Alibris Secondhand Books Standard

Sunday, October 15, 2006

from whom you learned it

The great proof text for biblical inerrantists is 2 Timothy 3:16, "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness."

There are some who take this a step further and claim that the Bible is only useful to the individual who reads it. "Don't let other people tell you what the Bible means. Read it for yourself," I've been told.

That's good advice, as far as it goes. As with anything, there's no substitute for personal experience with the Bible. Reading it for oneself is the best way to become acquainted with richness of this amazing book. But like any good thing, this advice can be taken too far. While personal interaction with Scripture is valuable, we can all benefit from what others have learned.

I'm not advocating a simple acceptance of everything that someone says, even someone who appears to be very wise, very knowledgeable, or very spritual. Still, we don't need to reinvent the wheel by trying to get all our doctrine straight from the Bible with no help from others.

First of all, if we were to try, we'd end up spending all our time with our noses in the Bible. Then we wouldn't be useful to those around us. Furthermore, we'd be likely to miss something, or to overemphsize some points and underemphasize others. To get the full impact of the Bible, we need a community of believers who can help correct each other's excesses and faults, and teach us new ways to profit from Scripture.

This community of believers includes not only our local congregations or Bible study groups. In 2000 years, many people have had insights into the meanings of Scripture and the ways we can profit from it. We have many sources that can lead us to a fuller knowledge of the Bible.

A seminary professor visiting my church introduced me to Lectio Divina. A Catholic friend first told me about praying the psalms. My wife first explained to me the value of word studies. A pamphlet gave me a plan for reading the whole Bible in a year. A Bible study at my church showed me how to dig deeper to find personal meaning. Theological books have showed me insights I might never have seen on my own.

If I had decided that the only way to study the Bible was simply to read it for myself and to discount what others said, my spiritual life would have been much poorer.

The remarkable thing is that the very passage from 2 Timothy that I quoted above alludes to this valuable resource, other believers. Here's the verse in context:

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.

- 2 Timothy 3:14-17, emphasis added

So it's not the Scriptures in isolation that benefits us. It's Scripture studied in community, learned from those who came before us. Only when we become willing participants in the community of faith can the Scriptures equip us for every good work.



At 10/16/2006 4:39 PM, Blogger Monk-in-Training said...

Powerful post there! I think community is the vital portion that a lot of the American Church is missing.


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