I reported nearly two weeks ago on what David Ker has called the Alexander’s Sword method of interpreting the Bible. In the light of this I was interested to read the first part of Ajith Fernando’s guest post at Koinonia.
Fernando, a Bible teacher from Sri Lanka, starts by describing how his students at a particular course were approaching the Bible:
I found that many of my students were latching on to an inspiring thought from the passages we were studying, forgetting the context in which that thought appears and ultimately missing out on the message of the passage. So I had to keep asking them over and over again questions like, “What does the passage really say?” “Why does Paul say that?” …
It sounds like the students were addicted to the Alexander’s Sword method. So it is interesting to see how Fernando responded:
… It was a desperate battle. At one time I was so concerned that I sent SOS text messages to about 20 people asking them to pray that somehow God will break through and help them to learn how to read and study the Bible. I think the basic problem was that they have not really learned to read!
The battle went on for the whole week until I believe God’s Spirit broke through to them. I am confident that those who persevere in using what they learned will develop skills for a lifetime of thrilling study of the Word. By the end of the course many of the students told me that they had never realised that there is so much to get from the Scriptures. …
So, it seems, these students’ eyes were opened to the truth and they were delivered from their addiction by the Holy Spirit through the power of prayer. Perhaps more such prayer ministry is needed for those who persist in misinterpreting the Bible!
Fernando continues with some sensible words to put the Alexander’s Sword approach into its proper context:
Having said this we must agree that there are times when God does grab us with a personal message from a single spot in a larger passage. But that is an exception to the rule. The God who inspired all of Scripture can send us a message through a little portion of the passage if he wants to. But he usually works through the message he wanted the biblical writer to convey. That is the message we must labour to discover.
He concludes this introduction to what looks like being a helpful series on how to do inductive Bible study with these words from A.W. Tozer:
To get to the root I recommend a plain text Bible and diligent application of two knees on the floor.