Thursday, April 15, 2010

Dig Deeper: Tools for Understanding God's Word

Dig Deeper: Tools for Understanding God's Word. By Nigel Beynon and Andrew Sach. 2010. Crossway. 160 pages.

Most conversations I've had with non-Christians about the Bible end up there sooner or later: It's all a matter of interpretation. Sure, you say it means that Jesus is God and that sex outside of marriage is wrong and that heaven is only for Christians, but maybe for me it means that Jesus was just a good teacher and sex with anyone is OK as long as you both want it and heaven is for everybody. It's all just a matter of interpretation.

Actually we've been conditioned to think like that. It's part of the whole philosophical movement called "postmodernism," and over the last few decades it has infiltrated the TV shows that we watch and the classrooms that we sit in. Postmodernism teaches (among other things) that when I come to a piece of literature such as the Bible, what matters is not what it means but what it means for me. And that might be different from what it means for you. And that's OK.
But the truth is that it's not OK. There is a right way and a wrong way to interpret the Bible. This book is about equipping you with the tools you need so that you can read and study the Bible yourself. (This book isn't about how you should let others tell you what to think or how to believe. It is about letting the Bible speak for itself. For it is only when you study the Bible for yourself that you become grounded. Otherwise you might go back and forth and back and forth depending on who you're listening to at the moment. When you know what the Bible says, you can test the messages you hear, and the books you read.)

The first chapter, "What The Bible Is and How We Should Approach It" focuses on the Bible as the divine Word of God. The infallible Word of God. It points out that the Bible is anything but out of date. It is living and active. But it also stresses that the Holy Spirit is essential to one's understanding of the Bible.
Someone who isn't a Christian (i.e. the 'natural person') won't be able fully to understand the Bible, no matter how many qualifications or degrees in theology he or she may have. We should be wary of the "expert" on television or the professor who's written the latest controversial book about Christianity. It's easy to bow to what seems to be impressive knowledge, but if they don't have the Spirit of God working within them, then they have no hope of grasping the Bible's message. (21-22)
It continues,
On the other hand, all Christians can understand the Bible for themselves, since all Christians have the Spirit . . . Yet we need continually to express our dependence on God for a right understanding of him and his ways. He is the one who grants insight. So we must pray. Pray before you open the Bible. Pray when you get stuck and don't understand. Pray again when you do understand it--say thank you! Pray, pray, pray! (22)
The remaining chapters focus on individual tools. Not every passage, chapter, verse will need every tool to be understood. But each tool has its usefulness.
  • The Author's Purpose Tool
  • The Context Tool
  • The Structure Tool
  • The Linking Words Tool
  • The Parallels Tool
  • The Narrator's Comment Tool
  • The Vocabulary Tool
  • The Translations Tool
  • The Tone and Feel Tool
  • The Repetition Tool
  • The Quotation/Allusion Tool
  • The Genre Tool
  • The Copycat Tool
  • The Bible Time Line Tool
  • The "Who Am I?" Tool
  • The "So What?" Tool
Dig Deeper is a practical book. It gives you the tools. It walks you through using the tools by providing several examples for each one. It gives you homework if you choose to indeed dig deeper. It urges you to implement these tools in your own life, in your own studies.

Here's a description of the Author Purpose Tool.
Since the biblical writers were inspired, their purpose is God's purpose. That means that one of the biggest and most helpful questions we can ever ask of a passage in the Bible is simply, "Why did the author write this?" If we glean one or two insights along the way, but miss the overall purpose of what the authors are saying, then we haven't really understood them at all.
I loved this book. I did. I loved reading about these tools. I can't wait to put them in practice. To see if I can put this book to good use.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible


Yogi♪♪♪ said...

Sounds very interesting. I'm always interested in how to study the Bible. I'm really just a novice. I find that it is important to discuss things with somebody much more grounded in the Bible that I am. I gain so much insight that way and often I can recognize errors in my thinking. I'm a big believer that the Bible is a consistent whole and that one just can't pick verses out to support your position. The interpretation has to be made in light of the entire document.

Anonymous said...

This sounds like one I need to pick up. Sounds practical in a way that I like.