August 19, 2009
Bad Bible Reading Habits
Reading and studying the Bible is as central as it gets for evangelical spiritual practice. Despite this, evangelicals are often incredibly inept at it. They rip verses out of context, impose twenty-first-century ideas and sensibilities on ancient texts, read poetry and imagery literally, or simply skim read—all of which distort and twist the sacred text they claim to revere.
Ajith Fernando notes another bad Bible reading habit—the tendency to look for the inspiring verse or two. At one seminar he taught it was a week-long battle to get participants to pay attention to what the text actually said instead of what they wanted it to say.
Fernando points to the dearth of inductive Bible study in the church as a main cause of this malady. For decades, IVP has been publishing a wealth of inductive study resources. Most recently, we released the first eight of the N. T. Wright For Everyone Bible Study Guides, a series that will soon cover the whole New Testament. These guides are a great way to get beyond the superficial to the substance, beyond the milk to the meat of Scripture.
And if you want to be alerted to the variety of ways we mishandle the Bible, check out Abusing Scripture by Manfred Brauch. It’s a great resource.
Of course, inductive Bible study takes work. It takes time. But isn’t that worth it to get the Bible right?