Saturday, July 03, 2010

When tradition overtakes Bible study

romans fragment This quarter’s Sabbath School Lessons are on the book of Romans. Sadly, the opening paragraph of Lesson 1 opens by saying:

Ideally, in our study of the book of Romans, after a study of the historical background, we should begin with Romans 1:1 and then go through the entire book verse by verse. Because only one quarter has been allotted to the study of the book, we have had to be selective in what parts we can study. The book could easily take four quarters, not one, to explore. Hence, only the key chapters, in which the basic message is contained, will be covered.

Why is it that the book of Romans has to be forced into 13 weeks? If the ideal is to study the book verse by verse, why can’t it be done over a year? I guess this is not new, though. The lesson studies rarely, if ever, are a genuine study of Scripture using an inductive method. It would be great if we could do that to really model for members how to do good, in-depth study of the text rather than a directed “discovery” of various denominational agendas.
The answer apparently is to be ‘selective in what parts we study’. Selection is an interpretive act in itself. It means that the selection is imposed on us as readers of the study and, unless we take responsibility for studying the book of Romans verse by verse ourselves, we must trust those who select to do so appropriately.
If you choose to follow the Sabbath School study guide this quarter, I encourage you to study the text of Scripture and give it primacy over the text of the guide. Surely it is time we resisted the tendency to allow tradition to overtake our Bible study.