Thursday, 25 November 2010

Sweating Over the Text

The fact that the only way we can understand Scripture is if God gives us understanding, does not mean that we do not have to study hard to understand the Bible. The two go together. Paul tells Timothy to "Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything." (2 Timothy 2:7). We do need to be those who sweat over the text, dilligently wrestling with it until it gives up its blessing. Yet at the same time we must be doing so in complete dependance of God, who alone can give us understanding. Don Carson has these helpful words to say on the importance of dilligent study of the Bible, and the danger of neglecting it:
Careful handling of the Bible will enable us to "hear" it a little better. It is all too easy to read the traditional interpretations we have received from others into the text of Scripture. Then we may unwittingly transfer the authority of Scripture to our traditional interpretations and invest them with a false, even an idolatrous degree of certainty. Because traditions are reshaped as they are passed on, after a while we may drift far from God's word while still insisting our theological opinions are "biblical" and therefore true. If when we are in such a state we study the Bible uncritically, more than likely it will simply reinforce our errors. If the Bible is to accomplish its work of continual reformation - reformation of our lives and doctrine - we must do all we can to listen to it afresh and to utilize the best resources at our disposal.
D. A. Carson, from the introduction to "Exegetical Fallacies".