Biblical Interpretation: How Should Christians Approach Studying and Teaching the Bible?
How Should Christians Approach Studying and Teaching the Bible?
Teaching the Bible can be “risky” and it isn’t something people should “rush into,” according to theologian John Piper, who notes that the first strategy is to “be aware of the dangers of speaking, writing and teaching.”
“How do you make sure that your interpretations of God’s Word are in line with God’s intention?” a listener to Piper’s Desiring God podcast asked on Friday.
Among other things, Piper said he “pray[s] that when anybody reads or hears me — what I have written, what I have said — they will be given a heart by the Lord to believe what is true and to be protected from any mistakes I have made.”
In an age where rapid and cultural shifts are taking place, many sincere believers in Jesus desire to hold fast to the truth of God’s Word. Jesus said in John 8:32: “You shall know the truth and truth will set you free.”
But the New Testament also contains many warnings against false teaching, and those charged with a teaching office are held to a greater account.
James 3:1–2 reads: “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.”
While it is certainly not wrong to be a teacher, the role of explaining biblical truths is no small task.
Thomas Howe, Bible and biblical languages professor at Southern Evangelical Seminary in Matthews, North Carolina, who authored the book Objectivity in Biblical Interpretation, said in an interview with The Christian Post that postmodern approaches often confuse committed Christians who earnestly want to understand God’s Word.
But Howe dispels the notion that no basis exists upon which people can discover and hold to a correct interpretation of Scripture.
CP asked Howe where sincere believers should start regarding hermeneutics, the science of interpreting the Bible.
“The Bible is the revelation of God to us.” Howe said. “Our first question should be, ‘What does this text teach me about God?’ God is worthy of worship whether we get any benefit from it or not. Job said, ‘Though He slay me, I will hope in Him” (Job 13:15).'”
And such a process is as vital as the interpretive methods themselves.
“The effort that one puts into studying the Bible is proportional to how much one understands its meaning. It is indeed important to hold to the truth, and getting at the truth is part of the struggle that changes us to be more like Christ,” Howe added.
Wrestling with the biblical text to get at the depth of meaning is part of the journey.
“The struggle is as important as the text, because it is the struggle, the hard work needed to understand is a sanctifying process. If the wisdom was right on the surface, we might remember it, or we might not,” Howe said.
“We might be affected by it, or we might not. But, putting forth the effort to struggle with the text imprints the wisdom on us and makes us different so that the wisdom becomes part of us.”