Categories
The End of Many Books

Living by the Book

by Howard Hendricks

This is THE book for learning how to do Bible study. It is book number ONE, and for many, the only.

I’ve been to Bible college and seminary, been assigned lots of books, taken hermeneutics classes and Greek/Hebrew classes. I’ve loved learning how to read and meditate and apply the Word. And Hendricks is the one I keep coming back to in order to get other people going.

I’m teaching a class at our school called Cornerstone. That’s Jesus, yes, who is the embodied Word. And it’s also a reference to the inspired Word, the Bible. This year I’ve got freshmen and sophomores, and I’ve taken a few other freshmen classes through it at a previous school.

Want to read the Bible but don’t know where to start? Want to study the Bible but need some basic steps to get going? Want some recommended resources to help you study, and would prefer not just Googling or Wikipedia-ing?

Living by the Book is your book. All the stars.

Categories
The End of Many Books

Knowing Scripture

by R. C. Sproul

I’ve started teaching a Bible class again, though it’s got a WAY cooler name than “Bible Class.” We’re calling it Cornerstone. Boom. So I’ve been doing some extra reading, and this was my first time for Knowing Scripture by Sproul.

It’s got reasons to read the Bible, including an emphasis on the objectivity or “there-ness” of revelation, reminders on the perspicuity or understandability of revelation, and then some general principles for reading and interpreting.

His three primary rules for hermeneutics:

  • Sacra Scriptura sui interpres – Sacred Scripture is its own interpreter, similar to analogia Scriptura
  • sensus literalis – interpret according to the literal sense, meaning to pay attention to the “natural meaning of a passage…according to the normal rules of grammar, speech, syntax, and context”
  • Grammatical-Historical method – giving attention to the original meaning of the text rather than read in our own ideas

He also provides 11 practical rules for interpretation, and, they are…fine, sort of like guardrails a third of the way down the bank. They’ll stop you from exegetical death, but there’s plenty of off-roading you can do before stopping.

The whole thing is good, and as Sproul was a key player in the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy and the follow up statement on Hermeneutics, he had parchment in the game.

4 of 5 stars

Categories
Rightly Dividing

How Important Is the Bible?

In this 18 minute video, John Piper asks and answers five questions about the importance of the Bible.

  1. What would happen if it did not exist?
  2. What would you give to have it or keep it?
  3. What does it make possible?
  4. How does it weather critics and detractors?
  5. How much effort should be given to spread it and preserve it?

He also references the ESV and why our loving of God and others depends on our thinking (about Bible truth).

via Justin Taylor

Categories
A Shot of Encouragement

Theological Reasons for Wordiness

Regarding (tedious) repetition in Scripture, specifically in Numbers 7.

Efficiency is not always the highest value. Slow, long, repetitions are sometimes the best way to make an impact.

John Piper, Theological Reasons for Wordiness

Categories
A Shot of Encouragement

His Blood is Bibline

He had studied our Authorized Version … till his whole being was saturated with Scripture; and though his writings … continually make us feel and say, ‘Why, this man is a living Bible!’ Prick him anywhere; and you will find that his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak with out quoting a text, for his soul is full of the Word of God.

—In reference to John Bunyan. Charles Spurgeon, Autobiography, vol. 2 (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1973), 159.

Categories
Rightly Dividing

Cross References and Context

Cross-references may be the most abused practice in Bible study.[1] Sure, some are helpful. When a New Testament author quotes an Old Testament passage, it’s convenient to know the reference apart from reading all 37 books to find it. Likewise, when the same event is described in multiple places, sometimes those additional perspectives increase understanding.

However, not all cross-references are created equal. Just because a similar phrase or idea is found in two or more places does not necessarily mean that both places are related. Cross-references were added by someone else, meaning cross-references are not inspired. In fact, they may hinder a person rather than help a person rightly divide his copy of God’s Word, especially if they cause him to move too quickly away from the immediate context.[2]

Unless it’s obvious that the original author intended for his readers to think about another passage of Scripture, we must be cautious. John Calvin said,

Since it is almost (the interpreter’s) only task to unfold the mind of the writer whom he has undertaken to expound, he misses his mark, or at least strays outside his limits, by the extent to which he leads his readers away from the meaning of his author. (quoted in Steve Lawson, The Expository Genius of John Calvin, 70).

