“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Thursday, January 26, 2006

A Mind is A Terrible Thing To Waste

I have, for a long time, been adamant about people loving the Lord with all their HEART, MIND and STRENGTH, but it seems, at times, that people just don't want to do that...

Now, that is quite a statement out of the gate, isn't it? What I mean by that statement is that it seems today that everyone wants to love the Lord with all their HEART... Notice anything missing? Yeah, it would be the aspect of loving Him with our mind and strength... I am constantly amazed by otherwise sane human beings, who place their brains on a shelf when they begin to read, and/or discuss the Bible.

I have previously discussed 'worship' songs that are more like pimply-faced, erotic, and emotive but doctrinally empty, love songs that have sprouted from the quills of some modern-day songwriters. And I have addressed pieces of this throughout some of my other posts, but today I wanted to address something head-on: That is, the tendency in our culture for 'free interpretation' of the Bible.

How many of us have been to a Bible study where the teacher/pastor/leader provides a teaching on a section of Scripture, only to be interrupted by three or four people with heavily marked up Bibles, and a Strong's nearby, who proceed to 'correct' the teacher by providing their interpretation! These are the folks who are the first to inform you that you don't understand the difference between zoe and psuche. Sound familiar to anyone?

First, let me dispel one common myth -- We do not all possess the same amount of knowledge as regards the Bible -- some people have given their lives to studying the Word, and have MORE knowledge than others (I am not referring to myself here, but to many great teachers out there). Just because you heard a pastor speak on the difference between zoe and psuche, don't assume that you now have it all figured out. Also, don't assume that because you read all of the meanings in Strong's and inserted your favorite meaning into a particular passage, that you are naturally correct. Tools are good, but they are only as good as those who know how to use them. Just because you have a forklift at the house does not mean that you know how to load a 44' trailer!

We need to learn from people who have given their lives to studying the Bible in all of its facets. I spend most of my waking, and non-working moments ensuring that, as Paul says in 2nd Timothy, I am rightly handling the Word of God. However, I still have a lot to learn and will not get dogmatic (usually), about something that I do not have a grasp on. The egalitarian mindset, that everyone should be able to foist their 'opinion' on everyone else in a study, is simply not correct. I have seen many new believers led astray by people speaking on things they know NOTHING about, but speak as if they are an expert.

Second, the Bible does NOT mean what you want it to mean! I have heard plenty of people say, "Well, what this passage means to me...[you fill in the blanks]". Now, the Bible does have application in our lives, but first and foremost we need to figure out what the passage is SAYING, NOT what we THINK it might mean. Many times the passage in question is a narrative, in other words it has clear context and clear meaning which must be discerned before we begin applying it's meaning to our lives!

Let me provide an example: when teaching through Acts one may constantly be 'corrected' by a person who is providing their interpretation of Paul's travels in Acts 13 in some SUPER-spiritualized, and almost inevitably wrong-headed manner. Now, don't get me wrong, many of these people are absolutely wonderful and love the Lord. I don't think that it is their intent is to take a study down a rabbit trail, they have just bought into the bad teaching that everyone's interpretation is equally true to the text because the 'Holy Spirit told me' (hard to argue with that, huh?).

I suggest that everyone get a book such as Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart's How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, and actually read it! Study the types of literature that the Bible contains and understand the difference between a narrative, wisdom literature, and apocalyptic literature. We could dispel a lot of fringe-element eschaton teaching if people understood more about the literature they were reading.

And finally -- lest you think that studying the Word of God in a balanced manner will rob you of your 'joy' (another widely used, but poorly understood word), let me refer you to Paul's doxology in Romans 11:33-36, where, after going through and exegeting Scripture and examining God's plan, Paul is driven to say:

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord,or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Paul loved the Lord with all of his HEART, MIND!!!, and STRENGTH.

I would recommend that you not only purchase and read Dr. Fee's book, but you also place yourself under the teaching of a solid, Biblical, teacher, and LEARN from him!


Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

You make some good points here.

God Bless


Ray said...

Thanks Matthew...

Don said...

I would also suggest a small booklet, "Never Read a Bible Verse", by Gregory Koukl. It is a primer to recognizing context in Scripture. Thanks for the good word.

Ray said...

baba mkhulu -- NICE to hear from you again! Hope this finds you well...


Libbie said...

Loving the Lord with all our mind is so interesting because I hear certain things extolled by some in the Christian community because they 'bypass the mind', which is considered 'soulish thinking' what ever that means. I've lost count of the times I've heard tongues explained as a method of communication that bypasses the mind, speaking straight to the spirit.
Whatever the ins and outs of the cessation/continuance debate, that argument is bankrupt as far as I can see scripturally.
This was such a good post. There is way too much anti-intellectualism/instant expertism going round.

Ray said...

Thanks Libbie!

A new gravatar? Or am I just slow in noticing things?

Yes, I agree -- there is more and more emphasis on 'feeling' and 'emotion' and less and less on true Biblical study and meditation, from ALL sides of the debate!

It is not that emotion is wrong, but to the exclusion of everything else it leads to some scary things.

Ray said...

baba -- I could not find Koukl's book that ytou referenced, but I did find this one, which looks pretty good...

Where would I find the one you referenced?

Steve Sensenig said...

Libbie, I think that the idea of tongues "bypassing the mind" comes from 1 Corinthians 14:13-15:

For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.

Not taking sides on the issue in this particular comment, but didn't know if by "bankrupt...scripturally" you meant that you couldn't find it mentioned in Scripture. Was it the concept you were saying was bankrupt, or the arguments about how it applies today?

If you were already aware of those verses, I apologize! ;)

steve :)

Charles North said...

Thanks for the thoughts Ray, you know I feel the same way. I face this all the time.

Ray said...

Steve - thanks for stopping by... I think Libbie's concerns are that there is far too much bypassing of the mind... :-)

Charles - I hear ya!

Fundamentally Reformed said...

Another good resource in this regard is A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible: Playing by the Rules by Robert H. Stein.

Steve Sensenig said...

Ray, agreed. So where do we draw the line? Paul simply says that he will do both: pray with his spirit and pray with his mind.

steve :)

Ray said...

Steve --

I don't have the definitive answer on that (if I did, then I would be up for the theology Nobel prize!). :-)

However, with that being said, I have plenty of friends who say that when they are praying in the spirit they have no idea what they are doing and/or saying, and they quote this same Scripture.

However, truth be told -- this Scripture is saying the OPPOSITE...

For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.

In other words, at a minimum, Paul is saying; do not check your head at the door!

Libbie said...

*sticks hand up* what Ray said :-)

That'd be my understanding of that verse, too.

Ray said...

LOLOL Thanks Libbie!