“I Seem to Be Struggling with Bible Study”

Just today I received a public comment about the Scripture, Canon, & Inspiration book that deserves more than a “comment” status.  It is from Lynette—someone I’ve never met.  I have come to know her, though, through this Bible study program.  She has an eagerness that is contagious, and an openness and transparency that is commendable. I’m sharing this because I think some others might identify with her.

Here’s what she wrote (the bold sections were made bold by me):

Let me just say for someone that was raised in the church, I still feel very “new” to all of this. I love the church that I’ve found, my children love it and the pastor and his family are amazing! I however still seem to be struggling with bible study and I have absolutely no idea why. I did read the book, and I got really confused, and scared-no idea why. I gave it to my pastor, he is almost done with it and we will be getting together to discuss and I’m very much looking forward to it. I honestly wouldn’t even stress about those that are being so negative, they are that way only because they don’t know and they are lacking in faith, I don’t know, I don’t understand; however, I have faith and something tells me that what you are saying makes sense! So keep going! I will figure it out I promise, some days I’m just slow out of the gates! As I read the book, at times I did seem to feel like I was understanding, and then the next day I was lost (could be the fibro fog thing honestly) I enjoyed every minute of it, the amount of passion you put into your work does not go unnoticed! I look forward to learning more! I know that I don’t know that Bible as well as I would like, and I crave the knowledge it has to offer and look forward to learning and sharing everything that I can.

I want to thank L. for being so up-front and honest!  Struggling is not a sin;   it is rather a sign of a spirit that wants to know and grow.  It does not mean she will end up agreeing with me.  It means she is thinking.  

L’s admission of being confused and scared will be enough for some to say,”See, look what you are doing to people of faith!”  (I’ve already heard it.)  My reply is simple: Educating people of faith is not something I’m ashamed of.  I would think that being people of faith means that we are also people concerned about truth. And being concerned about truth, we are not afraid to be challenged, or to think seriously about the book we call the most important book in the history of the world.

I am right now having another conversation with a friend about this book:  he is attempting to help me see weaknesses in my argument.   I am grateful for his energy.  I will not quote him directly, but he says (in effect) that the inerrancy of the original autographs is obviously a construct that we have come up with, not specifically stated in the Bible;  but that it is a reasonable construct (he affirms).

When I heard this, I was genuinely nonplussed.  I said in response:

This is almost funny.  Here I am trying to say, ‘Let’s be biblical in our views of the Bible,’  and you are saying that the Bible is not sufficient for that!  Who has the higher view of the Bible?

We are not content with what the Bible does and does not specifically claim.  It is not enough for us.  We have to “fill in the blanks.” We have to sugar-coat it and theologize about it and make up things about it that it does not claim for itself.  Then we teach it to all of our people.  We even require it!  And then we get mad when somebody blows the whistle on us for doing it.

Let us put it this way:  If faith is based on fantasy, or has to be propped up by it, then how is this not another Santa Claus story?

Challenging current theories about the Bible is not the same as attacking the Bible.  Asking people to think about what they believe is not an act of faithlessness.  It is rather not only an act of faith, but an obligation of faith.

I want to thank Lynette for being brave enough to state the truth.  And it is to her, and and any who may feel like her, that I close this piece with what I consider to be a statement of resounding faith and love for the ancient scriptures.  It actually is found in the CWP statement of faith:  it was written before the book was written, and it remains unchanged to this day.  Here is but a piece of it:

This is a faith-based academic effort asserting that the canon of the ancient scriptures is an act of faith in search of a conversation with God. As such, it deserves our very best efforts as we engage both heart (the discipline of faith) and mind (the discipline of academic rigor) in pursuit of a conversation with God.  Not only should the canon be offered words of great respect (as it often is), but it should be pursued with responsibility and integrity (which it often is not). It is not enough that Christians claim a “high view of the scriptures” or “academic excellence,” they must act upon such things or the claims mean nothing. We approach the ancient scriptures energetically.  They are not, however, the object of our worship, but witnesses to the Lord who is. 

Gary D. Collier




6 thoughts on ““I Seem to Be Struggling with Bible Study”

  1. Dear Gary
    I love the letter and I also love the reply. I love the way she talks of a desire to go on and a fearful reluctance at times to do so. Thinking she has it at one moment and wondering about it all the next moment. Sounds like a lot of the true people of faith to me. Like Peter the bold and brash leader ready to follow our Lord to his death and the next moment being humiliated by a small girl. Later on standing up to be the rock he was called to be. People of faith should be those that push on in a pursuit of a conversation and also a relationship with our creator.

    There is a cute animated movie with the title of “UP’ that I watched recently that has a really interesting theme to it. The man in the movie meets a young woman that is full of life and an explorer at heart (both of which he is not). She has him join the explorers club and they set out to make a life together. Even after her death he pushes on with a young man to find the place she always wanted to see. The theme or moral of the whole thing is not to just sit on the sidelines letting life pass you by, but to experience it.

    I too enjoy your passion and courage to direct us in this journey. May God bless you in your efforts.

  2. Congratulations Lynette! I commend you on the progress you are making. The greatest hurdle you have overcome is your decision to enter into a study of your own and not mechanically accept what others have said or written. When you can move beyond an academic study and begin a relational conversation (to use Gary’s word) with God you will be filled with illumination and freedom that is often not found in “churches.” Imagine how those early believers shared their faith without having a dozen different translations of sixty-six books to flip through, memorize, dissect and argue over. They had faith in a Savior. I am thankful for the Bible and study it every day — but I am always aware that as Jesus was about to leave this earth he promised his disciples that he would send his spirit — not a book. Use the book, but find His Spirit. God has promised to respond to those who sincerely seek him. Watch out! His response is awesome.

  3. I know exactly how you feel Lynette. I’ve been studing the Bible for 50 years and I’m still amazed at how much I don’t understand. But I learn something new each time I study not only the Bible but also read and reflect on what others say and teach. As Gary says unless people are willing to have a conversation and talk and discuss the Bible instead of been told what to believe then people will only be like puppets on a string. Hang in there it will get better!

  4. Thank you! Doug you really hit home, I try so hard, and always second guess myself, “Am I doing this the right way?” “Am I reading the right version?” “Could I be doing it better?” And you are soooo right, He did send His Spirit, not a book! Yes I can use the book to help me follow his path and remember his word, but overall perhaps I’ve been looking in the wrong places and missing Him altogether! Thank you so very much and for not judging me for being such a “beginner”!

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