Does that mean we should never consider cross-references? Obviously I don’t think that. In terms of contexts, cross-references do fit into the Level 9 circle since they are within the wider context of the Canon. (By the way, I don’t consider it a cross-reference if you’re in the same book/epistle/etc.). But the closer we walk to the paragraph level, the closer we stay to what the original author wanted his original readers to understand.

Let me suggest three lawful uses of cross-references:

  1. Systematic theology. After meticulous observation in each passage, there is a place to summarize exegesis and outline Scripture’s teaching on a particular subject. [That’s why young theologians are risky. We want someone like John Calvin, and his Institutes of the Christian Religion (1755 OT quotations and 3098 NT quotations), whose theology was refined by “dragging” it through sequential OT and NT exposition for almost 30 years, totaling 21 volumes of commentaries.]
  2. Analogia Scriptura. Sometimes when exegesis is stuck, we may be helped by studying a clear(er) passage that sheds light on the one that is unclear.
  3. The Checking Principle. At the end of exegesis (not the beginning), we would be wise to float our conclusions in the broader biblical pool since God’s Word never scuttles itself.

But note, the best uses come after our observation and interpretation of a given passage, or as a last resort when we can’t figure it out. We often run away from our primary passage too soon. Skipping to cross-references too quickly and too often eclipses exegesis; skipping rarely enlightens exegesis.

The Bible-teaching burden doesn’t always require showing people that God’s Word says the same thing twenty times. If God says it once, that one time wields as much divine authority as the other nineteen times. The flow of argument in the near context may make a more powerful case for a truth then a distant cross-reference.


[1] These thoughts come from the second session of my Rightly | Dividing seminar titled, Surveying Contexts in Bible Study
[2] Books like The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, can be helpful, but they can also be deadly if they push a person outside the context.

Categories
A Shot of Encouragement

Equipped by the Word

The “man of God”…does not give fresh revelation himself, but rather is the man who has the compilation of that completed revelation in his hands. While he is not a prophet himself, he is the heir of the prophets. In other words, he is not limited by the cessation of the prophetic gift because, as it says here, he is “competent” or equipped for every good work. There is no task the minister will be called upon to perform that he is not equipped to perform through the Scriptures.

—Doug Wilson, A Ministerial Tool Chest, commenting on 2 Timothy 3:16

Categories
Every Thumb's Width

Agassiz and the Fish

As posted by Justin Taylor:


It was more than fifteen years ago that I entered the laboratory of Professor Agassiz, and told him I had enrolled my name in the scientific school as a student of natural history. He asked me a few questions about my object in coming, my antecedents generally, the mode in which I afterwards proposed to use the knowledge I might acquire, and finally, whether I wished to study any special branch. To the latter I replied that while I wished to be well grounded in all departments of zoology, I purposed to devote myself specially to insects.

“When do you wish to begin?” he asked.

“Now,” I replied.

This seemed to please him, and with an energetic “Very well,” he reached from a shelf a huge jar of specimens in yellow alcohol.

“Take this fish,” he said, “and look at it; we call it a Haemulon; by and by I will ask what you have seen.”

With that he left me. . . . I was conscious of a passing feeling of disappointment, for gazing at a fish did not commend itself to an ardent entomologist. . . . .

In ten minutes I had seen all that could be seen in that fish, and started in search of the professor, who had, however, left the museum; and when I returned, after lingering over some of the odd animals stored in the upper apartment, my specimen was dry all over. I dashed the fluid over the fish as if to resuscitate it from a fainting-fit, and looked with anxiety for a return of a normal, sloppy appearance. This little excitement over, nothing was to be done but return to a steadfast gaze at my mute companion. Half an hour passed, an hour, another hour; the fish began to look loathsome. I turned it over and around; looked it in the face—ghastly; from behind, beneath, above, sideways, at a three-quarters view—just as ghastly. I was in despair; at an early hour, I concluded that lunch was necessary; so with infinite relief, the fish was carefully replaced in the jar, and for an hour I was free.

