I’ve often said that many in the church fear post-modernism without realizing that modernity was no friend to Christianity. Like a fish in water, many of us have swum in the river of modernity so long that it just seems right. Because of that, we often approach the Bible in a scientific way instead of a spiritual way. When interpreting the Bible, we prefer syllogisms and logical constructions to prayer and meditation.
To quote Jesus out of context: “You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” In Bible study, logic has its place, but so does spirituality.
In his Christian System, Alexander Campbell wrote:
RULE 7. For the salutary and sanctifying intelligence of the Oracles of God, the following rule is indispensable: We must come within the understanding distance.
There is a distance which is properly called the speaking distance, or the hearing distance; beyond which the voice reaches not, and the ears hear not. To hear another, we must come within that circle which the voice audibly fills.
Now we may with propriety say, that as it respects God, there is an understanding distance. All beyond that distance can not understand God; all within it can easily understand him in all matters of piety and morality. God himself is the center of that circle, and humility is its circumference.
In other words, you aren’t going to be able to understand God’s teachings until you draw near enough to God to really hear him. In the same document, Campbell wrote that “the philological principles and rules of interpretation enable many men to be skilful in biblical criticism, and in the interpretation of words and sentences, who neither perceive nor admire the things represented by those words.”
Rules of interpretation can only take us so far. New Bible readers need to understand the importance of prayer, the priority of drawing near to God, and our dire need of the Spirit’s guidance to truly comprehend what God is saying to us. This isn’t achieved through step-by-step processes of word study and exegesis.
We need God’s help to understand God’s Word. We must draw near to God to comprehend his voice. New Bible readers need to hear this.