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Entries in Inductive Bible Study (1)


The baggage we bring

I had three brothers, many male cousins, and I had a father who was good to me. I have a husband who is very good to me, respects me, and is not combative or abusive. When I sit in a sermon which talks about Ephesians 5, I don't feel a sense of anxiety or concern. However, there are women whose experience makes their reaction the opposite.

I was bullied by a pack of angry girls in the 8th grade. In my years as a young mother, I was involved with a very toxic friendship with a female friend. I have also had a few really unpleasant experiences with women I have met online. When I am told I "need" my female friends, I squirm. The prospect of a large gathering of women (especially a conference where I may have to spend a few days among them) puts me on guard. Now, if I'm going to stand up and teach women, I'm okay. But to sit among them, open up to them, and "share" sets my heart racing. 

When we come to Christ, we bring our personalities, experiences, and in some instances, baggage, with us. How I react to one thing is not the same as another woman might. I was scanning Twitter last night before bed, and I saw a string of people gushing over a book that I thought was marginal at best. We all react to things differently. 

As someone who has been teaching the Bible to others for over 20 years, it is my goal to become better at bringing out the implications of a text and helping the student to appropriate it into her life. Right now, I'm teaching teens, and that can be a challenge. It can be tempting, because they are teens, to reduce everything to a "do or don't" scenario. 

I've just finished Andreas Köstenberger and Alan Fuhr's book Inductive Bible Study. It is a great book. Though it's not directed with as much effort to women as other Bible study books, it should be read by women (Interestingly, the authors use the pronouns "he" and "she" interchangeably throughout the book). It may not be easy, nor does it have that chummy feel of typical "women's books," but it's filled with insights which will really make an impact. It's worth the effort to read.

In my quest for developing application skills, I love what the authors say. In their next to last chapter, they discuss three phases of application: personal assessment, reflective meditation, and appropriation. Application is intensely personal, and because of that, I'm trying to be more cautious about using my personal experience as a jumpstart to application. As I said, what we bring to our faith -- and, by implication to our reading of Scripture -- is filtered through our experience.

Köstenerger and Fuhr have some very wise words that really made an impact on my thinking:

As the reader submits to the text, she also submits to God. Much of application can be described as an obligation to holiness -- behavior and activities that honor God in the daily routine of life. Yet the term "appropriation" implies a greater work, the act of transformation and the development of Christian character. In this we ought to think of application in broader terms than simply doing what the Bible tells us to do. The study of Scripture results in a holistic transformation of our minds into conformity with Christ. (emphasis mine)

There are some times when simply doing what Scripture says is unavoidable. Flee sin. There is nothing wrong with that application. But as the authors remind, the goal of appropriating Scripture to ourselves is our transformation. We are already one with Christ, but we are in the process of becoming more transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom 12:2). Scripture study, as we appropriate the word and are taught by the Holy Spirit, is part of that process. It certainly includes actions to do and actions to avoid, but it is all anchored in how the word transforms us. While some personal experiences will be meaningful to some, others will fall flat. I'm beginning to see more and more that as a teacher, my goal is to emphasize this need to be transformed.

The results won't be immediate. Sometimes, we grow slowly. That is another truth I have picked up from this book: Scripture study is a long process. It's work. And it takes a lifetime. If we understand that going into it, I think we will benefit a great deal.