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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Seeing What I Want to See…

I addressed this at some level in a long response to a comment on the post "Scribal Errors," but there is more that needs to be said.
What do you do when the Bible does not agree with you?  Thoughts at DTTB.
One of the challenges in Bible study is to actually let the Bible say what it says.  For those of us who do not have any background in the Bible, that is we are new believers, that may not be such a problem.  For those of us who have been around the Christian community for a time, especially those communities who do not promote personal independent Bible study, letting the text speak for itself is a bigger challenge.

If we are honest with ourselves we have an opinion on just about everything.  For the most part we think we are right.  One of the first courses I took in Seminary was "Prolegomena and Bibliology."  It took me about a semester to get the pronunciation of that first word right.  But in reality it is pretty much useless in ordinary conversation.  But it is important.  As a matter of fact that part of the course was life changing.

Prolegomena is the study or the presentation of the first things.  In this case theological method.  In the class we examined what it took to deal with theological issues with integrity.  It is an arduous, multistep process.  The first step of which is to honestly examine and admit your presuppositions.

I will not outline the entire process, but I will say that about halfway through the semester I realized that I held strong convictions on a number of Christian issues for which I had very little if any Biblical reason to hold.  The positions had been formed by listening to messages, conversations with leaders, reading books, and doing fill in the blank Bible studies.  All of those activities are good.  But as the source of my convictions they were a tragically deficient foundation.

The problem was that when I came to the scripture I expected to see those convictions upheld.  When I ran across passages that seemed to hint that I may have a wrong view on an issue, I went through incredible mental gymnastics to attempt to bring what the text said back in line with what I wanted it to say.

All of us, at differing levels, face this challenge.  It is much easier to see in others.  I am sitting here and several examples of others misreading the text leap to mind, while I am struggling to remember once when I did it.  But I guarantee that I have.

This is one of the reasons that it is so critical that we all as believers are engaged in the independent study of the Word.  And that we are engaged in that practice in a group.  We have to resist the pressure to be a consumer of other’s work.  Of a continual diet of pabulum.  We have to dig into the Word for ourselves, struggling past our preconceived notions to face the truth of what God has said about Himself and us.

That, after all, is what worship is all about.  That is what Paul exhorts us to do in Romans 12:1 – 2, is it not?


  1. >The first step of which is to honestly examine and admit your presuppositions.

    I bet I do have many false (based on someone else's statements, convictions) presuppositions, which I've simply accepted without letting those being formed thanks to personal study -- working on this.

    Mike, would you recommend anything to help those false presuppositions identified?
    What I would do is to come up with a list of theological questions and answer those with a biblical reference why I believe so. Then I would need to study each and evaluate against my best understanding of the Word. Ideally, after a Bible study done in a group for better, more accurate result.

    1. That would work. What I do is when a topic comes up I write out what I already believe to be true before I start the study. For example a group I am in studied the Kingdom of God a year ago. Prior to the study I wrote out what I thought was true about the Kingdom.

      That way there was a tangible record of what my presuppositions were. During the 18 months that we studied that topic. I found that the scripture validated some of what I believed, but also there was much I held that was corrected.

      The other men in the study saw things and took positions that forced me to go Back to the Word and look again to see if and what I missed.

      It may be a good practice to do this as you encounter them rather than trying to come up with a statement on all to which you have been exposed.

      For example, if you were to study the book of Romans you would encounter multiple theological issues. Soteriology, how is one saved. Harmatiology, what is sin. Theology Proper, the nature of God especially His sovereignty and how it relates to Soteriology. As you encounter these, it would be a good practice to document what you think before you dig into what Romans says about the issue. That can help you avoid forcing the text into your mold.