Learning How to Think Biblically– Part Two


Unfortunately, we live in an age of Biblical illiteracy, and the problem is only compounded by attempts at self-education through the internet, where there is as much dross as gold, straw as silver to be found. So obviously the first step in learning how to think Biblically, including thinking critically (in the good sense of the word– keenly, asking good questions) about the Bible is that you need to learn what the Bible actually says. Not being familiar with the scope and range of material in the Bible, not knowing its major figures, nor having a sense of the history and stories, learning, nor even memorizing key passages and sayings, is a sure way to never learn how to think Biblically about life and all other matters. Basic Biblical education then is the proper starting point, but it’s not the finishing point. Why not? Because in order to understand the content of the Bible you need to know the context of the Bible– its historical, literary, rhetorical, archaeological, linguistic contexts. A text without a context is just a pretext for whatever you want it to mean.

Biblical education then is not just about opening your mind and opening your Bible and reading and studying. Why not? Because the human mind is not a blank blackboard. It brings to the study of the text all sorts of modern assumptions, many of which are at odds with the worldviews and understandings of the people who wrote the Bible. Nor is it even enough to bring your mind and the indwelling Holy Spirit to the study of the Bible. Even then the possibility of confusing or fusing your own thoughts with the guidance of the Spirit is too regular and ready a danger to make it an adequate way of studying the Bible. This is why things like pure inductive Bible study, or things like BSF are never an adequate way of studying God’s Word. That is as likely to lead to a pooling of ignorance as to a pooling of knowledge when it comes to studying the Bible.

I once had a student come up to me after a NT Intro class and tell me he didn’t know why he needed to learn these ancient languages and these ancient contexts “when I can just get up into the pulpit and the SPirit will give me utterance”. I told him yes, he could do that, but it was a shame he wasn’t giving the Holy Spirit more to work with. Beware of using the Spirit as a labor saving devise, when it comes to learning how to think Biblically.