On my return, I learned that Professor Agassiz had been at the museum, but had gone and would not return for several hours. My fellow students were too busy to be disturbed by continued conversation. Slowly I drew forth that hideous fish, and with a feeling of desperation again looked at it. I might not use a magnifying glass; instruments of all kinds were interdicted. My two hands, my two eyes, and the fish; it seemed a most limited field. I pushed my fingers down its throat to see how sharp its teeth were. I began to count the scales in the different rows until I was convinced that that was nonsense. At last a happy thought struck me—I would draw the fish; and now with surprise I began to discover new features in the creature. Just then the professor returned.

“That is right,” said he, “a pencil is one of the best eyes. I am glad to notice, too, that you keep your specimen wet and your bottle corked.”

With these encouraging words he added—

“Well, what is it like?”

He listened attentively to my brief rehearsal of the structure of parts whose names were still unknown to me; the fringed gill-arches and movable operculum; the pores of the head, fleshly lips, and lidless eyes; the lateral line, the spinous fin, and forked tail; the compressed and arched body. When I had finished, he waited as if expecting more, and then, with an air of disappointment:

“You have not looked very carefully; why,” he continued, more earnestly, “you haven’t seen one of the most conspicuous features of the animal, which is as plainly before your eyes as the fish itself. Look again; look again!” And he left me to my misery.

I was piqued; I was mortified. Still more of that wretched fish? But now I set myself to the task with a will, and discovered one new thing after another, until I saw how just the professor’s criticism had been. The afternoon passed quickly, and when, towards its close, the professor inquired,

“Do you see it yet?”

“No,” I replied. “I am certain I do not, but I see how little I saw before.”

“That is next best,” said he earnestly, “but I won’t hear you now; put away your fish and go home; perhaps you will be ready with a better answer in the morning. I will examine you before you look at the fish.”

This was disconcerting; not only must I think of my fish all night, studying, without the object before me, what this unknown but most visible feature might be, but also, without reviewing my new discoveries, I must give an exact account of them the next day. I had a bad memory; so I walked home by Charles River in a distracted state, with my two perplexities.

The cordial greeting from the professor the next morning was reassuring; here was a man who seemed to be quite as anxious as I that I should see for myself what he saw.

“Do you perhaps mean,” I asked, “that the fish has symmetrical sides with paired organs?”

His thoroughly pleased, “Of course, of course!” repaid the wakeful hours of the previous night. After he had discoursed most happily and enthusiastically—as he always did—upon the importance of this point, I ventured to ask what I should do next.

“Oh, look at your fish!” he said, and left me again to my own devices. In a little more than an hour he returned and heard my new catalogue.

“That is good, that is good!” he repeated, “but that is not all; go on.” And so for three long days, he placed that fish before my eyes, forbidding me to look at anything else, or to use any artificial aid. “Look, look, look,” was his repeated injunction.

This was the best entomological lesson I ever had—a lesson whose influence was extended to the details of every subsequent study; a legacy the professor has left to me, as he left it to many others, of inestimable value, which we could not buy, with which we cannot part. . . .

The fourth day a second fish of the same group was placed beside the first, and I was bidden to point out the resemblances and differences between the two; another and another followed, until the entire family lay before me, and a whole legion of jars covered the table and surrounding shelves; the odor had become a pleasant perfume; and even now, the sight of an old six-inch worm-eaten cork brings fragrant memories!

The whole group of Haemulons was thus brought into review; and whether engaged upon the dissection of the internal organs, preparation and examination of the bony framework, or the description of the various parts, Agassiz’s training in the method of observing facts in their orderly arrangement, was ever accompanied by the urgent exhortation not to be content with them.

“Facts are stupid things,” he would say, “until brought into connection with some general law.”

At the end of eight months, it was almost with reluctance that I left these friends and turned to insects; but what I gained by this outside experience has been of greater value than years of later investigation in my favorite groups.

Categories
Enjoying the Process

Starting at the Beginning

A couple months ago I was having breakfast with some of the one28 staff men. Our conversation turned toward the subject of past one28 graduates, and in particular, the current spiritual state of those students. There are, as anyone might suspect, some students continuing to walk with Christ who are closer to Him than ever. There are other students who have given every appearance of walking away from Christ.

As we talked that morning, we wondered out loud if we as men, as a staff, and as a ministry, were doing everything we possibly could to prepare our graduates for the life outside of and beyond one28.

Of course, one28 is only a small part of a student’s development. A student’s family makes the biggest difference. The opportunities and education they get at whatever school they attend plays a large role. Many additional influences shape a student’s life as well. But the question still remains: are we maximizing our influence to prepare students for life after one28? In other words, are we doing everything we can to present every student complete in Christ?

