Words mean something. It’s very important that we use the right word in the right context. This is especially true when we are talking about things that are or aren’t in the Bible.
Specifically, here are the three terms that I think are vitally important:
- Biblical. These are things the Bible specifically tells us that we must do.
- Unbiblical. These are things the Bible specifically tells us that we must not do.
- Non-biblical. These are things the Bible doesn’t specifically address.
For example, I tell a story in my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter about a friend of mine who wanted to discuss particular titles for people in the church. I simply explained that the titles of “senior pastor” or “lead pastor” aren’t in the Bible, so I didn’t have a strong opinion on which one should be used. This is a non-biblical issue.
However, we can create a big problem if we insist on making non-biblical issues seem like they are biblical issues. Jesus confronted the Pharisee and the teachers of the law on this issue. These religious leaders had non-biblical traditions, but they gave them biblical authority (Mark 7:1-13). As a result, they begin to behave in unbiblical ways.
The ceremonial washing of hands is a tradition that is non-biblical. But the way that they looked down on people who didn’t wash their hands this way, is an unbiblical attitude.
One biblical commandment is to honor parents, but Jesus called out the Pharisees for honoring another one of their non-biblical traditions that caused them to turn their backs on their parents. As a result they became guilty of the unbiblical practice of dishonoring their parents.
Before you begin adopting certain attitudes, practices, or beliefs, it’s a good idea to make sure that you have learned whether they are biblical, unbiblical, or non-biblical.