Draft notes for a student seminar on Bible study, for Bath CU in October 2008.
God gave us a book. A library of narratives and letters, poems and proverbs. Words matter. Form matters. The way words fit together, the pictures they paint and the propositions they state. Christianly speaking, reading matters. And if you've gotten a few lines into this blogpost then you probably can read.
Problem is that being able to read isn't enough when it comes to The Bible. Mere GCSE-style English comprehension is not even close to being enough nor is it a remotely appropriate way to treat the very words of the Sovereign Saving Creator.
Basic handling of grammar is helpful as far as it goes - the ability to understand words is going to be useful. Take the two books I'm reading now, Martyn Lloyd-Jones 'Preachers & Preaching' and Dostoyevsky's 'The Karamazov Brothers'. Basic literacy wont be enough to read either but should be enough to guess the subjects of both. The hint is in the titles. The Word of God, is about God.
Basic grammar will help get the words right. So for example – in the Bible you’ll find the words ‘there is no god’ which might make you think it’s advocating atheism. Except, when you apply the simplest of grammar it actually says “The fool says in his heart ‘there is no god’”. Not because the atheist has a low IQ, the problem is that he’s foolish.
Wisdom comes from fearing God and fools don’t fear God – so much so that despite the vast evidence in the world and in scripture for his existence they boldly say ‘there is no god’. By usual definitions, definitions of our society, Richard Dawkins is no dimwit. But the Bible says he is a fool.
There is a good reason why Universities started out as colleges of theology, because real understanding only comes in the context of seeing the world through the spectacle of scripture. Richard Baxter notes that the world is like uncomposed syllables until we see it Christianly. And let me urge you to be thinking theologically about everything - art and science, food and work... everything.
Framing the issue this way we’re getting to the heart of the issue of understanding. And starts to show that it's insufficent when thinking about 'how to handle the Bible' to just give lessons in grammar. Sadly, I've done that and I've sat through that. There is more at stake. It’s about wisdom and foolishness.... [to be continued]