Biblically Rooted

Open Bibles, Open Hearts

In This Edition:

  • Bible Class as Driver’s Ed — by Jennifer Gerhardt

  • A Conversation with Dr. Keith Stanglin

  • Top Picks: This Week’s Recommended Resources

  • Bibliography: Reading & Interpreting Scripture


Bible Class as Driver’s Ed (by JL Gerhardt)

“I think there’s two pits here for Bible class that are common pits. So the one is they just become information dumps where people learn a bunch of information. The other one of course is where no one really learns much of anything; people just pool their ignorance in discussion that doesn’t really have any foundation, where people just say what they think. It’s like facebook. Bible class as facebook.

We’ve given two models so far. (1) Where you get the Bible class as a knowledge dump—that’s like the Bible as world history class. (2) And then you’ve got where everybody just gets together and talks—it’s like Bible as homeroom; nothing is really accomplished, but everybody likes each other when its over.

I think the thing Bible class should be is driver’s ed, and the Bible is the car. Where you are not learning about the car so much—but you are, there’s some about the car in there; you are learning how to use the car, how to interact with the car; it’s setting up a future with you, with the car. Everything that you learn here is enabling something that you do outside of here, and it’s preparing you and giving you the skills to fully enjoy the car—to get everything out of it that there is to get out of it.

I think a lot of people have been told things about the Bible, but not many people know how to read their Bible. I know this because constantly I’ll be teaching and I’ll go through a Bible story, and I’ll have 10 people come up and be like, “I don’t understand how you saw that! I see it now, after you talked me through it, or you walked me through that story. When you were talking I could just see it in my head; I could understand it. I never thought that God acted that way; I’ve never asked those questions before.” And all of the sudden, they feel closer to God, and they feel interested in their Bible in a way that they never did before. They feel like there may be something relevant in it for them. But to me, that’s just how you read the Bible. But I think it’s because someone taught me how to read the Bible.

So, I wish we were doing more of that. And this would look so much more like what teachers are doing with little kids when they teach them ideas and principles like how to do addition and stuff. The teacher doesn’t do addition for the students; the teacher shows them ways of doing it themselves and helps them learn by trying. And I think we have more opportunity for that in Bible class than we are currently doing.”

Excerpt from Episode 7 of the Avenue for Faith podcast, titled “Biblically Rooted.” Available on all podcast platforms.

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A Conversation with Dr. Keith Stanglin

Keith Stanglin has served as a professor of Scripture and historical theology for nearly two decades, first at Harding University then at Austin Graduate School of Theology. For years, Keith edited the journal Christian Studies, and is a world-class theologian. I sat down with Keith for episode 7 of the Avenue for Faith podcast, where I got to ask him about the importance of putting Scripture first. He offers tangible ways to help your congregation develops habits that come from being “biblically rooted.” Here are some highlights:

Q: Keith, what makes the Bible so important and central for churches and church classes?

One of my favorite quotes is from Pope Gregory I the Great. He said that the Word of God is like a river both shallow and deep in which a lamb walks and an elephant swims. I love that. Scripture is like that river that is shallow enough that a lamb can walk in, but in places it’s also deep enough that an elephant can swim. In other words, there is something there for everyone. If you are a beginner, there is something in the Bible that will be upbuilding to you, encouraging to you, that you will learn from it, and you’ll benefit from it. But if you are an expert, if you’ve been doing this for decades, and you’ve read every word of the Bible multiple times, there’s still something in there for you. There’s a place to swim deeper, to dig deeper. The Bible is not a school lesson that we can be done with and leave behind; there is something in there for everyone.

Q: Our goal, of course, is to get people to love reading the Bible. How can we remove the distractions that keep us from this?

How can we learn to love reading the Bible? This is a challenge for a lot of reasons. One, just very simply, more and more people don’t read anything; and if they do read, it’s something on a screen, with lots of pictures, no more than a few hundred words, and they skim it, usually. So, contrast that with the presentation on the page of a Bible. It’s just so very different from the way most people engage reading these days, if they engage it at all. So, the first thing I would say—and this might sound a bit technophobic—but I think it is an indisputable point. Turn off the screens, because that is the most significant competitor to reading. If it’s not, and you say “no, no, that’s not the problem,” then OK: whatever the distraction or the problem is, turn that off. But I would say for 99.9% of the people, we would have to admit it’s screens in whatever form they are that is the competitor to that leisure time, that down time, that we would normally take in reading. And I’m not even talking about reading the Bible. I’m talking about reading words on an actual page. So if we turn off the screens, or whatever that distraction is, that opens up more space for reading. And if we open up more space for reading—period—then we are opening up more space for Bible reading.

Q: Keith, you are a champion for what you call “the lost art” of memorization, even for adults. Would you speak to this?

