Alibris Secondhand Books Standard

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

scientific bible study?

An acquaintance of mine who is a medical researcher and a fundamentalist Christian was trying to explain why he considered his personal Bible study a scientific endeavor.

He would read a passage and make an observation about what it said (forming a hypothesis). Then he would look at other Bible passages talking about the same subject and see if they confirmed his initial reading (testing the hypothesis). If he found a discrepancy he would revise his initial hypothesis to accomodate the new data. Perfectly scientific.

It seems to me that this explanation fails on two levels.

First, the method is not truly scientific. It fails to take into account any evidence outside the Bible that might add to our understanding of the passage. Furthermore it has no place for peer review -- letting a disinterested party look at the data to see if the conclusion is reasonable.

Second, and more important, is that it is a mistake to think that Bible study should adhere to the scientific method.

Science is a relative newcomer in the history of human ideas, but it has come to dominate the modern perception of the world. The scientific method is so good at showing us how things work that it has transformed the way we think about the natural world. Prescientific ideas about nature are now seen as superstition. Belief in the supernatural is looked down on.

It's no wonder that a lot of people want to justify their beliefs scientifically, or to read the Bible as if it is a piece of "evidence that demands a verdict," in the words of one well-known apologist. The modern mindset demands objectivity, so some Christians try to take an objective, detached approach to the Bible.

But our ways are not God's ways. God doesn't treat us as mere objects. God reaches out to each of us subjectively, and therefore, when we read the Bible, we need to read it subjectively. The same passage might say one thing to me and another to you. That's part of the beauty of the Bible. God can use the same text to speak different messages to us, based on what each person needs. A detached, scientific approach to Bible study misses the personal messages that God can send us as we read.



At 11/03/2005 7:03 PM, Blogger Monk-in-Training said...

Sounds like he would do well to consider the practice of Lectio Divina.

Lectio Divina, or ‘sacred reading’ represents one of the oldest ways of lifting the mind and heart to God or, more accurately, of opening the mind and heart to let the mind and heart of God permeate our own.

Principally about relationship, Lectio Divina deepens the relationship that already exists between God and the human person, formed in God’s image.

It has been practiced by Christians throughout the history of the Church and was especially dear to St Benedict who encourages its practice in the Rule.

It is learnt through practice and experience.


·Lectio (the reading)
The very slow reading of the text until a word, a phrase, or a sentence ‘speaks’ to you, ‘jumps out’ at you, ‘touches your heart’.

·Meditatio (the ruminating)
The gentle repetition of this word, phrase, or sentence in a non-analytical way, allowing it to sink into the core of your being.

·Oratio (the praying)
The prayerful response, taking the form of a deep conversation with God either through words or in profound silence.

·Contemplatio (the contemplating)
The letting go of all thoughts, words and images, allowing yourself the stillness to be absorbed into God.

At 11/03/2005 9:45 PM, Blogger BruceA said...

It's ironic that the Christians who call themselves conservative are often the same ones who reject many of the ancient practices of Christianity.

I doubt my acquaintance would consider Lectio Divina; however, it looks like something that I could benefit from. Thank you for this summary!

At 11/03/2005 10:01 PM, Anonymous [rhymes with kerouac] said...

At times I've read the bible and had something jump off the page at me, speaking right to where I was at that day. They're stunning, those God moments. I've also had one verse make me think of another, then another, that finally, several dozen pages later, brought me to that passage that spoke to my life. It's almost as if the bible were a living thing, that it 'led' me to where it wanted me to go.

Or that a living "Person" were speaking to me through it.

Subjective indeed.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home