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I am just a guy, staring at scripture, asking it to love me.

Just the Bible

My progress and growth started when I was 18 and just out of High School. I was raised in a Christian family and attended church my entire life. But, I was not a follower of Jesus. I would have identified as a Christian but did not know what it meant to be a loyal believer. In my last year of High School church camp, I had a life-changing interaction with the Holy Spirit while reading a passage from the Gospel of Luke. From that moment, I chose to believe and thus began my journey as a Christian and a student of scripture.

For the first several years, I had no idea there was a field of biblical scholarship. I did not know how the Bible had been written. And I had no historical, theological, or systematic framework that informed my bible studies. I just read scripture. The Gospels and NT writings were easier to follow than the Old Testament, but I tried my best.

Systematic, Historical, and Biblical

In my early twenties, I had some frustrations with scripture. I struggled to understand the Old Testament, and I was convinced that scripture was more like a “how-to” manual for life’s issues, as if scripture was the textbook for a wonderful cosmic life. It was the early 90s, and I splurged on three books: A biblical encyclopedia (I cannot remember the name), A Strong’s Concordance, and an interlinear translation that included the Hebrew and Greek with Strong’s numbers. I listened to tapes and CDs of Bible teachers that introduced me to the concept of Systematic and Historical approaches to the text. I thought I had the information to unlock the secrets to understanding Scripture. They were helpful, but there was something still lacking.

Organizing the Texts for the Church

I led two small group bible studies for new believers during my mid-twenties. I discovered commentaries at the local Christian bookstore, but I was often confused even then. I remember doing a small group study through Habakkuk with a commentary on “Where is God when life gets difficult.” While this is a message one could derive from Habakkuk, the author provided no historical or situational context for Habakkuk. I did not understand how genres worked in the text or how scripture has been hyperlinked with itself. I came away from leading that study with confirmation that scripture needed to be transformed into topical messages for the Church to understand.

A Doctrine Separated from the Church

I would languish in this state for more than a decade. I remained dissatisfied with what I had learned and suspected there was much more to the Bible. My career had progressed to afford a copy of Logos and a base library. It was the first time I was introduced to the work of scholars. I was suspicious of scholars. The only information I had learned about Biblical scholarship was from popular publications that highlighted the work of liberal scholars who seemed to be a danger to faith in Jesus. They routinely dismantled the scriptures I love. I suddenly realized the separation between the scholars and the laypeople in Sunday morning services.

I would go another decade before being introduced to a scholar who wrote for the laypeople (Dr. Heiser). It was the first time I had heard of an evangelical scholar. I had listened to other teachers with doctorates from seminaries, but they were radio and TV evangelists and apologists. I was unaware of how creeds deeply affected scholarship and teaching scripture. In my experience, systematizing the text against a creed conflicted with the text I was reading. I realized that I had been guided by providence to go deeper into my studies, learning the original languages and the history of the religions and peoples that were formative to the Bible.

Theology versus Religion

My journey from bible reading to bible study incorporating systematic and historical theologies is no different from many others. For nearly 1,500 years after Christ walked the earth, the texts of scripture and scholarship remained unavailable to the masses. The advent of the printing press was pivotal in providing wider access to texts. During the next four hundred years, literacy in reading and writing expanded across the West. One need not be wealthy to hire a scribe to write. An inkwell, quill, and paper were all that were required. Information became more available as we moved into the 19th and 20th centuries, and ancient texts’ discoveries challenged long-held beliefs. The Church went through a transformation, but there was distrust among the scholars.

Today, as is much of the Church, I am exiting a long journey from religion to biblical theology. The advent of broadcast email, the ease of hosting and maintaining a website, blogs, podcasts, vlogs, and videos transform access to good and bad information. People can freely learn online what would take years and tens of thousands of dollars to learn just a few years ago. Like myself, it is causing many to return to the cosmic story of scripture but be better informed on its background and purpose.

Conforming to the Image of Jesus

I would likely pursue my real passion if I could return to my youth – scripture and how it relates to following Jesus well. I cannot go back, but I can go forward. I am trying to be a loyal believer in Jesus and be faithful to the commands and instructions left by biblical authors who were diligent and faithful to leave the wonders of scripture in our hands. The bible has become a wonder of beauty, information, thought, action, and adversary. God’s story of redemption is like a bright woven tapestry of information without end. When I stare into it, it causes me to think deeply about how I live with God, myself, and others. It is my greatest friend and adversary. The Bible is never shy when calling attention to my poor thinking, lack of wisdom, and bad behavior. It is the best kind of adversary – one that is conforming me to the image of Jesus because of God’s love for me.

I cannot imagine a better text existing on Earth.

That is why I study, teach, and try to follow scripture.

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