I wanted to share a little of my disgust with topical bible studies. I have participated in these in the past, and I have learned a lot. But I don’t know if I learned what the Bible actually taught, or if I just learned what I wanted to learn about the subject. Typically in a topical bible study, one will search out all the passages in the bible pertaining to the certain topic. But when one does this, a couple of problems arise. First, it is very easy to proof-text . . . using scriptures taken completely out of context to support our argument or perspective. The second problem is that we are the ones asking the questions. At first glance, this may seem a noble endeavor. But I would like to say that it is quite the opposite. The biblical writer wrote with a certain purpose . . . they were not only posing questions but also answering them. Most of the times, our questions are not the same questions the biblical writers were asking. Instead of approaching the bible with a question to be answered (Ronald Reagan once said that all answers to life’s questions could be found in the bible), we must seek to follow the questions posed by biblical writers and then listen to the answers they propose. Instead of viewing it as a jigsaw puzzle, maybe a better metaphor would be a painted picture with amazing details and vivid colors. Essentially, it would move from being something to be solved to something that we let move us. Ryan Bolger and Eddie Gibbs say this about it:
We are not at liberty to treat [the Bible] as a paint-by-numbers canvas or to paint over what has been given either because we do not like it or because we insist on details being included out of our own imaginings or under the claim of new revelations.