Tuesday, May 04, 2010

After Much Thought - Levels

After giving it much thought, I have decided to loosely categorize Bible Study tools into four categories.

1. Complete Novice
If you don't know many Bible stories, don't know the books of the Bible, or the characters, and are frankly intimidated buy the sheer magnitude of the whole thing. This is you.

I discovered one person I gave a Haley's Handbook to was intimidated by the size of the handbook. True, it is thicker than the Bible itself, but that is mostly because the paper in the pages is thicker. And it has more pictures. But just the same, they were intimidated. Sign of a Complete Novice.

I didn't used to think there were many people in Church at this level. Now I know differently. After half a century of steadily deteriorating public school training, we now have a large portion of the US population functionally illiterate when it comes to real books. They can function on the job, read a magazine, or read some of the junk food fiction that passes for literature today, but they can't get through a serious non fiction book.

If you are at this point, you need tools for orientation.
Childrens Bible Stories
Picture Bibles
Elementary Handbooks

2. Elementary Learning Level
If you do know several of the stories of the Bible, but don't really know where to start learning more. Maybe you tried "getting into the Bible" one or more times, but crashed and burned. But you are willing to try again, and realize that if you can take it a bite at a time, you can do it, then this is you. At the Elementary Learning Level.

In the past, this is where I always used to start with people.
Mainly because I remained at this level for about 20 years.
If you are at this level, you need tools for understanding.
Dictionary and Cultural context tools.
Maps and History guides
Bible Handbooks
Catechism type Books (Books that ask a lot of questions for you to explore)

3. Intermediate Leaning Level
This is really an extension of the Elementary Level. OK, so you know your way around the Bible stories and you have some knowledge of the times and places where the events of the Bible took place, and have some idea how to break down Bible passages to gain a deeper understanding of what is really written.

Now you need tools to help find answers to the more difficult questions, usually posed by nonbelievers, but also posed by some of the more Elementary believers, and by some heritics (although for vastly different reasons).

These are tools for historical context
ExtraBiblical Tools to support the Bible
Archeological and Apologetics tools.
Simple Doctrinal Tools

3a. Some other stuff that might be of interest at this level are things others have written about the Bible. Stuff that Christians may or may not agree with, as far as doctrine or interpretation. These can give you insight about the disputes that arise over interpretations, and insight as to just what non beleivers do not understand, since much of what you know about the Bible may seem easy and straightforwards to you as you progress through the intermediate level of understanding. These can prevent or remedy complacency in interpretation.

3b. This may also be a good point at which to begin learning about various other religions, Christian and pseudo christian religions, and some other religions around the world.

4. Higher Learning Levels
I can't say much about this level, as I have only begun to explore at this level.
Studies of Apologetics
Studies of Doctrine
Original Language Translations and Lexicons (Vines)
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance

Ok, now that I have laid the ground work here, I will begin, in the future to lump study tools into one of the above categories. You can always use, though maybe with some difficulty, tools from a higher level. You can also use, though with diminished effectiveness, tools from a lower level. And, actually, you should be reviewing tools from the lower levels, for others who may be coming to you for guidance.

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