Lately, I’ve been having a very involved discussion with a couple of friends of mine on Facebook concerning the theological viewpoint of a certain Bible teacher, scholar and pastor. For the sake of anonymity, I’ll not use any names, but we’ll call him Fred. One place this discussion has taken my thinking is, “Is it dangerous to focus in on an individual’s teaching, or multiple individual’s teaching, or Bible commentary, etc. to help you in your understanding of Scripture?” Can you become unbalanced in your views? Is it “un-Biblical?” Do you run the risk of not developing your own faith? Does it displace the Holy Spirit’s guidance in helping you understand Scripture?
All of these are what I feel like are very valid questions. The struggle for me is this, I want to know as much as I can about the Bible and I need ALL the help I can get to understand it and help with the “process!” Sure, I can understand some passages, no problem, but then there are the ones that totally boggle this poor, finite mind. There are many times I lean on Fred for insight into Scripture or help understanding a passage.
There is the realization that focusing on one individual too much can make you unbalanced and when it’s a guy like Fred, you can become a little too scholarly in your views and thoughts. You are correct in saying growing as a believer, is a “faith pursuit,” but I need everything I can lay my hands on to help me understand Scripture and bolster my faith. I guess I think of it as using the “tools of the trade” to pick up a commentary, or read a blog, or listen to a sermon, etc.
I do not feel that going outside the Bible (e.g. Commentaries, other teachers and study helps) is wrong at all. The Bible is a paradox in some ways, on one side it is simple and you do take it with a child-life faith. On the other side, it is very complex, just like the God we serve, and I want to know it at a much deeper level than just “trust and obey.” It’s important to take the Bible by faith and child-like understanding, but so is using our God-given intellect and mind. The Bible itself talks of the mysteries of God, and the limited understanding we’ll have on certain subjects while here in these mortal bodies on earth. So why not make use of those, like Fred, who are more “enlightened” than us, or who have more education or scholarly study.
There are way too many churches, and by association Christians, that never challenge faith or thinking when it comes to weighty theological subjects. Therefore, a lot of believers never have the opportunity to grow in their understanding. I’m pretty sure the Bible wants us to do grow in every aspect. Sure, we ask for the Holy Spirit’s help, but just like the early church leaders looked to the Law and the Prophets for instruction, we too should take advantage of all that is available to us. The “Freds” of the world are given to us for that very reason.
The Bible holds teachers like Fred in pretty high regard, they are given to us to help us understand, it is a calling and we are in a position to receive from them as well as the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our Biblical pursuits.
Do I follow Christ? Absolutely! Do I let God’s Word speak to me directly? Certainly! Do I also use the writings of men who know a whole lot more than me to aid my study? Definitely!
Do we need to stay balanced in our faith and our attempt to learn from those who teach us outside of the Scripture? Yes. But I would rather be informed and lean on those who can aid me than be ignorant while attempting this on my own.