THE ERROR OF OVERSIMPLIFYING BIBLE STUDY
In America, we live in a microwave society in which people want something now and without much effort. The main course and all the sides come frozen in a box from the grocery store. All one has to do is slit the plastic cover, set the timer to just a few minutes, and push the button. The result is supper! It’s not much work. It has some, but not a lot of nutrition. But it’s all okay because we are tired, and some nutrition is “okay.”
Often, today’s Bible study has the depth of a microwave meal. It’s not challenging, but it has enough nutrition to take away the “grumblies.” In an article entitled “Have We Made Bible Study Too Simple?” (see https://www.missioalliance.org/have-we-made-bible-study-too-simple/ ), Wendy Giehart shared some all too common viewpoints about Bible study:
I sat at the table with someone who was trying to explain their understanding of a few New Testament passages. They asked me how I understood them, and as I shared how I looked at the context and the original language they paused and said, “Aren’t you just using the cultural-context of the passage to explain away its clear and obvious meaning? If you have to study it that much, then it is probably not what it means.”
Since that first conversation, I have run into this line of thinking in Bible Studies and church classes often. Someone asks, “What does this mean to you?” and each person vamps on their personal take on what the English words could possibly mean without showing any value for theological study.
When Bible study has been relegated to “What does it mean to you?” status, you have “Bible-lite.” It tastes good without many calories, but it is not the real thing.
“Bible-lite” is one reason why many of those folks who experience the Bible are “Bible quoters,” and not Bible readers or Bible students. In his Gospel Coalition article “Have Bible Quoters Replaced Bible Readers?” (see
https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/bible-quoters-replaced-bible-readers/ ), Russell Moore places responsibility on Pastors when he quotes David Nienhuis:
“Some of my students attend popular non-denominational churches led by entrepreneurial leaders who claim to be ‘Bible believing’ and strive to offer sermons that are ‘relevant’ for successful Christian living,” he writes. “Unfortunately, in too many cases, this formula results in a preacher appealing to a short text of Scripture, out of context, in order to support a predetermined set of ‘biblical principles’ to guide the congregants’ daily lives. The only Bible these students encounter, sadly, is the version that is carefully distilled according to the theological and ideological concerns that have shaped the spiritual formation of the lead pastor.”
What is the solution? The solution is Christ-followers need to get back to the mindset that excellent Bible study is hard work, but it’s hard work that is worth it!! Russell Moore ends his article with great advice:
The answer is not easy. Part of the problem is what Nienhuis mentions, the modeling of the use of Scripture in some teaching and preaching. Part of the problem is the larger cultural question of whether the distracted, fragmented modern mind any longer has the attention span to read a text (meaning a literary text, as opposed to a text message). And part of the problem is that in order to train people to read their Bibles, the church must be gathered more than just an hour or two a week.
God’s Word, i.e., the Bible, comprises God’s words He communicated to human authors who wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. God is speaking, and we need to show up and listen. We need to put in the effort to observe the text to discover what it says. We need to put in the time and sweat to correctly interpret the passage to ascertain the single meaning of the author had for his original audience. Then, we can begin to apply the text to our lives.
The August 2019 issue of Tabletalk Magazine has a series of articles that focus on often misinterpreted Bible passages. Each article points out the misinterpretation and follows up with the correct interpretation. The link to the issue is below (https://tabletalkmagazine.com/print-issue/ ). Check out the articles in Tabletalk Magazine to see if any favorite passages are there. I also recommend you read the articles by Wendy Giehart and Russell Moore.
Thanks for reading my blog. I hope it has been of some benefit. Please feel free to comment or send me an email.
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