A fair warning from the get go… this post is a rant disguised as thought. My topic for today originated from a conversation I had with a patron at the place where I work, with whom I was discussing religion, specifically, Christianity and the Bible. This person asked my opinion and beliefs on various topics, to which I responded with my honest answers. At this point, I heard a statement similar to the following: “You know Andrew, I’ve met a lot of people that have the head knowledge of the Bible, but not the heart knowledge. Something to think about…”
At this point, I ceased to engage in conversation with this individual. Why? Was it because I felt he called me out and my spirituality is not up to par. Absolutely not. I ended the discussion because at this point I realized, this individual had no interest in my point of view on anything Bible related, because my spiritual beliefs did not align with his own. This was not the first time I had either heard this statement in a general sense or had it directed at me personally. I normally try to be accommodating and understanding of the point of views of others. When you study religion, you honestly have to be. Nevertheless, for whatever reason, this is one of those statements that sets me off and, quite honestly, causes me to strip a person of any credibility.
First, when I hear this statement, I hear the individual say that, “I really do not know what you are talking about Andrew and instead of attempting a dialogue to discover your point of view, I want to retreat to my insecurity and remain blissfully unaware of any outside knowledge of the Bible. After all, in my world, academic knowledge of the Bible could not possibly benefit my spiritual life.”
To be clear, I am not singling out every Christian or even every Evangelical for that matter. It is still a worthwhile question: Why do some Christians experience an abhorrence to the study of the Bible? When “studying” Scripture comes up, most take this to mean that he or she should read their Bible carefully and contemplate passages. Why does it not involve consulting commentaries (especially those that disagree regarding the text), or reading about the ancient Near Eastern cultures and context of the passage (Babylonian, Persian, etc.). I get it, spiritual value derives from one’s belief that God speaks through the passages to us today, and thus “the text” should be the only thing that matters. I find this erroneous however. Historical context can provide illumination, as does debating the text with others.
I am not arguing that every Christian should become fluent in Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic or be able to list every king of the various Assyrian dynasties. However, I do recommend that a person of faith gain a curiosity for the text that acts as the moral compass for one’s life. It comes down to personal responsibility for one’s spirituality.
Another example: I was debating the value of learning the original Biblical languages with a fellow seminary student years ago. My argument essentially was that as future religious leaders, my classmates should learn the original languages of the Bible so as to make informed interpretative decisions as well as provide a deeper meaning for themselves and thus their congregations. My colleague retorted that she did not need to learn the languages because, not only were English translations good enough, but if she had a question about the language, she would consult a professor friend. Again, to me this utterly lacks in honesty, and spiritual responsibility.
Am I so embittered? No, not really. I hope this does not put off anyone with the want to discuss religion, with me or anyone for that matter. Moreover, while a decent knowledge of the historical context of the Bible is beneficial, I could go as far as to say it is not absolutely essential for a fulfilling spiritual life. Nevertheless, please, if you take nothing else away from this post, take this: A “head knowledge” of the Bible provides an amazing understanding of the text and cultures from which the Bible derives, and the thought that this does not equal a spiritually fulfilling existence is both erroneous and just plain naïve. The debating of and questioning of does not invalidate one’s faith, rather it strengthens it. God bestowed the ability to think on human beings and we should embrace it fully. It is possible for the heart AND the mind to exist together. Thank you for reading. Send me an e-mail or sound off below with your own take on this subject. Thanks for reading.