I heard a reputable Christian radio host note that the conversation she was preparing to have about a particular subject of the Bible was biblical. She wasn’t just talking out of the air. It was biblical.
I have studied biblical counseling, which is different than faith based or Christian counseling. The biblical counseling movement touts that they are truly biblical.
Churches state that they operate biblically. The sermons are biblical.
What does being biblical even mean? Does it mean the same thing for everyone? If it doesn’t, why not?
Have you heard of this word in your local church? Have they taught you how to exegete Scripture? Does your pastor exegete Scripture or does he put together some verses and add a story?
Exegesis, in my simple laymen’s terms, is the process of studying a passage of Scripture and determining it’s meaning for it’s intended audience, which by the way wasn’t us. Once we determine what the passage means to the intended audience then we can work on determining it’s meaning for us today.
There is actually more to understanding the Bible than just a simple reading, though we do need to be simply reading the Bible as well. However, a true study of the Bible does not include reading verses and then discussing what we “think” it means.
According to Duvall and Hays, author’s of Grasping God’s Word, determining the meaning of Scripture is a four step process:
1. Grasp the text their town. This means figuring out who the author is, and who they were writing to.
2. Measure the width of the river. Identify how far apart we are from the intended audience.
3. Cross the principlizing bridge. What is the theological principle in the text? This requires determining what that principle is, not telling it what it is.
4. Grasp the text in our town. How can we apply the theological principle in our lives?
Do you see the danger of just skipping to step 4? Do you wonder why we aren’t taught this at church? Why aren’t we taught to exegete Scripture for ourselves? Do the leaders of our church even know how to do it? If they do, what is there understanding of how to determine meaning from a passage?
A lot of great Christians know how to exegete Scripture and they do so and then write books on their interpretation of Scripture. We must remember, however, that their interpretation is subject to their own sinful heart, their experience, knowledge, and skill. There could be flaws, and we must be aware of that before taking what someone says as the law.
The talk show host and her friend were trying to have a discussion about a theological subject that was truly rooted in Scripture, and for that I am thankful. They weren’t trying to share their opinion, but God’s.
The subject is controversial. There are modern theologians who could go toe to toe with them in debating that subject. Both sides of the debate would say they are biblical.
So what do we do?
We are in the information age. We don’t have to think anymore if we don’t want to. We can simply Google a question and receive an answer. We don’t have to ask people how they are. We can read their social updates to find out how things are going. We don’t need to understand Scripture for ourselves, because there are plenty of people willing to tell us what it means.
Perhaps scholars outside of the realm of Christendom have good reason to look down on our religion. Christ’s followers aren’t typically known for thestudy of their “book”. Our book by the way is ancient, was written in a different language, and was written for a reader that came from a different time, and geographical location.
Yet we pick it up as if to read a fairy tale. We pay no mind to it’s historical value, it’s complexity, and it’s depth. Our search for meaning compares to a child’s search for meaning from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.
Is it no wonder we are led astray? Is it no wonder the church struggles, wolves come in an steel sheep, and we wander aimlessly through life looking for answers outside of God’s inspired Word.
Perhaps we can start by revering God’s Word for the amazing book that it is. Respecting that it’s much more than a child’s fairy tale, and devoting more than five minutes to learning how to study it.
Perhaps we can spend time on Sunday learning how to exegete Scripture for ourselves. Perhaps we can pick up books like Grasping God’s Word to learn how to read, interpret and apply the Bible.
It’s biblical. Because you tell me it is, or because it truly is the intended meaning for the original audience that applies to me today.