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Creating a Worldview: Part 2




by Seth Pierce



In the Bible class I teach I give my students permission to tear up their textbooks. Metaphorically—not literally. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the textbook, but I appreciate critical thinking more. I want my students to ask good questions about what they read, see, and hear—not just take it as truth because someone writes it in a book.

Or an article.

At the time of the writing of this article I have told my students that everything in the chapter they just read is mostly wrong. I realize how arrogant that might sound, but I could easily prove my point. I simply told them to read the biblical passage the chapter claimed to be based on (even the text reference they gave said to look at verses that don’t even exist in the Bible), and compare it with the chapter.

“Has anything been added or left out?” I asked.

The story revolved around a woman anointing Jesus’ feet. The textbook claimed that her name was Mary and she was a prostitute, living an immoral life, and that Simon (the Pharisee in whose house the event occurs) was the one who led her astray. The book claimed that the main issue was Simon being a hypocrite—preparing to accuse the woman of the same sin he led her into.
The problem is that when you read the story (found in Mark 14 and Luke 7), none of these facts are mentioned whatsoever. Simon’s name is mentioned, but Mary’s isn’t. Their past relationship isn’t discussed either. Where did the authors get these ideas? Why did they put them in there? It wasn’t the first time the textbook had done this—but it was the most generous example of adding “extrabiblical” details.

Anything that isn’t written in the Bible itself is called extrabiblical—such as having the director’s cut of your favorite movie, and “bonus content” is included. The problem is, as you may have guessed, that it’s not biblical—at least not in the truest sense. At this point a lot of people say they will just read the Bible. However spiritual this might sound, it isn’t biblical.

In the book of Acts there is a story about a eunuch desperately trying to understand God’s Word—but to him the writings just aren’t making sense. “Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ Philip asked. ‘How can I,’ he said, ‘unless someone explains it to me?’ So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him” (Acts 8:30, 31, NIV).1 Sometimes Scripture isn’t as plain as we would like it to be, and God uses His servants to help us understand better.

Paul, writing to a dysfunctional church, tells them, “God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues” (1 Corinthians 12:28, NIV). Even in the early church they had a need for good teachers—people who spent time studying and experiencing God—to help others gain understanding.

In the book of Daniel, the prophet and his friends were sent to Babylon University to study pagan writings. Surprisingly the text says, “To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds” (Daniel 1:17, NIV). God blessed his servants, giving them understanding of all kinds of extrabiblical writings—many of which would have contradicted their beliefs. God somehow used their knowledge of the culture they were exiled in to minister to it. We make a big deal about following Daniel’s diet (Daniel 1:12)—why are we scared to think God can’t bless/protect us as we study a variety of sources outside the Bible?

There is a saying that goes “All truth is God’s truth.”2 While God’s Word is the ultimate standard of truth, within the world we see its principles and ideas played out in numerous places.  The key is being able to see them and use them to enhance your understanding of how God is at work in the world.
Our need, like the eunuch that Philip helped, is to find good teachers to help us. But how can we find good books, outside the Bible, that help us understand the Bible better? Here are a few suggestions to guide you when searching out other materials to study.

First, you must ask if the author/speaker is an authority on the subject you are studying. If I tell you I am going to perform brain surgery on you, but my training is in library science, you may want to find another surgeon. Likewise, if you want someone to tell you about accurate Bible versions, you are better off going with a scholar trained in biblical languages than someone who studied baking.
Second, be wary of any author who doesn’t tell you where they find their information. We call this “citing sources.” The rule of thumb is the grander the claims, the more sources a person should have. Your grandma may tell an interesting story about a secret lair of trolls under the Catholic cathedral in your town, but without some kind of letter, picture, or video clip (and even these can be faked) it’s hard to believe dear old grandmamma.

And when they do quote sources, make sure those sources are by solid scholars and from real documents. If you can’t find it and read it yourself, be wary. On a positive note, when you have several authors/speakers all quoting the same source, it’s a good idea to go read it.

Finally, be aware that every author—even ones you trust—all have “biases.” This means that they will argue stronger for (or against) biblical truths depending on what they believe. A militant atheist won’t give any credibility to the Bible whatsoever, but they may occasionally ask a good question. Likewise, a fundamentalist Christian will defend the Bible, but sometimes they might oversimplify difficult issues.

Great leaders of the faith, such as Daniel, Paul, John, Martin Luther, and Ellen White, all read and listened to other spiritual voices outside the Bible. Those voices helped build their faith in the truths of God’s Word and in turn can help us. The Bible is always our standard of truth, but we should be willing to learn from those who have had their lives touched by that truth.

Next week we will look at a misunderstood (and more frequently misapplied) concept known as apologetics. Apologetics is an ancient art form that has been lost among many Christians, especially the youth. What it is, and how it relates to our worldview, will be helpful as you grow in your understanding of the faith.

1 Scripture quotations credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All right reserved worldwide.
2 Augustine of Hippo originally said this, but in a slightly longer way.

Seth Pierce is a pastor and author residing with his family in the Pacific Northwest. He enjoys Warrior Dashes, Spartan Races, reading, and collecting crazy stories, which he keeps in a secret file. You can connect with him at www.sethjpierce.com.





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