I haven’t done as much memorizing in recent years than I did in my teenage years and in my twenties. But I still know most of those texts. And I can say that just memorizing it and reciting those texts—they speak a little differently to you than if you just passed over them and never bothered to memorize them. When you memorize a text, it goes deeper inside of you in a way that obviously you can recall it to mind. But you just know it in a better way. It doesn’t mean you know everything about it; but you learn it on a deeper level when you take the time to memorize Scripture. I think that’s part of loving it. And these are habits that we just don’t make the time for. We need to resolve that we are going to make the time for something that will do us good. And we see it doing us good, and we learn to love it. And we don’t do it because it’s time to do it, and it’s on my schedule, but because we love it.

Excerpts from Episode 7 of the Avenue for Faith podcast, titled “Biblically Rooted.” Available on all podcast platforms.

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Top Picks: This Week’s Recommended Resources

New Testament: N. T. Wright’s For Everyone Commentaries and Guides

N. T. (Tom) Wright is a prolific New Testament scholar who offers a user-friendly set of commentaries suitable for a Bible class teacher, or even every member in your class. IVP Press is offering an even more streamlined version of $10 guides, offering insights from Wright along with questions for group study. Wright is now a research professor at Wycliffe Hall at Oxford University. Highly recommended.

Old Testament: John Goldingay’s For Everyone Commentaries

John Goldingay offers a parallel series of user-friendly commentaries covering the Old Testament. Also from Westminster/John Knox Press. Goldingay is emeritus professor of Old Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary.

Adult Curriculum Based on Bible Books: Austin Sermon Seminar

Austin Graduate School of Theology has hosted a sermon seminar for 40 years; speakers offer audio, video, powerpoint files, handouts, and even full adult bible class curriculum—all rooted in the text of Scripture. Simply scroll down to “handouts and media.” Enjoy! [and download now…the website is changing and may not be available for long].

Materials for Home Bible Study or Self-Discovery: Discovery Bible Study

North Boulevard Church of Christ offers videos, curriculum, and other helps in how to follow the Discovery Bible Study Method developed by Final Command Ministries. You may find this helpful in encouraging people to read the Bible together.

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Bibliography: Reading & Interpreting Scripture

Looking to build your church library, or your own collection of resources? Here are some helpful books worth having on hand to help teachers and other members to grow in their love for Scripture and in their confidence to read and apply its message.

Beginner: Learning Basic Bible Themes and Reading for Spiritual Transformation

Gary M. Burge, The New Testament in Seven Sentences: A Small Introduction to a Vast Topic (IVP Academic, 2019)

Christopher J. H. Wright, The Old Testament in Seven Sentences: A Small Introduction to a Vast Topic (IVP Academic, 2019)

Richard Foster, Life With God: Reading the Bible for Spiritual Transformation (HarperOne, 2010).

Jen Wilkin, Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both our Hearts and our Minds, 2nd ed (Crossway, 2019).

Intermediate: Understanding the Larger Story and Reading Scripture With First Century Glasses

H. H. Drake Williams III, Making Sense of the Bible: A Study of 10 Key Themes Traced Through the Scriptures (Wipf & Stock, 2014)

Gordon D. Fee & Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth, 4th ed (Zondervan Academic, 2014)

E. Randolph Richards & Brandon J. O’Brien, Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible (IVP Books, 2012)

Christopher J. H. Wright, How to Preach and Teach the Old Testament For All Its Worth (Zondervan Academic, 2016).

John H. Walton & Andrew E. Hill. The Old Testament Today: A Journey from Ancient Context to Contemporary Relevance, 2nd ed (Zondervan Academic, 2014)

N. T. Wright & Michael F. Bird, The New Testament in its World: An Introduction to the History, Literature, and Theology of the First Christians (Zondervan Academic, 2019)

Advanced: Robust, College-Level Introductions to the Witness of Scripture

Keith D. Stanglin, Letter and Spirit of Biblical Interpretation: From the Early Church to Modern Practice (Baker Academic, 2018)

Christopher J. H. Wright, Old Testament Ethics for the People of God (IVP Academic, 2004)

Andrew E. Hill & John H. Walton, A Survey of the Old Testament, 3rd ed. (Zondervan Academic, 2009)

N. T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God (Fortress Press, 1992)

Constantine R. Campbell & Jonathan Pennington, Reading the New Testament as Christian Scripture: A Literary, Canonical, and Theological Survey (Baker Academic, 2020)

Luke Timothy Johnson, The Writings of the New Testament, 3rd ed. (Fortress Press, 2010).

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Avenue For Faith is a publication of the Adult Education Ministry of Sherrod Avenue Church of Christ in Florence, Alabama. My name is Nathan Guy, and I am the Minister of Adult Education. I am happily married to Katie and also serve as President of Mars Hill Bible School. You can find more resources on our website over at avenueforfaith.org. Follow us @avenueforfaith (fb/tw/ig).