By Pastor Bob Myers
I’m enjoying our recently established Q&A time after the livestream Sunday Sermon. I enjoy pointing us to the One who IS and has all the Answers, and seek to root each question in scripture and in the narrative of the good news of the gospel. Keep your questions coming by text or you can send me the question you’d like to see addressed by email.
There’s always some danger in us asking the Bible questions. The Bible does contain answers, but it also was written to question us.
One of my favorite professors used to regularly say, “For every difficult question there is a simple, clear, unambiguous, wrong answer!” Then he would throw back his head and laugh heartily. Nuance matters. Context matters, Not all things are alike, clear and plain.
I believe in scholarship, study, expertise, and science. I know all of those sentiments used to be normative. But sociologists tell us we’ve come through several disconnected movements that have undermined confidence in all these disciplines and in most of our institutions. Because we know about betrayal by someone in a place of authority somewhere, we are tempted to dismiss entire institutions and disciplines. We also tend to democratize all things, so that public opinion, and actually my opinion is newsworthy and weighty. We are right to reject elitism and blind allegiance to authorities. But authority should not just be questioned, it should be questioned to confirm and discern truth.
All that is to say, I believe in godly, theological, scholarship. Some have betrayed the Bible with scholarship and used it to avoid either obeying or receiving what scripture clearly teaches. But that does not mean that the instrument of our Holy Spirit regenerated and indwelt minds should be abandoned. Nor does it mean that investigation into the cultural background, the scientific study of the meaning of words, Greek and Hebrew grammar and literature, is not worthwhile. While prayer and spiritual illumination is of absolute necessity, in the scripture we find that Timothy as a pastor is commanded to “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
This command is not addressed to every believer the same way. It’s addressed to a pastor. Not everyone is an “approved worker”. This command originally applies to a pastor who had influence over other pastors, as it appears Timothy had. Some Christians have a divine calling to go deeper in study. But those experts should then be able to substantiate the products of their discussion by appealing to scripture. But even the Bible itself tells us that it’s a difficult book. The Apostle Peter writes about Paul’s letters, “There are some things in them that are hard to understand” (2 Peter 3:16). Which also by implication means that most of the things scripture teaches, and the most important things taught in scripture, are not hard to understand. The Bible was written to every believer. The central absolutes of the Bible that pertain to every person in all times and all cultures are clear. This is the doctrine of the perspicuity of scripture. But the scriptures also contain the subject matter and inspired words that must be the matter for in depth study as the content of skilled teachers.
At Covenant, we are not interested in “gospel-lite”. We are interested in making the Bible accessible to all. When we encounter what scripture teaches it will likely rock our world and open up new doors in our minds and souls.
I am thankful that I had the privilege of studying Ancient, Classical History, and majoring in Classical Greek language in college so that I can read the New Testament in its original language. This is enormously helpful and gives me nuance and confidence. In seminary, I studied Hebrew for the Old Testament, and all the classical categories of theology with separate courses that focused on every era of European and white, American church history. But in all of those areas I am far from an expert or scholar. Familiarity helps me learn from scholars.
But there were huge gaps in my understanding. I can’t remember reading any scholars from non-European cultures. I don’t remember any lectures on the Black Church. All of my teaching was from the same cultural and ethnic vantage point. Now, I regularly read opposing viewpoints and try to read people from other cultures, convictions, and church backgrounds.
Since I became a Christian, my understanding of the most difficult and complicated matters in scripture have changed and are changing with more study and more teaching by those who have devoted themselves to more study. But the central things in scripture have not changed, and in fact, have only been strengthened by years of reflection and study. 2 Timothy 2:7 calls us to use our minds and reflect on what we think we know and then expect the Lord to help us. “Consider what I say, and the Lord will give you understanding” (2 Timothy 2:7).
May we all love God with all of our minds and find life and grace and light in all the precious Words that God has gifted us with.