A Guilty Guide to Bible Study

There are several jokes about guilt. I’m thinking particularly of “Catholic guilt”…or even “Jewish guilt”. There is such a thing as evangelical guilt but I don’t think I’ve ever heard any jokes about it. Evangelical guilt tends to revolve around “quiet time”, a phrase that means “time spent reading the Bible and praying”. Now that I think about it, I’ve heard far and away more evangelical Christians grieve their negligence of “quiet time” than their greed, lust or pride. That being said, it was my “Evangelical guilt” over not doing “enough” personal Bible study that motivated me to Google the phrase “how to study the bible” just a moment ago.

One hit lead me to a page of the Navigators, a group that I don’t really know all that much about. I knew someone associated with the Navigators who had similar personality to mine, so I followed the link to see what they advised. At the top of the page, it is implied that the “inductive” method of Bible study is something suitable for those who are no longer “infants” in the faith. What follows is an example of an inductive approach to the first chapter and verse of 1 Timothy.

As I read through the example, the approach seemed reasonable until it came to the point of Personal Application, which reads:

“I must begin to see myself in the role of Christ’s ambassador who has been authorized and sent out with a divine message. The authority of my witness will only be as effective as my awareness of my mission.”

Now, I don’t really disagree with the affirmation that Christians are representatives of Jesus and that we are charged by him with the message that Jesus is God’s chosen King of Creation. My problem is the tacit equation of my role as an “ambassador of Christ” with Paul’s role as apostle. The fact is that neither I nor Mr Hill, the author of this piece, were given our commissions during a personal conference with the resurrected Jesus. Paul saw Jesus and received his apostleship from Jesus. In fact, the Bible is clear that Paul was chosen to be the one who would take the message of the King to the Gentiles first. I guess what I’m getting at is this: evangelicals tend to think that EVERYTHING in the Bible has a “Personal Application”; consequently we tend to force verses to say something which they probably don’t. Again, Paul was “an apostle…by the commandment of God”…and I’m not… and neither are most of the Christians who have ever read those words.

Well, I’ve done the easy part: criticizing Mr Hill’s inductive approach to Bible study. Now, I need to get down to the hard work of actually studying the Bible…and dealing with my own guilt for having been both negligent AND critical.

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