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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Right Questions

You ever in a part of the Bible that baffles you?  Does not make sense?  Does not seem to align with your understanding of God or the Christian life?  Feels like – or you are not sure that it is really inspired?  Yeah – if we are honest, we all have had those experiences.  What do we do with all of that?
What do you do when you hit a passage that does not fit your understanding of Christianity?  Thoughts at DTTB.
[At this point in the creation of this post I went to my bookshelf to find a quote in the book How to Read a Book, I did not find what I was looking for but for a few minutes got pulled into the book again – I recommend it all of the time, I know it is good, I had forgotten how good…  If you have not read it, you should.]

In his book How to Read a Book, Mortimer Adler says, “The Word of God is obviously the most difficult writing men can read; but it is also, if you believe it is the Word of God, the most important to read.” Two other quotes from Adler apply here:
If an author…explicitly asks you to take something for granted, the fact that the opposite can also be taken for granted should not prevent you from honoring his request.  If your prejudices lie on the opposite side, and if you do not acknowledge them to be prejudices, you cannot give the author’s case a fair hearing.
We are speaking here…of the difficulties that face a non-believing reader of a theological work.  His task is to accept the first principles as true while he is reading the book, and then to read it with all the care that any good expository work deserves.
The upshot of Adler’s advice here is that we have to read the Bible as the Bible says it is.  That is the inspired Word of God.  So that leads to at least three questions for passages that strike me as odd or not aligning with my current, using Adler’s words, prejudices I have to acknowledge that the Spirit inspired the author and ask:

  • Why did the Holy Spirit lead the author to write this passage?  
  • What do we learn about the Christian life and/or ministry from this passage?
  • How does what is being presented serve to build up believers in their faith?

Those are not easy questions to answer honestly.  However, answering them is worth the effort.


  1. You gotta love Adler! And these are terrific questions to bring to any passage. One thing to emphasize in what he said: "...if you believe it is the word of God...." If not, I'm really only left with my own (or somebody elses human reasoning. In other words, I'm putting my own mind above above God's. That would seem to me to pure idolatry....

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