Willard on using the Bible safely
A blurb of wisdom from Willard’s Hearing God on how to approach Scripture usefully and safely (HT: Todd):
We will be spiritually safe in our use of the Bible if we follow a simple rule: Read it with a submissive attitude. Read with a readiness to surrender all you are—all your plans, opinions, possessions, positions. Study as intelligently as possible, with all available means, but never study merely to find the truth and especially not just to prove something wrong. Subordinate your desire to find the truth to your desire to do it, to act it out!
I may spend a long time with that last sentence: “Subordinate your desire to find the truth to your desire to do it, to act it out.” This priority (and the plan to implement it) was one of the first and most striking differences between every bible study or small group (or worship service) I’ve been a part of and working the steps with John. In my previous bible studies or small groups (several of which I was leading) the weakest point was the follow-up and follow through on the ‘doing’ of what we learned. By definition, perhaps, the focus of a bible study is information intake. Sunday service was often the same in evangelical circles. We were always on to the next topic next week, regardless of how well or how poorly any or all of us had really implemented and made a habit of what we learned last week. The process of follow up or follow through was spotty to non-existent. It was left largely to the individual. 52 isn’t that many ‘truths’ to learn in a year. It seems like an inhuman amount of new habits to form without intelligent and community-supported follow up and follow through.
By contrast, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed how John and I, though we began working the steps at the same time, are not currently on the same step, because our goal has not been to get through the steps either quickly or in lock step, but to let each step do its work thoroughly and completely in each of us, each of us working individually with support from God and each other to make each step fruitful in our actual lives, which is a similar but unique experience and work for each of us. Also, because of the size of our group (2), we don’t have to limit our conversation to a certain topic (e.g., “Tonight we’re discussing step 9.”). We have the time to be person focused, purpose focused, process focused, rather than topic focused. I’ve heard for years in Church circles “I’m educated way beyond the level of my obedience.” I think Church as we’ve known it is pretty much designed for that outcome, hence it’s prevalence. Should we do anything about that, or just accept it?
Many Christians assume that communal attempts to focus on implementation of truth become inevitably legalistic and judgmental. I wonder. AA seems to let the communication and discovery of truth be subordinate to (be a servant of) the implementation of truth, and they seem to be (in)famous for being full of people more welcoming and full of grace than most churches–and more honest at the same time.