Be Careful When You Study Books about the Bible
I recently heard about a minister who said that none of his seminary classes studied the Bible. Instead, each professor had students study books about the Bible. Though this minister learned theology, he knew the Bible from a distance in a sterile, formal manner. He didn’t know Scripture in an up close and personal way.
I wonder how widespread this is. I fear that it may be. Thinking back to the thousands of sermons I’ve heard, I’d call some of these messages Bible lite or Bible basic. A few didn’t even mention Scripture. It’s a sad reflection on seminary degrees, on the overall failure of advanced education to produce practical application.
This is why I don’t study theology as an intellectual pursuit.
My College Experience
Yet I get this practice. In college I took an elective class on C. S. Lewis. I was most excited about what I’d learn—until I read the syllabus.
During the semester, we only read one book by Lewis. The rest of our time—most of the class—we spent reading about Lewis. These scholarly tomes—authored by academics who had spent their career studying Lewis—left me bored and “none the richer” when it came to Lewis’s writing and his wisdom.
Aside from reading Mere Christianity, that class did little else to enhance my appreciation for the work of C S Lewis. (I’d already read The Great Divorce, The Screwtape Letters, and several other of his books.)
Books about the Bible
Am I saying we shouldn’t read books about the Bible? No.
But we must be careful in how many we read. If we only read books about the Bible and never actually read the Bible itself, something is out of balance.
Books about Scripture that help us to better read, study, and understand the Bible are ideal resources. This is the goal of every book I write about the Bible, including me Dear Theophilus Bible studies, Christian devotionals, and Bible resources. My books are not the end but the means to move into a deeper understanding of Scripture.
Though I occasionally consult resources as I study Scripture, it’s not often. But I’m grateful for those books and the authors who wrote them. Mostly, however, I rely on the Holy Spirit to teach me and help me better understand a text.
As I move forward in studying Scripture, I find I use books less and the Holy Spirit more. This is as it should be.
Scripture Points Us to God
The point of the Bible, of course, is to point us to God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—and deepen our connection with him. Learning about Scripture for the sake of learning is a shallow pursuit that offers no eternal value. Yet too many fall into this trap, including, I fear, some seminaries.