The next season for Stand to Reason’s reTHINK Apologetics Student Conferences begins this weekend in Orange County, California. We’re beginning a new series with the topic “Has God Spoken?” As you might suspect from that title, we’re focusing on the Bible: the claim that it’s the word of God, that it’s reliable, and several other related topics.
Whether you’re able to attend or not, let me offer a suggestion for a logical next step in your study of the Bible. Although what I’m encouraging you to do is not explicitly an apologetics-related study, it has apologetics-related benefits.
You’ll be coming off the reTHINK Apologetics conference with new zeal about Scripture; you’ll know how to defend it and how to graciously share your convictions with others. Here’s what you can do next: Learn how to read the Bible properly. Theologians call this discipline hermeneutics. That’s just a fancy word for the art and science of biblical interpretation. It’s about learning how to correctly interpret and apply Scripture. After all, there’s no point in reading God’s word if you misunderstand what it says. You can’t obey the commands of God if you misread the commands of God. That’s where hermeneutics can help.
Here are a few suggestions to get you started, listed in increasing order of commitment. First, you can read a very short (and free) article about context that Greg Koukl wrote. Next, you can buy a small booklet (that Greg also wrote) about hermeneutics called Never Read a Bible Verse. It’s only $2.95, and it’s what I use when I teach on this subject. Finally, you can purchase a standard length book called How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. Although this book was required for my hermeneutics class when I was studying at Biola University, it’s very accessible and has become popular among broader audiences.
Although hermeneutics is not technically apologetics, apologists readily rely upon the discipline in some apologetic settings. For example, when religious advocates of other religions come knocking on your door, they often cite Bible verses to support their doctrines. Knowing basic hermeneutics can help you respond to their claims. Or, advocates of pro-gay theology often try to reinterpret biblical passages. Knowing hermeneutics can help you recognize their interpretive mistakes and graciously explain the correct meaning.
People often ask me what my favorite class was when I studied apologetics at Biola. My answer is always the same: hermeneutics. It was the class that had the most dramatic impact in my spiritual life - more than any apologetics class I took. It showed me many of my biblical interpretive mistakes that I’d believed for years. It exposed several incorrect presuppositions I held about Scripture. Most importantly, it allowed me to be transformed by the Bible’s ultimate author - the Holy Spirit - whom I was unable to understand because of my biblical illiteracy. Do yourself a favor and take this next step after reTHINK. In fact, take this step no matter what. I firmly believe that every believer should study hermeneutics at some level. It’s that important.