Book and Bible…Open: A Practical Suggestion
The picture above may not make much sense when you first look at it. It’s not about how you should set up your desk, or about the nifty book stand (get one; they’re worth it!) that is propping up a massive tome. It’s about the items that are in the picture: my computer, pencil, theological book and my Bible. Nothing really special. Just what, I believe, should be open on every desk or table when ever a Bible-believing Christian wants to study any theological work. But one of these is typically stays on the shelf. Let me explain.
The one item that I have found regularly missing from the desk of someone studying theology is their Bible. I firmly believe that a believer that desires to understand biblical doctrine should use their Bible when conducting theological studies. Now, it doesn’t have to be your physical Bible. It could be on your computer, tablet, and even your phone. My point is that ready-access to the biblical text from which we are to derive true theology should be easily available to the student. And here’s why:
- It helps you ground your study of theology in Scripture. When you open up any worthwhile systematic theology or similar theological work you’ll notice that the writer has cited many biblical passages to support the doctrine, concept, or idea that they are trying to express. Ladies and gentlemen, those are there to be looked up. I do not believe that we should simply pass over those citations. It is a solid way to do theology because it grounds our understanding of what the author is attempting to communicate in the Word of God itself. I cannot begin to tell you the number of times that I have read some theology without my Bible open, and then went back to read the same text while I looked up the passages and found that everything was much clearer.
- It helps you develop discernment (1 John 4:1). Not everything we read will resonate with the Scriptures. We need to be discerning readers and test what is that we read against what the Bible teaches. As John points out, there are many false teachers that will attempt to deceive the people of God and draw them away from the truth. By taking the extra time to look up the passages that are used by the author, you are developing discernment and learning to be critical thinkers.
- It helps you steer away from lazy study. Let’s face it: its extra work to look up passages, especially if there are a dozen or so that address the argument the author is trying to make. I’m not saying that you have to look up every single one. But, as I have said in another post, there is no rush. Most of you are not going to seminary or have deadlines. Might as well take your time, and develop the Berean discipline of examining the Scripture to see if what the theologian is saying is true (Acts 17:11)
- It helps you remember what you have read. By pausing and looking up passages, you are forcing your mind to engage the topic at hand. It serves to focus your thinking by dwelling on the topic for longer than you would have if you had just continued reading on. This helps you remember what you have read because your taking an active role in your study. This is fuel for later meditation. Along with this, take notes on a computer or in a journal. Write down what you believe the author is saying. It doesn’t have to be long; just a note here and a note there. But again, by doing so you are pushing yourself to engage with the author’s argument and chances are that you’ll remember so much more. It’s worth the effort.
Hope this was helpful. If you have any other suggestions, leave them in the comments below.