Amish, heheh!)

    1. Good to hear from you warrioress! I’m not sure the definition is as absolutely negative as you’ve expressed, but your take on it is an unfortunate reality in way too many religious exchanges, for sure.

  3. Personally, I’ve most often heard it used to cast doubt upon a course of action or opinion just expressed by another. Again, it comes down to whose interpretation, whose translation, OT vs NT, etc. Bottom line: CONTROL – it introduces generalized doubt, rather than addressing the specific scriptural concern in context with careful consideration of the other’s situation. Or, it stimulates debate, which can be good fun, or, well, adversarial. Often said with limited context, either scriptural or personal, it can be fairly destructive when given as part of advice to a person facing challenging life choices. It’s a statement that sounds important, but really says nothing.

  4. This is one of my favorite topics! My experience has been that I can receive very different spiritual impressions and knowledge from reading the very same verse according to my needs at that moment.
    This is the great miracle of the scriptures—they keep opening themselves up to you in different ways, depending on What God wants to teach you. Paul said that he prayed for the early members of the church: “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ may give unto you the
    spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him; The eyes of your understanding being enlightened…” (Ephesians 1:17&18) When we open the scriptures we are saying: “Father, I’m ready to hear from you—please teach me by the power of your spirit.” The inspiration that follows become so much greater than words on a page. When the spirit speaks to my heart with power, I don’t need to worry if it is biblical.

  5. As an Eastern Orthodox Christian I view this question a little differently. Although the Bible is at the center of Holy Apostolic Tradition, it does not stand alone. It is the Church, not the Scriptures alone, that constitutes the pillar and ground of the truth (see 1 Timothy 3:15). The further one is removed from the community that wrote and canonized the Scriptures, the more difficult it is to properly discern the revelation found within.

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