Five Common Mindsets to Avoid in Bible Study

Bible study

God is worth his word being read, interpreted, and applied well. If you doubt that for a moment, then I recommend reading through Psalm 119 in its entirety. Even if you are convinced of God’s worth and the sufficiency of his word you have likely at times, like myself, approached scripture with a faulty perspective. There are numerous ways to veer off track from faithful engagement with scripture; however, there are five common mindsets that will certainly miss the mark.

1. The Prooftext Mindset

God’s word is much more than random verses used to prove we are correct about various issues. Being correct is the wrong pursuit. We should actually pursue being in submission to the teaching of Scripture. In fact, we will often find our theological theories and presuppositions incorrect in light of the full scope of scripture’s teaching.

2. The Man-Centered Mindset

The Bible is often used as a treatment of the symptoms of our lives. Such usage approaches the bible as an answer book to our problems, struggles, doubts, and failures. Undoubtedly God’s word addresses each of these things; however, they are not the theme. God Himself is the central character and to miss that is to miss the main point.

3. The Theological Bent Mindset

Theology is important and God’s word is the source of good theology. We must be mindful of making God’s word fit into our theological emphases. Instead, our theological emphases must be the product of engaging with Scripture faithfully.

4. The Overly Analytical Mindset

Interpreting Gods word well is essential and requires hard work. However, we can so scrutinize Scripture that we rob it of its authority because we have become the authority. For example, the historical background of a text can be so emphasized that we miss the clear and main point of the passage. Avoid being overly analytical, but do not neglect diligence.

5. The Morality Mindset

Does the Bible contain moral truth? Absolutely! Is the Bible merely a compendium of ethical boundaries? Absolutely not! Far too often, like the Jewish religious leaders (John 5:39–40), we search the scriptures and bypass the one to whom they bear witness. We would do well to believe both Moses and Christ.

Can you identify a mindset with which you have approached Scripture lately? Thankfully, as Christians we are in the process of “hermeneutical Sanctification” (Graeme Goldsworthy). In other words, we are continually growing in our ability to “rightly divide the word of truth.”

Is there another mindset that we are prone to fall into, which neglects to study the Bible for all God is worth? Share it.

Updated, January 2016

Photo by David Wright via Flickr

Chris Dunn
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Comments 4
  1. Why are we so concerned with the Jewish God? I had a Jewish woman ask me that once and it changed my direction of thought and beliefs. Looking into the history of religions and areas, every country or specific area had their own religion and god, most were not in any way connect with the Hebrews and their religion. When I look further I see many areas of Pagan beliefs woven in the modern day Christian beliefs, practices and lifestyle. With over 600 commandments found in the Bible, there are many we dare not adhere to.

  2. I haven’t told you yet, but I’ve followed all your posts on Bible-reading and find them well-written and astute. We should all be so self-conscious about how we approach scripture. I’m not sure numbers 1 and 5 are ever a good approach, but there are times we go to scripture for different reasons and to find different things. I just want to make sure I don’t get into a rut of ALWAYS reading for encouragement, or for self-help, or to craft a systematic theology, or to do a lexical-grammatical-historical study to sharpen my empathy for the biblical writer, etc. The idea of letting scripture “read me” makes more and more sense the older I get.

  3. Thanks for reading and interacting. The Western White mindset certainly is a thing and faithful followers of Christ must do the diligent work of rightly understanding God’s word in light of the cultural backdrop in which it was written.

  4. Nice piece. I especially see 1-3 quote often. I think I would add the Western White mindset, if that is a thing. It comes out, for instance, when we hear people call Paul misogynist, when he was, in fact, far from it. But we read with our culture in our heads, and we completely miss that for his culture, his words were revolutionary. That’s only one example.

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