The Bible is to be read intelligently, attentively, and prayerfully with total dependence upon the Holy Spirit for understanding. Because the Spirit speaks personally to the believer the word from history is also contemporary. The past illuminates the present because the salvific promises and deeds recorded in Scripture are repeated in fresh ways in every generation, addressing the needs, crises, and cries of the people of God. They are paradigmatic of the continuous involvement of God in the welfare of those who trust in him. God’s ongoing acts of mercy, not necessarily identical to foregoing instances of deliverance, are indicative of his faithfulness and commitment to his own. They create confidence and expectancy. They are the vital themes of our conversations with God and give shape and orthodoxy to our requests. Our talks with and petitions to the Lord arise from Scripture as we match it to our circumstances and desires, and our growing knowledge of Scripture acquaints us with the usage of the language of heaven. The Bible trains the mind to think in God’s terms. The volume of unchangeable truth becomes the flexible medium of communication with God as Scripture is adapted to spiritual maturity and a realization of the possibilities open to us. What God has done for others he may do for us. We negotiate, argue, advance his God-given grounds for prayers of faith, and patiently await the outworking of his sovereign will, for he invites us “to reason together”. With perceptions he may also grant promptings and influences that open us to his “present” word of grace and guidance. Over-rigid rules of interpretation are set aside. The Bible is not a static word, a mere text book communicating cerebral knowledge alone, but a message he breathes into us as a friend beside us, as a witness inside us.
Some of the freshness of the divine word has been stultified by the rigidity of the artificial rules of Biblical science, more commonly known as Biblical Criticism. Academic aids to the understanding of the Bible are very useful and corrective of harmful subjectivity. We have to pay heed as much as possible to historical context, cultural background, and issues or provenance. We need to be aware of literary genres within the sacred text whilst always acknowledging that the overriding purpose of Scripture is to awaken us to our lost condition in sin, and to acquaint us with the Saviour. But Biblical science is of two kinds according to two approaches – reverent or rebellious – and there is a variety of Biblical scholarship that is disbelieving, unwarrantably subjective, and dangerous. It advances a mood of scepticism that pious and thorough Biblical investigation renders indefensible. It usually crops up as a challenging new discovery but proves to be recycled error refuted over and over again by the faithful theologians and teachers of the church dating back to the Fathers who successfully dealt with so called “modern” questions and difficulties in their own time. Whilst much contemporary study deals with the origin, authorship, and character of “units” of Scripture, the Spirit (Author of Scripture) gives us liberty to sweep over, and plumb, the depths of the entirety of God’s revelation relating the parts of Scripture to the overall whole in accord with the intent of the ultimate Mind who composed it. Because God is effecting a plan that is consistent and which culminates in Christ Jesus there is a measure of allegory (spiritual application once outlawed) permitted, avoiding excess, that sweetens the word with intimations of Jesus and his saving activity, and this brings his touch to the individual soul in its personal devotions. Jesus whispers his love to the reader with pertinency, as well as proclaiming the facts of his compassionate assignment on our behalf. The trip-wires in Bible study that ought to sound an alarm to us are scepticism and superstition. The unbelief that isolates us from God and which diminishes his greatness and goodness, and repudiates the truth of his revelation, will fatally wound the soul. The superstition that recites the Scripture mantra-like as if it were a magical charm or always confirmatory of personal impulse and volition is a selfish domination of the word that closes access to its true meaning and holy power. The Bible affords deliverance from self, its rebellion, egotism, and illusions. The Bible comforts and corrects. We do not depart from the inspired word, its sensible meaning, and the word is to dwell in us richly.