Understanding the Bible

If you come up with stuff that Christians disagree with, many will make the haughty claim, "You don't understand scripture!", as if they somehow have a superior understanding and knowledge of it than you. That their beliefs are somehow a benchmark in which all other people’s views should be judged. 


"Understanding" of scripture as I see comes down to two main elements. One = Point of view and Two = Level of Education. Nothing more. I’m not even going to include the Holy Spirit in this, because the holy spirit is nothing more than One and Two decorated to look like something exclusive.


One – Point of View


If you have a mindset that God is loving, merciful and just, then you will see scripture through those glasses. We call it Confirmation Bias ie, where you only see what corresponds with your beliefs and all else is filtered out. If you can for a moment understand that we all look at things from a different point of view, then you will realise that it’s not a matter of understanding scripture at all. It’s about having a differing take brought on by a different way of looking at it. 


One must first be able to determine whose point of view is correct before one can claim "You lack understanding".


Myself, I now prefer to take scripture at face value and do not wish to be confined by one specific mindset. 


Two - Level of Education


Have you ever noticed that those in areas of leadership in churches are well educated? Almost any leader is at the very most quite intelligent and literate. They can pick up that bible and really study it and draw something out of it to fit with their beliefs. Once again this is not the holy spirit working, this is them using abilities that they have learnt. 


Those with low levels of education are always going to have a lot more trouble with learning from scripture than those who have reached higher levels. This seems remarkable when you assume that the bible has been divinely inspired by God. You would think that God would make it as simple as possible to understand, but it isn’t, Holy Spirit or no Holy Spirit. It’s about how well you can analyse, synthesis and evaluate what you read.


Let’s take a look at Bloom’s Taxonomy.


Here is a list of six levels of learning and the skills one needs at each level, starting from the most basic levels


Knowledge: arrange, define, duplicate, label, list, memorize, name, order, recognize, relate, recall, repeat, reproduce state.


Comprehension: classify, describe, discuss, explain, express, identify, indicate, locate, recognize, report, restate, review, select, translate,


Application: apply, choose, demonstrate, dramatize, employ, illustrate, interpret, operate, practice, schedule, sketch, solve, use, write.


Analysis: analyze, appraise, calculate, categorize, compare, contrast, criticize, differentiate, discriminate, distinguish, examine, experiment, question, test.


Synthesis: arrange, assemble, collect, compose, construct, create, design, develop, formulate, manage, organize, plan, prepare, propose, set up, write.


Evaluation: appraise, argue, assess, attach, choose compare, defend estimate, judge, predict, rate, core, select, support, value, evaluate.


High school education takes you to level 2 (comprehension) and if you stay there long enough, maybe 3 (application). This is about average. However you cannot get very far with scripture if you only have that level of literacy. To really be able to successfully interpret scripture, you need to move into higher levels. You need to be able to at least analyse and synthesize. The majority of mankind will never reach these levels.


Many never get to level 6 (evaluation). Even the most learned of Christians seem to stop at level 4 or 5 and go no further, not necessarily because they haven't got the skill, but because going to level 6 requires a lot of questioning of the truth of scripture. Many Christians would never dare go that far, even if they could. It would mean going outside of the bible for further study.


The point is, to be able to truly study scripture you need to be able to go beyond just knowledge, comprehension and application.  You will also be able to manipulate scripture to suit your own agenda and own point of view and thus be able to claim superior "understanding".


Those who can’t do this, become followers rather than leaders. They must rely on other people’s studies and other people’s conclusions and trust them. The more you move into the higher levels of studying, the less you have to rely on other people’s interpretations. For those who can't, they will need to have a fellow human being there to explain it to them.


In conclusion...


No! Ones understanding is not necessarily superior to any others when it comes to the bible. You may look at it from a specific mindset and may even have the intellectual ability to manipulate scripture to validate that mindset, but it doesn't mean you are right in your analysis and you have no right to put yourself above anyone else who looks at it differently.

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