The purpose of this paper is to examine various ways that people approach the Bible with
a view toward learning how to discover and respect divine revelation in the midst of pressing real-
life problems. The ideas in this paper were not developed in direct dialogue with the works of
either Biblical or systematic theologians, but arose out of personal practice and dialogue with
many individuals and groups, both here at the Seminary and in many other settings. The ultimate
goal of the method described in this paper is more practical than theoretical, therefore the terms
used should not be understood in their most technical sense, but in terms of the simpler definitions
The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?
This text indicates that a fundamental problem of the sinful human condition is self-deception. At
the innermost level we have the natural tendency to lie to ourselves and, therefore, to see what we
want to see whenever we open the Bible. Our self-deception is usually obvious to others, but
quite hidden from ourselves. Like most Adventists, however, I would hold out the hope that we
You say, \u201cI am rich;
I have acquired wealth and
do not need a thing.\u201d
Seventh-day Adventists, of course, have long identified themselves with this passage. But
what is Laodicea\u2019s problem? It is the problem of self-deception. What she is and what she thinks
of herself are two different things. It is not a conscious deceit on her part, the remedy of eye
medicine is necessary because she doesn\u2019t even know she has a problem. She needs clear vision
in order to understand the will of God. So I would submit that Adventists have not succeeded in
by-passing the natural human tendency toward self-deception, even in their study of Scripture. If
this is so the tendency to misuse Scripture may be as prevalent among conservative Bible-
There are a number of practical solutions to the problem of self-deception. Authentic
prayer, for example, calls on God to lead us to truth no matter what the personal cost. Journaling
(dialoguing with oneself or with God in writing) can draw out inner thoughts and tendencies that
\u201csystematic theology.\u201d All three are concerned with understanding and carrying out the will of God in the contemporary situation. Church history is more of a descriptive discipline along the lines of exegesis as defined here.
would otherwise remain hidden from us. And accountability (opening oneself to direct counsel
from others) to fellow Christians, singly or in groups, or even to professional counselors can help
us to see ourselves as others see us, to become more honest about our personal realities.1
Is there a way to read the Bible that can help us grow from self-deception to self-
awareness? How can we bypass the natural defense mechanisms that seek to blind us to the very
truths of the Bible that we so much need? Can our study of the Bible become more of a safeguard
in the church\u2019s formation of its theology? The following system provides insights that have
helped me become more of a learner before God\u2019s Word.
different questions with which we confront the Bible. Each approach should be part of a larger, interdisciplinary process, yet each part of that process needs to be carefully distinguished, so that the strengths of each approach might not be lost through amalgamation.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?