Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Entymological Rant: "Studying" Context

I suppose the topic of this specific post is geared more towards Christians than not, though if perhaps it can be applied more broadly to other aspects of life as well. What I would like to specifically discuss today is the word "study", specifically when used in the context of the phrase "Bible study". To put it in the most simple and straightforward means possible, I wish to explore the question: What is a Bible study? I find there to be various approaches to this, but let us take this piece by piece. Why go through this? Well, for myself, it is an exercise to consider a number of things, among them are these two key points: first, why do I attend a Bible study? Secondly, what do I think a good Bible study looks like? Another way of considering that would be: what sort of Bible study would impact me the most?

Naturally, the most logically definition, would be the one in which our personal context is most familiar. Bible study is that function that I go to outside of church. It could take a variety of shapes and forms. For some it could be a small group of people sharing and exegeting some piece of Scripture. For others it may be that same small group reading a good Christian book. And yet for others it could be going to hear someone else exegeting some piece of Scripture. Yet what I would like to consider when we look at the form of what Bible study is, I would like to consider the phrase "Bible study" in and of itself.

To me there are two ways to consider the phrase "Bible study", those two being: a study of the Bible and a time to study the Bible. The difference may be kind of subtle and so for some the two may not be mutually exclusive. The first I view as more of like a class on Biblical studies whereas the second is a study group coming together regarding the topic of study being the Bible. While some may wonder whether or not this really matters, the attitude with which we approach this event significantly alters how much we actually get out of it. Consider it this way, it's like the difference between going to class lecture and a study group. While each has its place, the purpose and approach to each is different. Lecture is an acquisition of new information and study groups are a means of mastery of said new information.

While I don't want to get into the details of in what contexts the church should use either one, I believe there is a place for both in a Christian's life. Naturally, a sermon on Sunday may naturally be more like a lecture than a study session, but regardless, if we were to continue with this classroom analogy then generally speaking quality usage of both circumstances are necessary to be considered a "good student". Naturally, this includes studying on your own. The big question then comes down to what such a "study group" looks like if anything. Some classes assign such groups for assignments and projects, others merely encourage them, requiring initiative on the part of the students to form and effectively utilize these groups. As the Bible is a subject which requires a lifetime of study, the question then remains, whether each of us recognizes the resources available to us and thereby utilizes them effectively to be the best student we can? If my church gives many "lecture-type" Bible studies or events, am I doing my part to study and apply my knowledge both on my own and with other fellow students? If I attend several "study group" type groups, does the group endeavor to seek out wisdom and knowledge from those more knowledgeable than its members? As is most often the case with things, it all lies in balance.

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