Most Christians don’t seem to be particularly impressed with modern, professional, biblical, scholarly research. (I don’t remember ever hearing a reference to Bible Review or other biblical periodicals from the pulpit.) Even though I am somewhat obsessed with the "findings," I also see much biblical research writing as being stilted and pretentious perhaps even trying to separate their research from the riffraff. Such writing, which might be said to be writing for your peers or preaching to the scientific choir, is almost ignored within the general body of the church with the perception that biblical research as an academic discipline cheapens the study of the Gospel. Most Christians would place biblical research outside the domain of spiritual or even gospel understanding. Perhaps surprising for many Christians, many biblical researchers would make the same assertion. On the researcher’s side, inserting spiritual aspects into the studies devalues or even invalidates the results. There is solid precedent for this thinking as that is what science has been doing for many years, and most biblical researchers want more than anything to be scientific, at least in their approach. However, that helps the plight of biblical researchers little, as much of science is under fire from religionists too

Stating the reasoning behind these philosophies is fairly simple, but taking positive action on it is difficult. It might be helpful to understand that the Gospel, the real Message, the Word that underlies all spiritual study is only understandable on an individual basis no matter how it is learned. When Paul says to "earnestly present your self acceptable to God, a worker unashamed, cutting straight the word of truth,"[1] he was talking about an individual studying and learning through his/her self. Of course, it is understood that such learning is done through the body, but the body slowly percolates “seeing” into the spiritual well over a lifetime. When a biblical researcher is performing academic research, his thinking is physical, worldly. The conundrum is this: while a scientific researcher is doing her/his best to make the research scientific, there is always that taint of spiritual “seeing” that tends to make the results appear not particularly valid or reliable, two specific attributes of scientific experimentation sought for by all scientists. Be that as it may, I will conclude that scientific biblical scholarship has been formulated for the good of the religious corporate body while spiritual scholarship is discovered by the individual and is meant only for the individual.
Should we then say that formal biblical research is useless and should not be done? Far from it! Such research is absolutely essential. Academic biblical research adds, perhaps peripherally, to the spiritual knowledge of God’s progressive revelation which is corporate rather than individual. Few members of the laity wish to look at this very important part of God’s plan for spirituality in our lives. I will have much to say about God’s plan of Salvation and progressive revelation in future entries.

A further observation can be made for much of the preaching we hear from our pulpits. Where does it fit in this quandary? While I thoroughly enjoy a well-put-together sermon on worldly viewpoints, such preaching has but little resemblance to the “preaching” (actually teaching) that Jesus presented. Today, preaching is said to be excellent when the hearers are captivated; rather than teaching anything about the Message, a hearer often leaves physically happy rather than spiritually satisfied. Paradoxically, to make them even more palatable, modern heavenly homilies often take on a science influence, even using scientific illustrations and nuances. (I am often amused at the skewed scientific comparisons and conclusions arrived at through the clergy and by the laity.) While it may not be true science in nature, it is biblical, scholarly, explanation science in principle as it is presented on the physical world level. Church hearers get what their world demands they hear even though they look down their collective noses at science. In some ways, it is practically all we, collectively, know how to do.

Be that as it may, I cannot remain negative about preaching and the messages we get from our churches today. Anything we do with the end result being fellowship with God is in my assessment good and pleasing to God since it tends to lead the hearer toward the Word. We just must remember that we won’t get much added to our spiritual satisfaction reservoir if we just use the information gained through worldly means. It is up to each of us to “see” the Word, not the harried preacher to “learn” us the Word.

The same can be said for much of the media—books, music, and movies. There is spiritual learning there also; we just need to “see” it. We all love to read, listen to music, and view movies, and they are quite meaningful in our lives. However, we must remember that it is not the writing or the words of the music or the story in the movie that is important; it is the message behind the writing, the music, the story that contains eternal meaning. Appreciate them, enjoy them, use them, but don’t forget to study and listen for your little personal piece of the Message that can be found in all fellowship with our God. I think God asks—might I say requires—it of each of us.

[1]II Tim 2:15 (KJV) Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 16 But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.