Understanding Your Bible

Understanding your Bible Dr Ken Chant

The problem is, many people, failing to linger in contemplation of the great men and women who speak through the pages of scripture, commit the fault complained about by Walter Weir

"Clumsy eavesdropping must be worse than the blind spying on the blind. You’ve not only got to know what is said, but what is meant. There’s a lot of difference between listening and hearing."

Yet how many there are who never get past “eavesdropping” on scripture! They “listen” to a verse here, a dogma there, a paragraph somewhere else, but never truly “hear” the message of the Bible. They know it in bits and pieces, but not in its whole.They understand doctrine, but not the Word of God.

We can avoid this problem by observing two necessities: first, read the Bible, thoroughly, over and over again; and second, read it intelligently, following sound rules of interpretation. The latter is the main object of this book, which explores the art of hermeneutics 11 – how to catch the message of God that lies embedded in the Spirit-breathed pages of scripture. That art means different things to different people, so before we go any further you had better work out what kind of Bible reader you are.

The first NCLS 12 assessment of church-goers in Australia uncovered three basic attitudes –  

1.    Literalists, who take the Bible in its entirety as the infallible Word of God and insist that it must (as nearly as possible) always be read and acted upon literally.

2.    Contextualists, who agree that the Bible is the Word of God, yet say that it must be read in the context of the times before we can understand its implications for us today.

3.    Valuists, who treat the Bible simply as a valuable book, parts of which may reveal God’s Word to us, or at least teach us useful things.

About one third of church-goers fell into the latter category, about one fifth were literalists, but the greater number were happy to call themselves contextualists, which is where this book stands. So if you are a literalist or a valuist some of the following pages may not bring you much joy. But as Sancho said, “Forewarned, forearmed.”

You could therefore abandon this book right now, or prepare to defend your position to the last drop of blood – or, less nobly, of sweat. Or perhaps instead, you could read with a searching eye, willing to allow that there may be something here for you to learn. At the end, even if you prefer to stick to your original view, I hope you will at least be better informed. If you are a contextualist, then these pages will guide you, I trust, into a wiser use of the Bible and a richer appropriation of its treasures.

 Understanding Your Bible is also available as an eBook from Smashwords

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