A month or two ago, I wrote about the relationship between a recurring comment and evangelical postures toward the Bible.
I’ve been struck by something else I’ve occasionally heard. I wonder if it, too, reflects an inappropriate posture toward Scripture and how Christians ought to relate to other people.
While discussing biblical or theological concepts with evangelical folks, I occasionally hear a question put in this form: “Well, what would you say to someone who says that . . . ?”
For example, when teaching on election, I made a case from Scripture that God does indeed set his love upon distinct people from eternity past to pursue them and draw them into his love. In the midst of my explanation, a student asked, “well, what would you say to someone who thinks that God chooses someone based on his foreknowledge that they will choose to be Christian?”
What struck me as odd isn’t the question but its form: “What would you say to someone . . . ?”
When I first began teaching, I would just respond to the question, thinking little about how it was asked. But I began to suspect that students who framed questions this way were misconstruing their responsibility toward Scripture.
I wondered if students were imagining that their task with regard to Scripture was to convince others about its content.
I was struck that some students weren’t necessarily trying to understand notions in Scripture and integrate them with aspects of lives. Their first concern was to know what to say in conversations or debates with others.
This was confirmed to me in a private conversation with a very anxious student whose assumptions about what the Bible said were being unsettled. She visited my office quite regularly with loads of questions, but her spirit of inquiry wasn’t driven by the joy of discovery. She seemed more burdened than excited to learn. She remarked once that she was trying to be as equipped as possible to be ready to respond when people had questions about what she was saying.
That struck me as misguided and we had a conversation about the priority of being a faithful student before becoming a teacher.
After that I began to respond differently to questions put in this form. I would first say that I didn’t know exactly what they should say to someone who had a certain sort of question. It was their responsibility to grow in wisdom and to be sensitive to each situation. I also suggested that they should consider this response: “I don’t know. That’s a great question.”
While I couldn’t anticipate every interchange they would ever have, what could do was to give them some thoughts on better understanding the concept we were discussing. The posture toward Scripture I find inappropriate is the assumption that one is responsible learn Bible content in order to tell others what it says.
Christians ought to engage Scripture in order to first understand, and then to give extended consideration with the further aim of strategic, glad obedience.
More on this tomorrow.