I finished the second book required in the Principles of Biblical Teaching course, titled Effective Biblical Teaching, which is part of the Theology Program at Credo House. This course is also part of my Unschooled Master of Theology program.
So, let’s see why this book really isn’t all that different from the others I’ve read so far…
Lack of Training and Equipping in the Modern Church
One thing the author of this book got correct: the modern organized church in America has failed to equip laypeople to study or teach the Bible. Pastors would more often rather have the division between clergy and laypeople remain entrenched, and most of the every day congregates have little to no interest in teaching or putting in more than the minimal effort of showing up on Sunday and passively watching the show. In fact, the situation is more dire than this. As the author points out, most pastors have not only abandoned the concept of laity empowerment and equipping for service, but they have jetisoned the expositional approach altogether as their basic mode of preaching.
This is often illustrated on Sundays by flashy overheads and lots of repetative singing, accompanied by topical sermons that tell a nice story, relating some kind of social gospel message, all in an attempt to passify the crowds and elicit a sub-textual donation call to action.
Another problem that has arisen in the last 20-30 years is the dependence on extra-biblical resources rather than on the Bible itself. Too often, as the author points out, Christians lean on their in-depth Study Bibles as their go-to explanation for a given passage rather than the first use of proper exegesis. This problem grows more dire as academia grows increasingly liberal and actively seeks to defraud the text in exchange for a social race based gospel that perpetually renders certain groups in perpetual acts of contrition while elevating others to positions of impunity.
As was quoted in the text from Lois LeBar, “most church adult education amounts to little more than poor lay preaching.” Her statement was made fifty years ago, and it is even more relevant today. Rather than focusing on the text, the modern American Church seems to focus on cult leaders. Our favorite Bible teachers. A prominent Evangelist or Apologist. This of course leads to entertainment rather than edification, measuring success by spectator interest rather than long-term bodily growth. The tendency today is to gauge success by attendance numbers. As the author states, “if classes are full and students are enthusiastic, what can possibly be wrong?” This kind of seduction is harmful to the reality of Christian students, not only stunting their growth and ability to learn for themselves, but it transforms the Church from a center of learning to a reality tv show.
A Feminization of the Bible Study
Surprisingly, the book discussed a topic that is quite controversial today and often ignored in hopes that the Church might remain PC in a post-Christian world. The topic is the feminization of Bible Study in particular and the American Church in general.
There came a time in the history of the American Church when a need arose for qualified men to serve in plural elderships. These vacancies saw the development of the episcopal form of leadership where Churches had a single Pastor to serve as the main Shepherd of the Church. In the early days of the United States, many communities could not support even one full time minister and often Pastors worked circuits, moving each week from town to town, preaching to multiple congregations.
Later, in the modern era, especially in the last 30 years, the American Church has not only continued this single leader form of polity, but as men began to attend Church services less and less, women became dominate as teachers of children and Sunday Schools. It has become common place and even expected for wives to know more about the Bible than their husbands do. As this shift continued, these training programs moved away from exegetical study and replaced them with topical, experience oriented approaches. Emotional support rose in priority over biblical exegesis, and this has even seeped into the Seminary with Christian counseling, and the teaching of future pastors the need for feminine traits to reach their largely female base.
Effective Bible Study
The book takes some space to talk about what it means to actually be an effective Bible study teacher. It defines the minimum requirement for such a job as personal ownership of what one teaches. It is not enough to sit members in a room and ask what everyone thought of a particular passage that was just read. There is also a burden placed on Bible teachers because of the severe spiritual immaturity and biblical illiteracy present in many congregations, despite accurate biblical knowledge being more accessible than ever now with the advent of the internet.
Most often in Churches today, the Bible Study teacher will allegorize a passage in whatever way is most expedient to arrive at their predefined goal. This is the opposite of exegesis and instead of pulling out from the text the original meaning intended by the author, the teacher is injecting into the text their predefined agenda and examples what Peter said people were doing in his age, “untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures” (2 Pe 3:16).
