Thursday, August 04, 2011

Defending against Heresy

In these times, when there is little persecution in the US (there is some persecution and even arrests from time to time for true Christians in the US) it is easy for counterfeits to pass themselves off as Christians. For the lay person, the best security against heresy and counterfeit christianity is expository study of the Bible.

Expository study of the Bible means to expose the underlying meaning. This isn't some mystical or secret way of looking at the Bible, but rather, it simply requires close examination of what the Bible says and the comparison of one passage to other passages throughout the Bible, such as comparing the description of the Birth of Jesus to prophetic passages in the Old Testament that foretold of His coming. An expositor is a teacher that teaches the Scriptures by going through passages a few verses or a few chapters at a time, rather than teaching topic by topic.

There are about 100 or so events and stories in the Bible, we Christians (at the very least) need to know most of them, and know the underlying lessons for most of them. And this is just a start. Don't worry, you will never know all there is to know about the Bible, or even all there is to know about any major book.

Today we have many tools to assist with Bible study that were not available in the past, some not even a few years ago. MP3 players (like the I-Pad) are one such tool, allowing you to listen whenever and wherever you have time. I listen while driving to and from work (about 40 min each way, since I drive slow) I have found two excellent "Expositors" on the Internet, with extensive audio files that can be downloaded and listened to on an MP3 player.

One of the oldest and best known is Dr. J. Vernon McGee, who made more than 400 hours of recordings, specifically as an expository study of the Bible. He finished a 5 year tour of the Bible, and he called it the "Bible Bus." It has been playing on more than 100 radio stations around the world for many years.

He finished the 5 year study in the mid 70's and it has been repeated every 5 years ever since. He established the benchmark for all expository study, and I have been going through his "tour" for over two years. Because it was made just for radio, each of his recordings is exactly 26 minutes long, and contains about 22 or 23 minutes of his teachings.

Now, I will say that I don't agree with Vernon McGee's interpretation all of the time, but I do agree with him the vast majority of the time. Also, since he teaches the Scriptures without getting too entangled in the politics of the moment, when he makes a commentary on society, it is surprisingly relevant to the current day's issues.

The only downside to Vernon McGee is that he has a fairly steep, old English, vocabulary. It will, from time to time make you wonder what he is talking about, unless you read the King James Bible, Shakespeare, or some other classical literature.

Chuck Smith did a similar tour of the Bible, around 2004, for his evening Church group. While I haven't listened to very much of his recordings (about 15 hours, or so) I have listened enough to know he teaches well. The advantage of his recordings are the language he uses is less old English, and therefore easier to listen to. There are two disadvantages, both related to the fact that he did them for a live audience. First, since it is a live recording, some bits and pieces refer to things in the audience, that you cannot see. Second, since they were not made for radio, the length of the recordings varies from about 20 min to around 2 hours.

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