What is the hurdle to understanding Scripture?
It’s not a lack of knowledge of Greek or Hebrew. It’s not deficient comprehension of church history. It’s not unfamiliarity with the whole of Biblical texts. Nor is it a lack of resources in the form of commentaries.
No… none of those things are the the highest hurdle we have in understanding the Bible. It is something much simpler. Something that becomes more of a hindrance the longer we study and the older we are… that is unless we are VERY careful. What is the hurdle then?
It is what we already believe that we are convinced is the truth. ((Pause)) Stay with me, don’t dismiss this possibility just yet.
Most Christian’s theology is formed to a great degree before they ever begin seriously studying the Scripture for themselves. This happens as they grow up in church… hearing many Sunday School lessons and messages prior to becoming a self feeder from the Bible. Their theology is formed by hymns and songs… conference speakers… Youth Pastors… friends and parents.
This means we all bring a lot of potential baggage to the table when we begin our own examination of Scripture. We tend to rely upon what we already know… presented to us by people we love and trust… from contexts that are safe and reliable (Pastors, teacher, parents… in church and at home).
That makes it HARD to consider the possibility that what we believe may actually not be completely accurate. The chance that what we believe is in need of fine tuning, or possibly changing, is a scary thought for most of us (Myself included). This is not to say that what we believe is necessarily wrong, but rather every now and then we need to affirm that what we believe is true.
Consider one extreme example…
I have a family member from a generation gone by that believed black people were excluded from heaven because of the Curse of Ham. This person beleived this because their preacher taught it from the pulpit. The preacher sincerely believed it because of who knows why. I look at that belief today and say… “God bless them! They were sincere and saved, but on that matter they just out right missed it!” ((Pause)) But the fact remains that they were sincere! They had a Biblical basis (All be it incorrect). And ever time they read the text in Genesis 9:20-24, they fell back upon the belief they’d held for years… never considering that what they believed was wrong.
Now for the main point of this post.
The most difficult thing to deal with when we study Scripture is what we already believe about the text before we begin our study! Examples…
When a person encounters texts about baptism, they usually already have their beliefs formed by denominational identity and previous doctrinal teachings before they examine the texts themselves.
When a person encounters texts dealing with the assurance of salvation (Once saved, always saved), they usually already have their belief formed and impose it upon the text before they examine it.
When a person begins a study of the return of Christ, most of the time they already know what they believe about it before they begin to study it.
When a person encounters texts dealing with divorce and remarriage they bring to the Scripture what they believe, usually colored by their own personal experiences.
And the list is endless.
The answer? That would be tomorrow’s post (God willing).