About a year and a half ago I blogged what turned out to be a little booklet that has now got its own ISBN number and everything with Triangle Publishing: "A Brief Guide to Biblical Interpretation." It was, alas, a little too brief for what's called "perfect binding." So I have been asked if I could write a few more pages.
In a way, this is fortuitous, for I remain deeply unsatisfied with the run of the mill "inductive Bible study" approach. If IWU starts a seminary or even an MA in Biblical Studies, I will lobby for the title "Integrated Bible Study" or some such for the key interpretive course.
1. Because it goes along with the "smoke and mirrors" that is the evangelical pretense that it actually derives its thinking almost exclusively from the Bible. In reality, our theology is what has always held the upper hand in our dialog with Scripture, a theology that has risen from the church meditating on the text with the mind of the Spirit. And I mean this of the staunchest "sola scriptura" group. They may say the Bible is driving what they think, but they are deceiving themselves.
If we were to give someone with absolutely no Christian background a Bible and send them off to the woods without any instruction, they would come back ready to found a cult unless the Holy Spirit intervened and performed a miracle of special revelation just for them.
2. After we have arrived at the original meaning, when we can, we do not yet know how to jump from the text to life. God's word for them is often not exactly the same as His word for us. In that sense there is a disproportionate yield from our study. We may have ideas about the Middle Platonic background of the Colossian hymn and how Colossians may modify such ideas to address a Jewish sect with mystical tendencies. But what does this have to do with me and today? There is a frequent disconnect between the meaning we work so hard to arrive at and the significance of the biblical text for life. This is endemic to the evangelical paradigm of "inductive Bible study."
3. In practice, we do not usually start with the text and then move to life. We usually start with some exigent circumstance and then go to the Bible for help. The text to life approach of inductive Bible study yields randomly usable results (because the text rather than current needs drive the appropriation). Life to text is the overwhelming orientation of Christian Bible use.
Well, that's enough of a break from grading. I may reappear when I need my next break.