Not long ago, the church began a new Bible Study program where every 1.5 months, the courses switch to a new subject lead by a new facilitator. We started off with Simplify by Bill Hybels, we skipped the next set of options, and went through If You Want To Walk on Water You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat by John Ortberg. Yet again, we’re skipping the current offering. The first one we skipped was largely because of A Confident Heart by Renee Swope and the second was because of The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst. Hopefully the next time around there will be some better options to choose from.
I often find it difficult to really interact on these Bible Studies. For one, the facilitators are regular people who volunteered to read the material, run the DVD, and lead the discussion. I’m not entirely sure they would welcome annoying questions like: “When was this book of the Bible written?” “What might have the intended audience believed was the message that the author was trying to convey to them?” “Should this passage be viewed as a description of the past or a prescription for the future?” I’m afraid that they would feel offended, after all, they’re going through a lot of effort that they didn’t have to and might feel that it’s not appreciated.
That’s one reason why I resist the opportunity to be a facilitator. I don’t want to read the prepared material, run the DVD, lead the discussion, ask preselected questions, or give out stock answers for expected questions. I want to go deeper by actually studying what different versions of the Bible says, by finding out the historical context, the cultural context, the socioeconomic context, by figuring out what the Greek says, by understanding a verse in the light of it’s paragraph, section, chapter, book, and testament, and by investigating it in it’s totality.
I’ve had enough of those Bible studies where each week we get to memorize one verse and spend more time talking about anecdotes and metaphors than we do with an open Bible. I’m tired of emotion-centric or logic-driven gender specific Bible studies. I want more than random books written by random Christians that spiritualize random things. The thing is, not everyone else might want to join me on this deeper journey in to the Bible. After all, some people who have gone there have only found their way out of Christianity.
It’s also somewhat intimidating to try to be open to being debated and questioned in a public setting particularly with material you are learning as you are teaching it. I know that I’d try my best not to feel offended if somebody vehemently disagreed with when a particular book was written or by whom, but it’s still pretty scary. I think that the first thing’s first, before I can teach – I must learn. Which means I actually have to read books and have some idea of which books to start reading to have a better foundation for understanding Christianity. The thing is, I’m not really a reader. My track record of reading books for the past decade is about a dozen books (most likely much less than that.) So any books that make the list can’t be scholarly or it’ll go over my head.
Do you know of any books that explain the facts of the Bible? (When the books were written, author’s intended audience, etc.)
Do you know of any books that explain the context of the Bible? (Historical, Cultural, Regional, Social, etc.)
Which books do you think that every Christian should read to get a better understanding of the Bible in terms of what it meant back then and what it means right now?