One of the more fruitful professional reads that I have read this year has been R.C. Sproul’s Knowing Scripture. He really cuts through the chaff of bad Bible study and gives principles of study that any Christian can relate to and follow. I learned some as a graduate student, but I think that someone brand new to Christianity could learn from Sproul’s book just as easily.
In that spirit, I want to share some of the things that stuck out to me and made me think the most as I read. I hope that it inspires you as you think about the quotes. Perhaps it will even inspire you to pick up the book for yourself as I will not be actually sharing the heart of Sproul’s book, the eleven principles for studying your Bible.
The first place that Sproul really made me think was in his discussion of absurdities. Sproul says:
Absurdities often sound profound because they are incapable of being understood. (19)
He specifically mentions the absurdity of “the sound of one hand clapping.” Many people hear that statement and think of something profound, but Sproul’s answer to this is that the statement is actually absurd because one hand cannot clap.
Oftentimes, I’ll think I hear something new and completely profound in its novelty on to recognize, sometimes years later, that the thing I thought was so profound was really completely ridiculous. I think this is something that we each have to puzzle through and understand for ourselves. When I was twenty, many of the ideas that I find to be illogical now, were completely believable in my head. I have struggled in my life thinking that I am far more logical and less emotional than I really am, and Sproul is like a big bucket of cold water dousing those feelings.
Last night we went to the Lego Movie 2, and I spent much of the movie trying to figure out what on earth the deeper meaning could be. Eventually there was one, but much of the movie was very meta, very satirical and more than a little bit cynical. In some ways, much of the movie was an absurdity. Yet, my very human nature had me spending much of the movie attempting to make meaning, even when meaning seemed to be scarce, if it could be found at all.
Opinions on the Bible
One of the issues that Sproul mentions is that of people who want to comment on Christian values, virtues and beliefs without having adequately studied them. In Spoul’s, words:
Isn’t it amazing how almost everyone living in the West has an opinion to offer about the Bible, and yet so few have really studied it? (21)
I think that because we live in a Judeo-Christian culture people think that they know everything about what Christian beliefs are. They confuse the cultural values with the actual religious beliefs. They assume they know Christian theology and the Bible, but they don’t. That’s a struggle I think we all have, and I often think, as someone who lives in the Bible belt that I am talking to someone who knows about the Bible and has rejected it. However, I often find out upon deeper questioning that this person doesn’t know the Bible at all.
Another thing I find is that sometimes we conflate cultural wisdom with biblical wisdom. I found myself doing that the other day with my twelve year old. I was talking to her about making good friends and the company that she keeps. I said, “You know the Bible says, ‘he he lies down with dogs rises with fleas.’ No . . .wait a minute, Ben Franklin said that. But, the principle’s still good. The apostle Paul did say, ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.'” And I’m in seminary and can’t keep the distinction right in my head. Imagine the conflation you can experience if you’re not daily immersed in Bible study.
Sproul has strong opinions on Christians and their reading of the Bible. In his words:
The Christian who is not diligently involved in a serious study of scripture is simply inadequate as a disciple of Christ. (26)
It is important that Christians read their Bibles. If you have not read through your Bible, do you really know for sure what it contains? I know many people start the year out with a goal to read through the Bible in a year, and there are many Bible reading plans out there, but often it is at this point in the year, in the bleak and boring rules about the sacrificial system and religious codes in the Pentateuch where that resolution dies.
If you’re looking for a reading plan that tells the essential story of scripture and skips some of the details, Sproul actually developed a basic overview reading plan to start people in reading the Bible. It is contained in this book, but Ligonier Ministries has published it on their website, and you can get a picture of it here.
Of course, Sproul is not just talking about reading the Bible, but he is talking about study of the Bible. There are various ways to gain a deeper study of the Bible, including Sproul’s advice throughout the book. There are also groups, such as Community Bible Study and Bible Study Fellowship that are devoted helping others to study the Bible in depth. There are many great ways to enrich and deepen your knowledge of the Bible. I probably need to do a blog post in a few weeks to help point you in the right reaction.
I have more I want to say about Sproul and this book, but I try to keep these posts 1000 words or less, so I’m going close this post down and come back in a few days to share more ideas that Knowing Scripture helped me to contemplate.