The question has not been altogether off the radar over the last few years. When we tweaked small groups and had senior’s teach on Wednesdays and retooled snow retreat and studied soli Deo glori in the 04-05 “Year of the ‘S'” we had the question in mind. When we prayed for abounding love in 05-06, enlisting Jonathan Edwards’ help to get our heads out of broken cisterns and raise our affections we had the question in mind. When we looked only to Christ in 06-07 with Spurgeon, and when we played for keeps last year through Ecclesiastes and a snow retreat aimed at guarding the heart and had the staff teach through biblical manhood and womanhood, we had in mind our part to prepare young people for following Christ.

In one sense, we’re going to build on each of the previous years, since all of those themes have a proper place. But in another sense, we’re going to take a big step back this year, and start at the beginning. After all,

  • you can’t get old without being born
  • you can’t build walls that will stand unless you begin by laying a solid foundation
  • you can’t eat ripe fruit unless you begin by planting the tree
  • you can’t cross the finish line unless you start at the beginning

That’s the 2008-09 theme: Starting at the Beginning. And we’re going to start at the beginning in a few different ways.

Genesis

On Sundays were going to study Genesis. Genesis may be the best and most relevant book in all the Bible to prepare us to think about our place in the world, to frame our beliefs about family and history and morality from the ground up. Genesis is the book of beginnings, especially as we study the early chapters of God’s story of redemption. We will study the beginning of everything so that students will be prepared for anything.

Rightly | Dividing

Then we’re going to do a Saturday seminar on how to study the Bible. God’s Word is the beginning of our understanding of truth. God’s Word builds us up, equips us for every good work, and helps young men keep their way pure. One of the most valuable things we can do, then, to help prepare students, is to give them tools to understand God’s book for themselves. If we want to succeed and make our way prosperous, we’ve got to start at the beginning with Scripture.

Service

We’re also going to focus on service this year like never before. If we want to please God, we’ve got to serve. If we want to be a blessing to our families, now as a young persons, and later as a spouse or parent, we’ve got to serve. And if we want to lead others, we must follow Jesus’ example of servanthood. This generation seeks to be served and be given to. But that mindset must not to be the case for us in one28. In small groups and as a ministry, we’re going to provide opportunities and make a concentrated push to start at the beginning with service.

Seniors

We’re going to ask the senior guys to teach most Wednesdays again this year. In a lot of ways, students leading students makes the biggest difference in the ground war of making disciples. When students lead, particularly the guy students, the health of our ministry is off the charts. When senior guys step up, that sets the tone and pace. We want our guys to be strong, and we want our senior guys to start at the beginning by leading as servants.

Snow Retreat

And finally, there’s snow retreat. I can’t unwrap the 09SR theme for another month or so, but I promise, it is going to challenge everyone to start at the beginning.

Now all that is exciting, at least to me. But it is worthless for students unless they come up to the starting line with us. If they don’t participate, if they don’t let Genesis lay a foundation for their thinking, or take advantage of service opportunities and the Bible study seminar and the senior Wednesdays and the 09SR, they will not be prepared and will not be more Christlike by the end of the year.

That means some students need to repent. Loving oneself or one’s sin or the things of the world will keep anyone from growing. A person in sin needs to clear the plate, confess sin and turn from it. He or she needs to start at the beginning. So here we stand, kicking off another school year. We are starting at the beginning. Start with us.

Categories
Rightly Dividing

Rightly Dividing Your Copy of God’s Word

Today we announced a new seminar at church:

Rightly | Dividing aims to move believers beyond personal Bible reading to Bible study. There are many useful Bible reading plans, and for that matter, much excellent material is available from good Bible teachers. But this seminar hopes to train people how to understand and depend on the Book, not only on teachers of the Book.

I’ll be teaching this seminar on Saturday, October 11. (Don’t tell anyone, but October 11 also happens to be Mo’s due date with Hallie.) It will include over six hours of teaching, covering topics like how to prepare for study, basic principles (hermeneutics) for Bible study, how to find the point of a paragraph, and recommended tools.

Anyone in the area is welcome to attend. If you’re interested, jump over to the Rightly | Dividing website for more details and online registration.