Study Bibles have been around for a long time now. The first one could be said to be the Geneva Bible published in 1560. Its study notes were intended to promote the Reformed Theological tradition. Then around 1917 the Oxford University Press published the Scofield Study Bible. It became the standard for the next seventy years. Then between 1985, when the New International Study Bible was published, and the turn of the twenty-first century, there was a great proliferation of study Bibles, climbing to over one hundred in number. Every denomination and most of the larger sects had its theological perspective now enshrined in its very own study Bible.
Was this good news or bad? Was this a huge benefit for Western Christendom, or did it create further obstacles for the Church around the globe?
Study Bibles are Bibles that have interpretative notes to help the reader/student understand what is being said. Unfortunately, those notes are not without bias or error. Because that it true of all study Bibles, the interpretations that they propagate can be terribly misleading. Anything or anyone that takes a person away from the truth of Scripture is “of the Devil” in the matter in question exactly like Peter could be called “Satan” because he was not thinking God’s thoughts, but only man’s thoughts (Mk. 8:33)
So in this way, study Bibles can be used effectively by the Devil to keep whole denominations and whole religions away from the truth that is life-changing.
Whenever they can be used to keep us from thinking, from questioning, from doing our own research, from holding those we follow accountable, from testing all things, they are obstacles to spiritual growth. Anything that keeps a person from studying on his own can be a hindrance to the pursuant of the truth.
If you have concluded that your religious group has all the truth and nothing but the truth, you need to be told that such a belief is both naïve and untenable. There is not one denomination that I am aware of that is not debating within itself various doctrines. And for this same reason, all denominations have more than one representative group because of the disagreements that have split the denomination over the years. For example, there are over thirty-two kinds of Baptists! Does that mean that they are the hardest to get along with? There are four kinds of Presbyterians. All of the other denominations have experienced splits and divisions as well. This fact alone tells us all that we are all in the process of pursuing the truth and need to be exposed to what others are saying so we can objectively critique every side and reformulate what we believe.
Because this pursuit is taking place everywhere, there are people, like ourselves, trying to get back to the roots of our faith and making sure that they are themselves planted firmly in the Word of God. But anything that hinders this pursuit of truth or that shuts down a person’s exposure to other interpretations can be a severe handicap to a person’s spiritual development through his knowledge of the truth.
A good question to ask yourself is, “How have my beliefs changed over the past five to ten years?” How have they gotten better, more consistent with God’s Word? Another question that is good to regularly ask is, “What did I once believe that I not longer believe?” If you are not changing your beliefs, you may not be diligently studying as you ought or you may be blinded by your own particular Christian subculture. Only the person who abides in God’s Word, that is, only the one who makes his home in God’s Word and fulfills all of his needs from believing its promises, is the one who comes to the truth that sets him free (John 8:31-32).
If your study Bible is limiting you to only what your denomination wants to teach you, it is time for you to understand that God’s truth goes far beyond what your denomination has determined appropriate for you. Will you have the courage to pursue the truth regardless of where it takes you? There are few who can answer that last question in the affirmative. Be one of them. God bless.
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