Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Learn to Study the Bible

I was excited when I was first asked to review the bible study methods book by Deane. I know that my own Bible study has at times been stagnant and less than engaging. I truly desire to find ways to dig deeper into the heart of God through Bible study and devotional time. That being said, I was a little disappointed with the book once I got into it.

I come to the table reading this book as a somewhat liberal Christian. At least by conservative standards. I don't think that Deane knew this when he requested I read his book. Or maybe he did. And if so, Bravo, Deane.

On the positive side, the book contains a good overview of a wide variety of Bible study methods. Forty, to be exact. It also does a good job illustrating the various methods so you can visualize how to do it yourself. With all the methods in the book, I am inclined to believe there is probably something for everyone.

I especially enjoyed his "One at a Time" idea, where you do a special in-depth analysis of a favorite, or "life" verse. I also enjoyed the "Six Searches" method. This method asks six probing questions about the passage and you journal on the questions. Another method that I found useful was the "Book Overview" method. In this method you create a great one-page "at-a-glance" fact sheet for a specific book of the Bible. I could see how doing this over a period of time could give you a great source for quick information about certain books.

My frustrations with the book were in some ways minor, considering that the point of the book was Bible study methods, not theology. But in other ways the frustrations were major, as they cut to the core of what I believe about the Bible. Needless to say I am trying hard not to throw the proverbial “baby” out with the “bathwater.”

In one chapter, Deane stated that the word of God only has one correct interpretation. This concerns me. I believe that there are definitely good interpretations, even “better” interpretations, but the beauty of the Bible is its ability to speak volumes to all people at all times. I don't feel comfortable limiting God to one "point" per verse.

He also said that each word in the original manuscript is God-breathed. I believe that there is a danger in saying that every word is God-breathed. If this is true, then I am forced to believe in dictation theory. This bothers me because of the wide variety of writing styles found within the Bible. If God himself wrote every word, not inspired the thought, but actually told them which words to use, then how do we get all these different styles? I just don't think that dictation theory jives with all the editorial type comment we find sprinkled throughout Scripture. I do, however, believe that all Scripture is God ordained and that God was intimately involved in the creation of these sacred texts.

Those were the big theological pet peeves. My additional concerns were his seeming disregard for theological formal education. He wrote about how the current technological advances and available research mean that you don’t have to learn the biblical languages to study Scripture. While you certainly don’t have to learn the languages, you cannot say that concordances and word study books are as good as knowing the language and nuances yourself. Anyone who has studied a biblical language, myself included, will tell you that it can be an important devotional tool for ministry, even in this modern setting. Nothing can replace the understanding that comes from learning a language yourself.

From a totally different perspective, I was frustrated with the editing of the book. I found multiple misspellings and grammatical errors in the handwritten “example” portions of the book. In my opinion this should have been caught by the editors. And there you have it. My official opinion on the book. While it was an interesting book to browse for methods, I was unimpressed with the editorial comments and covert theological stances. I give it 3 stars out of 5.

Note for Full Disclosure: While I do not receive any monetary compensation for my book reviews, I am provided with free complimentary copies of each book. That being said, this review is completely my own, and free from the influence of the author, Andy Deane.

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