Ajith Fernando shares an unusual response to Bible students who can’t quite get beyond a superficial reading of texts taken out of context:
I was once teaching a week-long course to some first generation Christians active in Christian ministry on how to study the Bible and use it in ministry. I found that many of my students were latching on to an inspiring thought from the passages we were studying, forgetting the context in which that thought appears and ultimately missing out on the message of the passage. So I had to keep asking them over and over again questions like, “What does the passage really say?” “Why does Paul say that?” It was a desperate battle. At one time I was so concerned that I sent SOS text messages to about 20 people asking them to pray that somehow God will break through and help them to learn how to read and study the Bible. I think the basic problem was that they have not really learned to read!
The battle went on for the whole week until I believe God’s Spirit broke through to them. …
To be sure, God’s word does sometimes “grab us” in personal and even idiosyncratic ways—as Fernando happily concedes. In fact, I’m getting ready to write a post or two on various forms of lectio divina. Still, most of the time (reader-response criticism notwithstanding) what God intends to say to us in his word is the message intended by the divinely inspired writer, and uncovered through careful attention to literary and historical contexts.
I wonder if I should think about forming a prayer circle for Bible teachers to pray against ludicrous readings of the biblical text? Something tells me it might be a hit.