I recently wrote about "Five Tools That Can Help You Understand the Bible." I'm grateful for these tools myself, and I've heard enough positive comments from others about them to know that the benefit of these sites extends beyond my own personal preferences. We have access to tremendous resources (online and print), and great things can result from us using these resources well.
But let's be honest: access to these sites also brings unique dangers. If we don't approach study tools with the right frame of mind, these tools can actually do more harm than good. Here are three dangers that accompany unparalleled access to study tools, and how we can steer clear of them.
Danger #1: OVerdose and Imbalance
Here are some diagnostic questions that can help you discern whether overdosing on Bible study resources might be an issue for you:
I'm not saying we forego studying books other than the Bible (I've got walls full of books). I'm not saying we ignore helpful and influential voices that can help us understand and apply God's Word (I've got an iPhone with more podcasts downloaded than I can listen to). Let's not swing the pendulum so far the other way that we neglect the benefit access to these sorts of resources provides.
But here's my concern: We can spend so much time with some of our favorite Bible study resources that we lose our appetite for what should be the primary means of engaging God's Word: personal time with the biblical text, sitting under the preaching of God's Word, and interacting about its message in real community with others.
So how should we move forward? I'm not going to get too tactical here - particularly specific applications will be for you to sort out and decide. But as we seek to keep God's Word primary, here are two pleas I would make:
Danger #2: Arrogance
One goal in accessing additional Bible study resources is growth in knowledge. And knowledge is necessary - it's an essential component of renewed thinking and transformed thinking (cf. Romans 12:2). But knowledge alone is not sufficient. Growth in knowledge must be accompanied by growth in virtue! Knowledge, if not checked-and-balanced by virtue, easily degenerates into arrogance, a critical or cynical spirit, and using knowledge for ourselves instead of others.
Perhaps the simplest way to disarm the threat of arrogance is to make sure our goal is never knowledge alone but also includes virtue, or character. As we grow in knowledge AND humility (and love, and graciousness, and discernment, and other virtues) we will truly become transformed people with a transforming influence.
Danger #3: Isolation
It can be scary to give Jesus' words their full weight. Consider this example, in light of what we're talking about: "To whom much is given, much is expected" (Luke 12:48). We have been given access to study resources that no other generation has seen or probably even imagined. In terms of study tools, we've been given much. And yet, even with this sort of exposure to never-before-heard-of resources, we can fall short of what's expected by viewing them in isolation from other important things:
One way to counteract these tendencies, then, is to create intentional habits that connect the dots between what we're studying and these things mentioned here (obedience, community, and paying it forward). What specifically have you been learning that ought to shape your attitudes, your actions, and/or your relationships? What specifically have you been learning that needs to be discussed and lived out in a real community of people? What specifically have you been learning that needs to be shared with others - perhaps your spouse, your children, co-workers or roommates?
Learning should never be a cul-de-sac; instead, it's an avenue that leads to transformed living, enhanced community, and a better world.
What other dangers have you encountered that might accompany unparalleled access to Bible study tools? How do you navigate these dangers, or any of the dangers I've included in this post?
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