Thursday, December 16, 2010

THE MYTH OF THE PRACTICAL BIBLE STUDY

I received an invitation in the mail to a “Practical Study” of a certain book of the Bible.

It ticked me off.

Here is why.

This advertisement makes a distinction between a theological study and a practical study. The implication is that a theological study is not practical and, therefore, not as valuable as a practical study. Both the distinction and the implication are wrong.

The Bible itself tells us this approach is wrong. 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the man (and woman) of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” We study every scripture because the Holy Spirit will use it to teach us, rebuke us, correct us and train us in righteousness.

This approach also places a higher value on man than on God. In essence it says, I do not want to study theology, I just want to know how to make it through the day. That is why you see so many books with titles such as “Seven Ways to a Happy Marriage” and “Secret Biblical Keys to Wealth”.

What is theology? It is the study of God, the acquisition of knowledge about God. Why is that both important and practical? God is the most important person to the believer. You cannot worship a God you do not know. You cannot live to please God if you do not know what pleases him. While you are busy learning the seven keys to wealth, God is pleased instead with the man or woman who does not seek treasures on earth but treasures in heaven. You cannot glorify God in your life if you do not reflect the character of God.

The so called practical approach that neglects theological passages for ones that say more about specific behavior ignores the teaching of 2 Timothy 3:16 (quoted above), but is also arrogant. Think about this. If all scripture is God breathed, God thought it important enough to inspire men to write it down. He deemed it important enough to preserve through the ages. He deemed it sufficiently important to have it translated into multiple languages. Despite all of this care and concern by God, are you going to say now that it is not important or valuable? I am not.

Luther said, “Divine Scripture is a very fertile tree, and there is no branch which I have not shaken with my own hands, and knocked down a few apples” (Table Talks, no. 5355).

Study theologically. Study theology. Learn about God. It is the most important thing you can do.
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