I like the hasthag that Summer White used the other day: #ChalliesMadeMeDoIt so I am jumping on the wagon and will follow Tim Challies’ advice.
There is this trend among Christian women that has been growing out of proportion and is being spread as fast as the weeds in my backyard during the summer, and that is this thing called Bible Journaling (as I type this the tag #biblejournaling has 716K followers on Instagram).
What is this? Well, many women who love lettering, art, markers, stickers, glitter, fabric, and glue are now covering the pages of their Bibles with their art to get closer with God, to experience Bible reading in a fresher way. And when I say covering, I mean covering.
Look at these bible pages:
Day Spring even has a tutorial that gives 7 Easy Steps to Bible Journaling. Read it for yourself and see the danger there. This is not a trend that encourages artists to draw or paint verses on a canvas or notebook to remind you of some bible verses. This is a trend that has become a faux spiritual practice among many. In this article (and many others that you can easily find all over the internet, like this one) women are encouraged to make of each session a spiritual discipline. For example in the first article I linked to, we read how Day Spring suggest you start each drawing session this way: “Read a devotional, turn on your favorite worship music, and focus on God. This practice will get you in the right frame of mind so you can make the most of each journaling session.” Then, “Pray for God’s direction, and listen. He knows, and He will call you toward the verse that will most benefit you at this time in your life.” and ask yourself, “What is God telling you? Jot down any heartfelt words of praise that come to you. What does the verse mean to you, and how can you apply it? What drew you to the verse you are working on? Leave a prayer or ask for guidance.” And lastly they encourage you to start drawing without worrying about “being messy!” (Also, do not forget that you can buy from them all the supplies that will make your spiritual project prettier and more meaningful, of course.)
Now, what is the problem with this? Isn’t this the same thing as marking our Bibles as a means to study and understand the text better? No. This is like doing graffiti to a monument. This is vandalizing the text.
When we cover with paint and stickers and glitter the pages on our Bibles we are not embellishing the text, we are being disrespectful with the Words on the text. We are deeming our art as more important than the text -that is why we cover it.
Let’s not fool ourselves, Ladies, this is not the way a serious Bible student, a serious disciple of Christ searches the Scriptures to find life. Marking on the margins of our Bibles a prayer, a question, a study note, a reference (and even a little lettering verse!) is a totally different thing than what these women are doing to their bibles.
Another huge problem with this method of “studying and meditating” on the Word of God is that it starts with “me.”
What is the verse I feel like I need to illustrate and what does it mean to “me”?
How can I give “my own” interpretation of the verse using art?
Which verses should I cover and which verses should I illustrate – what? Did you say context? Forget about it! The important thing is that my “art” makes me feel closer to God.
The danger to become absolutely shallow in our understanding of the text by doing this is, I hope, evident by now. As Christians we are not above the Word, we are under its authority and when we cover the text or portions of the text with glitter we are showing how lightly we take the Scriptures. We trample on the authority of the Scriptures when we stop fearing God and His Word, and this is not something subjective, some personal preference, this is a real danger that needs not to be taken lightly.
Another danger is that women initiate and perpetuate false teachings doing this. Since, there is no limit to the kind of art a person can do, then there is no limit to the personal interpretations of a text. I can illustrate a passage with a Disney cartoon, a message that has nothing to do with the Bible, or anything that occurs to me at the moment, anything that inspires me and is meaningful to me is OK because it express “my own personal experience.”
The point is not to dig deeper in the text, as you can see, but to be bold and not fear being messy. The point is to let the inner artist in a person -that inner artist that God put there!- to create. And by doing this they are altogether missing the point.
No wonder why many Christian women are being tossed away from one false doctrine to the other, from one emotional high to an emotional pit. They are not well grounded in the Scriptures, they come to the Word and leave with no substantial nourishment because they are approaching it from a totally wrong angle. They are investing their time in “Bible Journaling Ministries” and hope to remain unshakable when a storm hits their lives.
Life Way has an article that encourages this practice saying that, “With Bible journaling, you will find a creative and fresh approach to the age-old discipline of Bible reading.” Friends, we don’t need a fresh approach when it comes to reading our Bibles. (And keep in mind that almost everything labeled as “fresh” concerning our relationship with God ends in a heresy). What we need is a humble heart, hunger for the Bread of Life, a teachable spirit, and fear of God every time we approach the Scriptures. The Holy Spirit will use His Word to transform us into the image of Christ, and it is clear that He needs no crayons.
The Life Way article continues saying that, “No matter what your purpose for Bible journaling, the beauty of the movement is this: it doesn’t require a skilled artist. All that matters is that you’re willing to experience God and His Word in a creative way.” Do you see what they are saying? All that matters is you and your personal experience. If you feel that this practice will draw you closer to God, go for it, you don’t need to search the Scriptures to see that it is not about you, or your emotions, or your “personal experiences.” Sister, neither you or I can create our own personal way to approach God. That is a lie that leads us to worship false gods that we create in our imaginations and after our lusts.
God is His kindness has given us the Scriptures so that we may know Him and our way to Him. In His kindness, He didn’t leave us to ourselves to try to find new ways to approach Him. There is only way to enter in a relationship with God and it is holy: The cross of Christ.
Oh, that we may learn to fear the Lord and His Word! That we may esteem it more valuable than gold. That we may treasure it in our hearts and give it the place it deserves in our hearts, in our homes, in our churches.
How many hours these women, I ask, are spending doing each illustrated page? And how many hours are they spending in the Word, actually reading it -all of it!? How many hours are they spending digging deeper in the text, making connections, finding treasures in the way the NT explains the OT, for example?
We are making our Christianity void, superficial, just like our lives. For many, Bible reading is not about learning more about God and the world He created anymore, but about a fun hobby to fill their days.
I have a journaling Bible that I love, I write on its margins, I mark it, and I have even written on the margin an specific verse with pretty letters, but I would never dare to cover the text with stickers and acrylic painting. My Bible is not a canvas. My Bible is my authority.
May we be women of the Word. Women who know their Bibles, who love their Bibles, and read their Bibles. There is no other way to be strong emotionally and spiritually apart from drinking deep form the waters of the Word of God.
Under His sun and by His grace,
EDIT: All images were taken from Pinterest.