Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Value of a Biblical Education

August 27, 2015 by  
Filed under Monthly Articles

A former youth pastor once told my Sunday school class that one of the most sorrowful things in life is a Bible, in perfect condition, sitting upon a shelf for years, dusty from neglect and ignorance. “You should try to wear out your bibles from opening them so much,” he said to us, holding out his own dilapidated Bible as an example of earnest examination. In post-modern Christianity, the sad reality is that too often biblical education has been demoted to a peripheral act instead of being one of the most important and foundational disciplines of faithful followers. And the Church body has suffered because of this.

English author Richard Dawkins writes in his book, The God Delusion,

To be fair, much of the Bible is not systematically evil but just plain weird, as you would expect of a chaotically cobbled-together anthology of disjointed documents, composed, revised, translated, distorted and “improved” by hundreds of anonymous authors, editors and copyists, unknown to us and mostly unknown to each other, spanning nine centuries.

As an “evangelical,” fervent atheist, Dawkin’s take on the Holy Scriptures is not unexpected; it is clear that he enjoys deconstructing the bible, dismantling the arguments in favor of a supreme, loving deity who engages in the lives of His followers through the power of prayer and His Word. Dawkins condemns such matters as “a fairy tale” that hurts more than it helps in modernity.

The problem is that Professor Dawkins is neither a theologian nor a historian—he is a biologist, which means he is making scholarly claims outside of his area of expertise—a colossal “No-No” in the academic world. However, a bigger predicament is that too many post-modern Christians simply take the word of men such as Dawkins or Marcus Borg or Rob Bell or Brian McLaren on biblical matters without pursuing a personal biblical investigation of their own.

As post-modern society embraces relativism and radical personal authority, it is no wonder that many Christians have avoided deeply studying their bibles out of fear or laziness or inconvenience, but such a dismissal of biblical education is unfortunate because of what can be gained from contemplating the Word of God (for instance, one can instantly know how obtuse and unsupportable Dawkin’s aforementioned analysis of the Bible is, in reality).

Personally, a thorough biblical education has helped me better understand the reality and purpose of life on earth and in the universe. Of course, there are still a number of mysterious areas of existence and creation (remember that Genesis is not a textbook or cookbook, but a theological declaration), but the Biblical story helps frame life around a divine person, purpose, and plan that makes more sense than the philosophy of accidental evolutionism demonstrates.

Furthermore, a biblical education has helped me comprehend and categorize human affairs–both historically and in the present. I have often said in Bible class that one of the strongest proofs for me of the authority of the Bible is its amazing analysis and prediction of human behavior. If this is a fairy-tale, it is one of the most psychologically and sociologically brilliant ones ever written. The Bible explains the causes and consequences of human conflicts, and clarifies the correct Christian response; and its perspective continues to be both rational and relevant even after thousands of years.

More specifically, closely examining the Bible has assisted me in self-awareness and others-awareness, areas in which we all need to improve. Pouring over the texts, one can find example after example of good and evil human behavior to utilize in making ethical choices in life. The historical tales of Abraham, Joseph, Joshua, Ruth, David, Ester, Jeremiah, John, Paul, Peter, and Jesus each provide incredible teaching moments to enrich our own life and that of those with whom we intersect. Through the Holy Scriptures, we can increase our love for God and each other in ways we never could on our own.

Finally, perhaps the most important part of studying the Word of God is that readers get to hear His heart, to see His mind, to feel God’s presence in past and present human existence. He was and is and will always be the God who willingly walks with us–with you! If nothing else, a sound biblical education can help foster deeper intimacy with God, with whom our hope rests. What a blessing!

Through careful, deliberate, thoughtful biblical examination, we can truly understand Apostle Paul’s pronouncement to his co-worker Timothy that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

So, pull down that dusty Bible off the shelf, open up its still new-crackly pages, and dig in, deep. You have everything to gain, my friends.

 

John Knox

J.S. Knox has taught Bible, history, and religion for over a decade at several Christian universities in the Pacific Northwest and the East Coast, utilizing his PhD in Theology & Religion, a MATS in Christian History & Thought, and a BA in History and English to help his students more fully understand what it meant to be a Christian in the past—and why it is still relevant in the present. He currently lives in Idaho with his family.

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