Monday, August 30, 2010
Asking the Wrong Questions
I took Greek in school, but I couldn't conjugate anything for you today and there are very few vocabulary words I could pull out of a line-up. I studied Paul's missionary journeys in school, but don't ask me off the top of my head to tell you whether Paul went to Laodicea or Ephesus first (I think it was Ephesus because that was on the coast vs Laodicea which is inland, but the point is I don't know for sure offhand). I took a course in undergraduate on Shakespeare's works, but don't ask me to explain the form of a sonnet to you - I don't remember.
Here's the point - the educational process is less about the facts and figures we learn and much more about learning how to learn and how to think clearly and well. Maybe this isn't true of all education - I'm fairly certain that doctors need to remember the anatomy they were taught in school without looking at a book, but you get the point.
And so, I'd like to offer one of my top 3 seminary take-aways that just might transform how you read and understand the Bible:
Don't ask the wrong questions.
You see, too often we read the Bible expecting the Bible to answer questions it wasn't written to answer. The Bible is not a history book. It wasn't written to provide an unbiased, detail-specific, geographically and chronologically accurate and cohesive history of the era in time it covers. Instead, it's a book about God, meant to explain who God is and how God works and who we are as God's people.
Let me get more specific, we can get very frustrated reading the Bible if we get hung up asking questions like, "Did Jesus overturn the tables of the moneychangers in the Temple in the beginning of his ministry or toward the end?" After all, John's Gospel has it happening early and the other gospels have it happening late. I could ask who's wrong and who's right, but that's the wrong question and it won't get me anywhere. A better question is, "Why did John choose to tell the story when he did?" or "What does it tell us about Jesus to see this story in this context?"
Here's another example: in Genesis 1 we read that God created the heavens and the earth and everything in them in 6 days and then He rested on the seventh day. We have and continue to debate this idea extensively in our culture - i.e. was it 7 24-hour periods, or is it a relative statement? is it literal or figurative? Does this disprove the theory of evolution? All of these are the wrong questions. A better question - what is Genesis 1 telling us about God? For starters, it's telling us that God created everything and everything God created was very good. You see, now we're getting somewhere.
It's so important to ask the right questions because if we spend too much time asking the wrong questions we either get frustrated and stop reading because we don't understand, or we decide the Bible must not be true because it can't answer the questions we want it to answer.
Next time you pick up your Bible, ask God to show you what it's teaching you about Him and who you are as His child. The Bible is God's gift given to us, it's a story of God's tireless and relentless pursuit of you and me, it's a story of Jesus offering us life that we don't deserve, it's a story of God choosing you and me - don't miss the chance to be amazed by asking the wrong questions.