Many Christian churches describe themselves as “Bible-based.” Their structure, their organization, and their method of worship are all woven together from various biblical passages to form their own brand of “ecclesiology” (their theological doctrine of the church). These churches are “biblio-centric” – that is, “centered on the Bible.” Using the Bible as their starting point, they have constructed Christianity as they believe it is found in the pages of Scripture.
There is, of course, no end to the types of Christian churches this method yields, and no two churches look exactly alike. There exists a multitude of differences in how these ecclesial groups function, which doctrines they believe are essential for salvation, and how specific Scriptural passages ought to be applied. Biblio-centrism offers us a plethora of competing churches with no sure way to distinguish which one is practicing authentic Christianity. They simply begin with the Bible and derive from it their own idea of “church,” whatever that might be.
Obviously it is commendable when Christians wish to imitate the early Church. It is wise to seek our roots in ancient Christianity, to be grounded in the historic foundations of the faith. And it is certainly correct to use Scripture as a guide to govern doctrine and maintain sound teaching. But is the Bible the true “starting point” for the formation of the Christian Church? Did God give us first the Bible and from the Bible springs forth the Church? Is this the true order of things? Should the Church be biblio-centric?
I would propose instead that the Church ought to be “Christo-centric” – centered on Christ. God gave us Jesus Christ and from Christ springs forth the Church. Those who call for a “Bible-based” Christianity should instead seek a “Christ-based” Church. This does not mean that the Bible must be rejected. Far from it! The Bible is the primary source for Jesus’ own words about the Church (in the Gospel), and an excellent record of how those words were applied in the early Church. The Bible must be a key in any search for Christian Truth. It is after all the very Word of God, His revelation to mankind.
But as “the Word of God made flesh,” Jesus is the truest revelation of God to humanity. It is in Jesus that we must search for the Church, for it is in Jesus that God searches for us. We must not seek a “Bible-based” Church; to find the true Church of Christ we must find the Church that has its origins in Jesus Himself.