Confessions of a Young Student of Scripture

A mentor of mine has long stressed that there is a problem with academic study of theology/Bible that results in a mass of “head-knowledge” that has not been “experienced” as “heart-knowledge.” Essentially, one can learn a lot about God without ever knowing the reality of this in ones life. Such knowledge is fruitless and ultimately counts for nothing.

I grant the concern, and there is a depth of knowledge that only comes with personal acquaintance. But I would say that the problem is not inherent in academic study of the Scriptures. Rather the danger arises when we start to think that having an intellectual grasp of the truth is the goal and so fail to press on to embody and experience the reality. It also becomes a danger when we become so consumed and focused on gathering truth that we give little time to follow its lead. The truth, we might need reminding, is a person we must come to know and serve.

Still, knowledge of the truth beyond our “experience” of the reality may very well keep us from the danger of heresy. It also means that we have the means to rightly interpret our experiences when they come about, after all, “experience” is constituted both by what comes to us through our senses and how we make sense of it with our mind; there is an irreducible element of interpretation in experience.

Furthermore, we need to be subject specific. For example, growing in familiarity and understanding of Colossians so that one can receive from it in no way requires immediate or subsequent experience of the theological realities it refers to, even while these would deepen our understanding. An understanding of the text brings us to engage the realities it speaks of.

Now for my confessions of those dangers I have at times succumbed to.

I have often read, studied and written, only for the benefit of others, to prepare my mind for teaching by gaining the necessary knowledge so that I can competently and helpfully assist them in their discipleship. My error; not seeking to prepare my heart by learning for my own discipleship.

I have at times become so focused on interpreting the Scriptures correctly that I have given little time to seeking the realities they point to.

I have often got lost in the aesthetic appeal of a theological system, hermeneutical program, or exegetical and historical details, when the point of such in-depth research was to ensure that I was rightly grasping the simplicity of the gospel.

What confessions do you have to make?

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