Episode 37: Jack’s Considerations for Good Bible Study, Part B

DESCRIPTION: Jack continues discussing several ideas about what makes for good Bible study attitudes and techniques. It ends with a discussion of how having a high IQ (Intelligence Quotient) is not necessary for good Bible study, where having a high RQ (Rationality Quotient) is.

Jack’s Points (continued from Episode 36)

23. The (Protestant) Bible has over 31,000 verses across 66 books, some of which are themselves comprised of more than one document.  It has nearly ¾ of a million words.  You can read it again and again in your life, but you will never finished studying it if you’re the sort to want to understand everything in it as completely the author understood it—or further, as completely as God himself understood it.

24. If you are like most people, coming to an accurate and non-biased understanding of what a passage means will require that you keep shooing away the question “What does this mean to me?” so that you can maintain a sufficient focus on “What did the author mean?”  Mature people can get good at this, but only through constant self-discipline.

25. The Bible is not written to you.  No passage in it addresses you.  God is not directly addressing you in it.  Rather, its value for you is that you can learn what was said and done and taught and believe all those centuries ago by people in a different time, place, and situation.  And from that, if you are wise, you can make some good decisions as to how to live your life today.  If God wanted to write you a book today—or to have someone do that for him—he could certainly do that.  What, then, can we learn from the fact that he has not?  If the ancient writings are all he has given us, then doesn’t it make sense that we should faithfully learn them so as to understand what God did when he was interacting with humankind in those earlier centuries?

26. The Bible was not written for you.  Had it been written for you, it would have been written originally in English, using language that is easily understood by you.  And it would explain everything it mentions, knowing that we moderns are simply not familiar with everything that the authors and their audiences were discussing so long ago.

27. The Bible may well have been preserved for you and delivered to your generation.  We have no direct statement of scripture to this effect, but it’s certainly possible, and I like to think that God has had this happen deliberately, whether he had to do anything to make it happen, or whether humans have preserved it and delivered it to our generation of their own volition.  If this is God’s will (whether humans did it with his help or not) then what does that tell us about God’s intentions for us?  We were supposed to make use of these records—even though they were not written to us or for us.  So we’d have to be able to decouple from our own thinking and experiences so as to learn about THEIR thinking and experiences.  And from there, we could compare and decide how it all should be understood and applied.

28. And there’s nothing to keep us from getting any of this wrong, so we swim at our own risk.

29. Many scholars have studied the Bible a great deal for a long time.  They have learned many things that are very useful to our consideration of the Bible.

30. A scholar’s career, however, consists considerably of pointing out what other scholars have got wrong.  There is no failsafe in being a scholar, therefore.  Just because somebody studies the Bible full time, there is no guarantee that they won’t get it wrong at certain points.

31. Good Bible study calls for the use of all three parts of the human mind:  the autonomous mind, the algorithmic mind, and the reflective mind.

32. I think that this is God’s plan for us all, and that if you’re not studying the Bible and working the puzzle for yourself, that you are avoiding God’s plan for you.

33. You can find MANY churches who will try to save you from this—who will promise to save you from having to do your own studying and thinking, and who will tell you what to believe—and then reward you for believing it.  And they’ll try to protect you from the Bible and from where it disagrees with their conventional thinking about things—with their easier version, their amended, edited version.

34. The Bible’s difficult passages—including the weird ones—are where you can really learn something.

35. RQ is more important than IQ here.  IQ (Intelligence Quotient) is a measure of something like your processing speed, but RQ, your Rationality Quotient, is a measure of whether you have (and use) the skill set required for rational thinking—thinking that accurately maps onto the real world.