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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Barriers to Understanding

Theology is the Source
Theology is called the Queen of the Sciences.  Why?  Because Scientific method is a subset of Theological Method.  If you give it a minutes thought it makes sense.  Some of the best known early scientists, Pascal, Newton, were believers.  They studied the world with the theological tools they developed.  Most higher education included Theology.
Barriers to Understanding
The Purpose of Method
Theological method is intended to help us do what Paul exhorted Timothy to do in 2 Timothy 2:15, handle accurately the Word of Truth.  One of the first steps in the process is to acknowledge one’s presuppositions, what one thinks one already knows and believes about an issue.  The reason for this is to allow the data, the Word, to speak to the issue without our bending it to support our pet positions.

Critical Starting Point
This is a critically important step in our approach to the Bible.  I am always gratified when I find excellent explanations of why this is important, not just in our approach to the Word, but also in Theology’s offspring Scientific method.

Excellent Example
Claude Bernard was a French physiologist, he wrote this about the impediment of our preconceived ideas in 1865:
Men who have excessive faith in their theories or ideas are not only ill prepared for making discoveries; they also make very poor observations.  Of necessity, they observe with a preconceived idea, and when they devise an experiment, they can see, in its results, only a confirmation of their theory.  In this way they distort observation and often neglect very important facts because they do not further their aim…But it happens further quite naturally that men who believe too firmly in their theories, do not believe enough in the theories of others.  So the dominant idea of these despisers of their fellows is to find others’ theories faulty and to try to contradict them.  The difficulty, for science, is still the same.
Clear Your Mind to Observe Well
The key to good Bible study is great observation.  Bernard masterfully points out why we need to continually question and examine what we hold to be true.  If we do not, we are in danger of falling into the trap he describes.  In Science that results in error.  A problem, but not, in the grand scheme of things, overwhelming.  But in the Bible, the result is heresy.  Heresy has eternal consequences.

When you go to your study, acknowledge your presuppositions.  Allow the Bible to realign them.  Do not force the Bible to say what you want it to say.

1 comment:

  1. This is an excellent exhortation, and we can certainly see an extreme example in the Jewish leaders' attitude toward Jesus being the Messiah - with tragic results for the Jewish nation.

    I think we can be quite sure they didn't realize that this was a presupposition; and we see there were a number of other forces at work in their lives. But Jesus challenged them to look at what He was doing and they would know He was the Messiah (assuming they knew their Bibles). He encouraged John the Baptist in the same way.

    But I think their example is a cautionary tale right along with what you are challenging us h, Mike.

    I heard a short radio clip this last week in conjunction with the Pope's visit concerning a Roman Catholic (I am assuming) who was a scientist. I can't quote it, but he said that as a scientist he was studying God, as God was essential in every field of science.

    And further, he said that he would always do science as God was transcendent. We can never get to the bottom of God.

    If I allow my "truths" from the Bible go unchallenged in some way (life and death has a great way of doing this very thing) they can so easily become hardened into views that limit my understanding since God is always bigger than my mind's capacity, let alone my understanding. Those can easily become convictions that bloc my ability to absorb a fuller, or even contrary truth.

    That's one reason I value "diggin' into it" Bible study with others, especially those who know me well enough to confront me and be more concerned with my welfare than being nice. That takes a lot of time and mutual interaction, but begins to pay off.

    You will need to speak to this, Mike, but I think I have heard you say, perhaps quote someone, in the past to the effect if I haven't changed a doctrine in the last (some period of time) I'd better check my pulse; I may be dead.