I use and own many Apple products (iPhone, iPod, MacBook etc..). If you were to ask me “what brand of computer is best?”, you would assume that I would answer “Apple”. My answer may not be based upon unbiased research, but instead personal preference and preconceived ideas about Apple superiority. In regards to computers it is acceptable to have preconceived ideas, but is it acceptable to have preconceived ideas when approaching the Holy Scriptures? Is it possible to remove all preconceived ideas (“baggage”)? Are all preconceived ideas detrimental to good Bible study?
An ancient writer is quoted as saying, “It is impossible to teach someone something he thinks he already knows.” If we are convinced that we already know what the correct teachings of Scripture are, then we can read Scripture over and over and yet never see anything different from what we already believe. To be open to receive truth, we must start with a blank slate (Bercot).
Our backgrounds, whether cultural, experiential or religious all shape our approach to Scripture. Most everyone would declare that they are being honest with Scripture, but yet with so many differences in doctrine, some would have to be incorrect. Let’s not fool ourselves, let’s be honest and admit that oftentimes we allow preconceived ideas to shape our understanding of the Bible. Often we go to the Bible looking for support for a practice or an idea we already believe is correct as opposed to just allowing the Bible to speak to the reader. Of course, we would most likely vehemently deny such an accusation.
How can we approach the Bible with more openness and honesty? Let’s not go to the Bible for support of ideas we already believe, instead we should approach the Bible as if it were the first time we ever opened it’s pages, as if we were unchurched, unreligious and had never read a verse before. Ask yourself when reading “If I were living on a deserted island and had never read the Bible before, what would I probably think this verse is saying?” If we had never been to a church service before, how would we organize worship? If we had never heard an invitation, what would we say is the path to salvation? These types of questions need to be asked constantly as we study.
It is my prayer as I approach Scripture that I am honest enough to allow the Bible to speak to me and that I do not bring unwanted baggage to the text. I hope we never allow “tradition”, “long standing beliefs” or any preconceived ideas to shape our understanding of the Bible. Let’s be people of the book that allow the Bible to speak without us interrupting.