Even though education is people-oriented, it must be remebered that all education is self-education. Whether in the traditional classroom, online, in the library, or wherever you can take your smartphone, to learn is the responsibility of the student. Likewise, as the author points out, just because someone is a great student and has a passion for learning about the Bible, it does not necessarily mean they will make good teachers. Yet, too often, as one pastor recounted to me, “everyone in the congregation thinks they’re called to teach.” This is clearly a violation of Ephesians 4:11 and illustrates how anemic the American Church really is. I can really appreciate what the author states about some, “Many people are content to master a field for their own interests, where as a teacher’s instinct consist not only wanting to learn the material but also not being satisfied until that knowledge has been shared.”
The author goes on to say that a true teacher has an overwhelming impluse to teach. To be honest, I really do not have that impulse. I certainly desire the research process. I also very much enjoy the write up process, posting on the blog or publishing an ebook on Amazon. But I can’t say I have a drive or a call or have experienced any kind of joy from the teaching experience.
Overall, the book was typically disappointing. It spent a lot of time talking about literary types yet utterly ignored the reality that the Bible is a supernatural message and is spiritually discerned. What came first, the literary type or the literature? Did Peter or Mark or Luke know they were writing a particular kind of literature when they put pen to parchment? Or were they just moved to write? I thought it was hilarious (and quite sad) when the author stated it was a romantic notion to think the Holy Spirit could be trusted to illuminate an individual reading the Bible through inspiration alone. Was it not inspiration alone that moved the biblical writers to write in the first place? I would argue many of them had no concept that their writing would be considered Scripture.
In the end, like most how to Bible Study books, the author pushed Inductive Bible Study as the preferred method. Though it certainly is better than topical studies or many of the haphazard methods used in charismatic circles today, IBS I find overly complicated and seems geared to sell workbooks rather than increasing biblical literacy – I’ve found it rather unnecessary to a simply reading of the text, following a lecture series, or conferring with a balanced commentary as needed. The author did get one thing right. The Bible is a subversive book with a radical message.
The author never bothered to close the book out with a summary or a conclusion, but simply finished his last section and stopped, which I found quite odd.
Overall, I could not in good conscience, recommend this book to anyone. I would rather someone use Chuck Missler’s materials over these kinds of books, simply because he takes a more biblical, mystical, approach to the study of God’s Word, identifying Scripture as a message from outside of the physical realm, one that is supernatural in origin and design and is unfathomable in its richness and depth.
Until my next book review….
Please consider supporting my writing, my unschooled studies, and my hermitic lifestyle by purchasing one or more of my books. I’m not supported by academia or have a lucrative corporate job – I’m just a mystical modern-day hermit trying to live out the life I believe God has called me to. So, any support you choose to provide is GREATLY appreciated.
Excerpt from Seeking Light Aurora:
Thomas opened the front door of the diner and leaned inside, holding himself up by the door frame.
“What’s the matter?” Terrance said, looking away from Peg and Carol. They were all huddled together at the counter.
“Her truck is still freaking out. I’ll try to keep her busy for as long as I can, but I’m running out of ideas.”
He looked over at Derrick who was quietly sitting at the back booth reading one of his books.
“You’ve got to keep her busy,” Terrance said. “We don’t have any other choice.”
“Look –” Thomas hesitated. “This isn’t all on me you know. I’ve already told you. I don’t know jack shit about trucks or engines. I’m sure as hell not a mechanic.”
“It’ll be fine,” Peg said.
“We all know there’s nothing I can do to fix that truck.” Thomas was shaking his head. “She’s going to figure out that something’s up. What if she starts asking questions?”
“Stall her,” Terrance said. “We just have to keep her busy for a little while. Remember, whatever it takes.”
“But, what about –” Carol had tears welling up.
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” Terrance said. “We’ve all been through this before.” He looked at Thomas. “Just take a deep breath and relax.”
“Relax my ass,” Thomas said. “Save that bullshit for her, okay?”
“Just keep her occupied in the garage as long as you possibly can. She’s focused right now on getting her truck fixed, so use that.”
“Whatever you say.” Thomas pushed off the door frame and let the door close behind him.
“It’s not going to work,” Carol said. “She’ll figure out something is wrong and that will be it.”
Terrance put his hand on Carol’s arm, gently trying to reassure her.
“It’ll work, Carol,” he said. “Have faith. It’ll work. Whatever it takes.”
Buy my book Seeking Light Aurora to find out what in the world is going on at this strange, out of the way diner in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness!
But, you better strap in, because this is definitely not child’s play. People are getting hurt right and left – it just might be you next!