One recommendation I make for Bible study is simple: Look for what speaks to, and yes convicts, you first. It’s very easy to read the Bible and find all the things that other people ought—or ought not—to do. This results in our practice of having lists of “clean” sins and “dirty” sins.
Clean sins are the ones I’m personally tempted to. It’s just natural to fall for those temptations and I don’t really have to worry too much about them. For example, I’m overweight. I’m working on it, but I’m not a good example in that area. That’s my “clean” sin. Of course smoking, to which others are tempted but I’m not, is a “dirty” sin. It’s easy for me to condemn someone else for abusing their body by smoking when I have plenty of things to work on myself.
Of course, what I mean here by “clean” and “dirty” is the way we treat those sins, as though my sins are OK, but those of other people are horrible, not the actual nature of the sins, none of which are “clean.”
Today I read an excellent example of the right way to approach the application of a text of scripture Todd Wood is a creationist who teaches at Bryan College in Dayton, TN. I read his blog to get the perspective of an intelligent young age creationist who is also somewhat unusual in the exceptionally fair way he treats opponents.
He was looking at II Timothy 3:16-17, and decided to look at the broader context. He noted the phrase “having itching ears” and “They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”
Now I’ve heard this verse any number of times, and generally teachers are prepared to point out the myths that other people believe, and explain how they believe that because of their itching ears. I’ve been the target of this, and I must confess I’ve done it myself.
Not a good plan! Not the right way to apply scripture!
I should look at myself first.
That’s what Todd did:
Now your average creationist reads that as a condemnation of evolution, right? That’s the myth what “itching ears want to hear,” or so we’ve been told.
But I’m not your average creationist, so I wondered what myth I’ve turned to instead of “sound doctrine.” I think the danger is ever present, or Paul wouldn’t have warned Timothy so sternly to avoid it. That means the warning is for everyone, especially for those who think they’ve got it all together doctrinally (like us creationists).
Now if you think my point is that finally a creationist looked at the possibility he might be getting his doctrinal positions out of order, you’re missing my point. Todd is providing us with an excellent example of how we should approach a scripture. I’m a theistic evolutionist. It’s easy for me to see the faults and failings of young age creationists.
In other words, the question to ask is what sort of myths am I going after? What do my itching ears want to hear? When you read this, ask what your itching ears want to hear.
I’m not arguing that we should be unwilling to consider that our doctrinal positions or our scriptural interpretations are right. In fact, after we’ve done our best to study out a position, we need to stand up for what we believe to be the truth. But we also need to constantly look at ourselves.
In addition to asking whether we’re believing myths, I think we need to ask whether we have placed some doctrinal position of our own in a place it doesn’t deserve, i.e. whether we have made an idol of some particular position. Have I made my position on origins, baptism, ecclesiology, education, or anything else more important than the good news of Jesus?
Amongst the things for which scripture is valuable presented in II Timothy 3:17, are reproof and correction. Let’s receive it for ourselves!