Adult Bible Study meets with Fr. Steve virtually on Tuesday evenings from 7:00 to 8:00 PM Online only. (Please email Father Steve to be added to his Bible study at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Please read the following most carefully, and prayerfully.
The Risks of Bible Study
Taken from Peter J. Gomes, Preacher to Harvard University (The Memorial Church, Harvard Yard), The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart (pp 11-12):
…. Apparently these [bible study] groups help in developing a better knowledge of the Bible, and provide an informed lay leadership which enriches the work and the life of the local congregation at the same time. As one of the pastors said to me, “The church is in bad shape when the only person who knows anything about the Bible is the pastor.”
These are clearly new initiatives taken to meet what is generally recognized to be the crisis of biblical illiteracy. We might well ask how this illiteracy came to be, given the Bible has always had pride of place in Christian worship…but any of us who have had experience of what passes for “Bible study” in recent years in most churches can answer that question. For many the Bible served as some sort of spiritual or textual trampoline: You got onto it in order to bounce off of it as far as possible, and your only purpose in returning to it was to get away from it again. It is the lay version of what Willard Sperry, one of my predecessors in The Memorial Church, used to lampoon as “textual preaching.” The preacher who was keen to practice what he preached would follow this formula: “Take your text, depart from your text, never return to your text.”
Bible studies tend to follow this route. The Bible is simply the entry into a discussion about more interesting things, usually about oneself. The text is a mere pretext to other matters, and usually the routine works like this: A verse or a passage is given out, and the group or class is asked, “What does this mean to you?” The answers come thick and fast, and we are off into the life stories or personal situations of the group, and the session very quickly takes the form of Alcoholics Anonymous, Twelve-Step meetings, or other exercises in healing and therapy. I do not wish to disparage the very good and necessary work that these groups perform, for I have seen too many good effects and have known too many beneficiaries of such encounter and support groups to diminish by one iota their benefit both to individuals and to the community. I simply wish to say that this is not Bible study, and to call it such is to perpetuate a fiction.
Bible study actually involves the study of the Bible. That involves a certain amount of work, a certain exchange of informed intelligence, a certain discipline….The notion that texts have meaning and integrity, intention, contexts, and subtexts, and that they are part of an enormous history of interpretation that has long involved some of the greatest thinkers in the history of the world, is a notion often lost on those for whom the text is just one more of the many means the church provides to massage the egos of its members [emphasis mine].
Opening the Bible is the easy part. What to do with it once it is opened is more difficult….The risks of discouragement notwithstanding, I think there is something to be said for taking on the Bible in this way. It is a bit like total immersion in a foreign language; eventually, if you stick with it, you will get some sense of what is going on, you will see and feel the shapes of the language, and you will acquire a sense of those places to which you wish to return, and those places you wish to avoid. This is not a bad thing.
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