(How to Study the Bible, Part 2)
Reason is a powerful but ambiguous tool. The more intelligent a person is, the more sophisticated his attempts to defend his worldview will be. Yet intelligence by itself does not confirm or deny anything. I’ve seen some really intelligent people argue for some incredibly dumb things. Hitler, for example, was an extremely intelligent man with an incredibly warped worldview.
So what you believe and why or rather, how you come to believe it, is more important than how smart you are. Wisdom does not lie in intelligence alone, but in perspective as well. It requires you be brutally honest with yourself. It demands extended seasons of soul searching. To gain it, you must ask yourself hard questions and wrestle with your own worldview. Until you do so, you cannot properly interpret that worldview; your reasoning will be one-sided and unintelligible.
Still, braindead Christianity is no testimony to the Creator, who made us intelligent in His image. Thinking is not in opposition to believing. But the great difficulty in balancing faith and reason comes when we allow our reason to become the authority and attempt to use our brains to make the Bible fit our own notions (or what is politically correct, culturally acceptable, etc.). When we do that, our entire Christian worldview crumbles on the shifting sand of relativism.
The only safeguard against a completely relativistic approach to the Scripture (assuming a person has thought through and accepted the Christian worldview) is to intentionally, constantly submit one’s thinking to the absolute authority of Scripture.
A student of Scripture who submits to its authority is not primarily concerned with how to frame it to suit a particular audience or culture. He is first and foremost concerned with letting the Bible speak. Once he has carefully exegeted the meaning of a passage through historical, grammatical, and theological analysis, principles may be derived and application is made.
Certainly this sounds like a scholar’s task, but it lies within the grasp of any layman who is serious about letting the Bible speak. It simply involves asking a series of questions, whether formally or intuitively, whenever one approaches a biblical text. We will attempt to develop some examples of this progression in the next post of this series.
Before anyone can study the Bible with integrity, however, they must begin with the crucial assumption that the Bible is the absolutely authoritative Word of God. It is not enough to subscribe to a textbook definition of the authority of Scripture. Practically, our approach to the Bible and response to it ought to be one of humility, submission, and thirst to truly understand the details of God’s revelation.
Posts in this series: