Independence and Bible Study

Independence and Bible Study

In working on YouTube recently, and particularly on this response to a KJV Only presentation, I’ve noticed that many people think that there is great virtue in independence when it comes to Bible study. Statements like “I didn’t depend on any scholars in coming to this view” or “I didn’t read any commentaries, just the Bible” or “I get everything direct from God” are quite common.

Even the seemingly pious “show me from God’s Word!” can be a declaration of independence. It calls for someone to convince you to your satisfaction, that you’re wrong. Now I’m not saying that this is completely incorrect. You do, after all, have to make the decision in the final analysis. My question is whether, in doing that, you or I have followed the proper procedure and exercised the proper humility.

You see, we are all dependent on someone when we turn to the Bible. Those who don’t know the source languages are dependent on translators. But even those who do know the languages are still dependent on lexicographers and grammarians for some of their knowledge. In addition, we are all dependent on various historians, archaeologists, commentators, paleographers, and so forth in getting necessary information about the text.

This deals with the proper procedure. When I complete the study of the passage I should be able to answer “yes” comfortably to this question: Have you consulted good authorities on those things you do not know well yourself? It’s important to be honest about this, because we tend to like to “lean on our own understanding” after a certain amount of study. That’s dangerous! I don’t know how many times I have discovered errors in detail on something I should know when I check it against a good, authoritative source. Another pair of eyes will find even more errors.

Then there is humility. By humility I do not mean that one gives up one’s own judgment and discernment. Rather, I mean that one is willing to learn from anyone, that one takes an open attitude, and that one seeks correction. You may have to reject some of it. Proper humility in this case is not cutting yourself off from correction, listening honestly, and giving full consideration to the possibility that you may be wrong. After you have done that, you make your decision.

In practice none of us are independent. We should acknowledge that. But we should realize that such independence would not be a good thing, even if we could attain it.

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