Not long after Al Gore’s documentary, An Inconvenient Truth became a runaway success, many universities and high schools began showing it in classes to illustrate the concept behind “global warming.” I have watched it and it is very good at illustrating the concept but very light on the details or data. But it was a Hollywood documentary, so I was never expecting it to be anything else.
But many people were not so open to watching a documentary that proposed things they had already decided were false. A great controversy erupted about high schools and colleges trying to “indoctrinate” their impressionable children with ideas and beliefs they did not personally hold to when it came to global warming. Keep in mind that on both sides of the global warming debate, most people still have no concept of any data whatsoever to prove or disprove it. They simply believe what they believe and they listen to the people who encourage that belief.
To this day, I have not met anyone with deeply held beliefs one way or another who can cite anything but the vague generalities they have heard from the Today Show, Fox News or from something they read on the Huffington Post. And that doesn’t make them bad people. It doesn’t even mean they are stupid people.
It means they are people.
We are, by our fallen nature, given to believe what we want to believe. From the earliest of times (most likely from the establishment of Babylon by Nimrod, to be more precise), mankind has fashioned for himself gods to explain the world. Over time, elaborate stories emerged of how the gods fought and warred over the world we helplessly populate as their tremendous egos struggled for supremacy. Was any of it true?
It doesn’t matter. That was never the point.
Paganism and idolatry allowed mankind to make sense of the world they lived in in a way they liked believing. But we are no better today. Not in society and not in church.
Majoring on the Minor
In many Christian circles, I have encountered people who try to parse out passages of scripture and use techniques to arrive at their predetermined conclusions. Whether it be higher criticism, inferring figurative meanings from concrete subjects or delving into the Greek and Hebrew lexicon, people are quick to find a way to see what they want to see.
Many today use higher criticism or the Bible, basically reading into it whatever they want. If we treat scripture like a “guiding book of principles,” we can fashion it to say whatever we want. We have seen it over and again in recent years as many have used the very passages against homosexuality to justify its place in society.
Inferring figurative meanings from those passages which never intended it is also en vogue. To be fair, the Bible is full of both literal and figurative passages, but for the most part they are understood fairly well with some common sense. But we watch every day as someone pulls out what they want to see by making something figurative that was never meant to be.
Gaining a lot of teaching points about Greek and Hebrew is focusing on minor details instead of better understanding the world of the Bible. It would be like after having a year of Spanish in college I tried to explain the proper meanings and usages of Spanish language and grammar to a high schooler, all while a Mexican sat within earshot. I’m sure he would say I got a lot of things right, but I’ll bet he would be giggling the whole time listening to me explain what I barely understood myself.
That doesn’t mean that my understanding of Spanish isn’t important, but I certainly wouldn’t try to teach others about Spanish after having taken some brief courses on it. Instead, I would focus on what I have a greater ability to understand: the written works of others who lived and wrote about the Bible and biblical times.
Why Do We Study?
Studying is a good thing, but we must remember why we study the Bible. It’s not so we can know more about God. It is so we can know God more. It is far too easy to get swept up into whatever system of thought we exist in and forget why we study scripture, Greek, Hebrew, hermeneutics or anything else for that matter.
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:15 KJV
This is a common passage that comes to mind when people think of when it comes to studying for the sake of teaching. But one thing is often left out of this when I hear others quote it. We do not study to show ourselves approved before men, but before God.
All too often we study scripture to “get ahead” in the very competitive American business of church leadership. But when we study the Bible, Greek, Hebrew, interpretation, criticism, extra-biblical texts, textual understanding, etc. do we do it so we can know this awesome God more, or so we can impress others with our knowledge?
Don’t let the pressure to perform for others draw you away from the primary reason to study about God–to know Him more.