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