Four Ways to Read the Bible

Many vibrant devotional lives have died in seminary. People are often surprised to learn this. Students come to seminary because of their love for God and His Word. But when the Bible becomes a textbook, it can lose its vitality. As with everything else, when you dissect it, it dies.

I remember being a seminary student who was enthralled with hermeneutics (the fancy word, along with exegesis, for principles of interpreting the Bible). As much as I enjoyed the subject and gleaned from it, the classes and books taught me to come to the Bible with dozens of questions that had little to do with God or me. I was excited about the original author, the author’s intent, the original audience, the original language, syntax, lexicon (not the little green people at the end of rainbows), and other ways to find the meaning of the text.

I still value hermeneutics, but that is not the focus of this post. This post is meant to cultivate questions for Bible study that focus primarily upon God and me (or you). The outline of the post comes from a recent video post by David Powlison on the prayer life of Martin Luther. In the video Powlison discusses four ways Luther responded to Scripture in his prayer life.

Dr. David Powlison – Martin Luther’s Prayers from CCEF on Vimeo.

Bible as Text Book

When we come to the Bible as a text book we are seeking to learn what and how to think. We want to know what is right, good, wise, and worthwhile. We come to it as innocent children eager to learn from trusted parents.

We recognize the world as a complicated and large place. We know that we are not capable of mastering it on our own. So we ask questions to fill our mind with the relevant facts and needed perspective to respond to the challenges we will face.

Bible as Hymn Book

When we come to the Bible as a hymn book we are seeking to find the majesty of God. We come to the Bible like children asking questions of their parents’ “glory days.” We want to be awed, inspired, and made to feel safe because of what we learn.

We recognize that we will never be satisfied with our own achievements. As creatures made to worship, we crave a thrill that we cannot produce. We were made with imaginations that require the presence, mission, and power of God to swim in.

Bible as Confession Book

When we come to the Bible as a confessional book we find everything we want to be (or would want to be if our perspective was right) and are not. Yet we do not find shame. We come as children who have failed and are seeking the comfort of a loving parent.

We recognize that light reveals dirt that was hidden in the shadows of our lives. But the inspiration and motivation developed in worship causes us to find value in the hard work of cleaning (okay, the children metaphor might be breaking down here). We ask questions that reveal our desire to get our character from where we are to what we see in our Father.

Bible as Prayer Book

When we come to the Bible as a prayer book we are seeking help in the journey from what we saw in the Bible as confession book to the Bible as hymn book. We come with the innocent faith of children who believe if we have seen in His Word, God can get us there.

We talk like children with their Father, when they know their request pleases the Father. As we ask God to make us more like what we’ve read and adored, we are like the child asking his/her parent to teach them the parent’s favorite hobby.

To summarize this post, as you read the Bible, never forget how God says we get into His kingdom and (my inference) come to understand His Word, “Truly I say to you whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child shall not enter it (Mark 10:15).” Let your Bible reading echo the heart of a child peppering his/her parent with questions of admiration.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Spiritual Disciplines” post which address other facets of this subject.