I have encountered this problem many times: Christians who, in essence, want to discuss and study the Bible without actually reading the Bible. What do I mean?
The passage of Scripture is given a quick, cursory glance and then the jump is made to discussion. Questions are general. Or questions are answered with what they think is the “right Christian answer” and the passage of Scripture is not looked at again.
But…how will we know if our discussion is accurate if we did not first take the time to observe the passage? We won’t. We could actually miss the point of the passage.
I first realized this problem a few years ago when I led several Bible studies using John Stott guides. As Stott takes you through a book of the Bible, the questions are aimed at the biblical text. The questions required looking at the verses. The careful observations brought out what the passage was communicating, and then the lesson would end with applicational questions. Stott’s guides brought the Scripture to life for me.
But some participants struggled and found the Stott guides difficult. The questions were not hard, but simply required looking at the verses. Yet some were stumped.
This also indicates problems with reading comprehension. We are not a society of readers anymore. For more about the fascinating (and disconcerting) history of our society shifting from a print/reading based culture to an image/TV based one, see this post: Amusing Ourselves to Death. I digress, but many have lost the skill of reading and understanding the printed word.
In recent years, I prepare my own Bible lessons. I have observational questions that require a look at the verses. Again, I often find that people are not expecting this. They want to answer mostly off-the-cuff, with minimal consideration of the biblical text.
When the jump is made so quickly to general discussion, it is our thoughts and opinions that are paramount.
But God’s Words should be paramount.
Our thoughts and discussion should flow from the Scripture.
Perhaps an inability to pause and contemplate has become a key part of the problem. We live in a fact-paced, high-tech world, and we often jump from one thing to the next. But we miss so much in life, and in Bible study, when we move so fast and fail to slow down.
And consider the word study. Here are some definitions:
- the devotion of time and attention to acquiring knowledge on an academic subject
- look at closely in order to observe or read
- state of contemplation
- careful or extended consideration
Uh, does this describe typical Bible study groups today? I fear not.
Do not misunderstand. This does not mean that Bible study should be purely serious and academic. Of course, there should be discussion and life application. As a teacher of adult Bible studies, I also try to be creative. This week when I taught a class on Colossians, I drew a chicken on the board and then chopped off its head – in regards to the phrase about running around like a chicken with its head cut off. That is what we are like when try to live our Christian life without Jesus as our head. (Colossians 2:19)
Psalm 119:18 says, “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.”
It is there. Wonderful things. Don’t miss it because you are not taking the time to see.