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The Bible is Not a Textbook, So Stop Quizzing Me On It

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A mere two weeks away from the close of my junior year, the amount of credits that I have left to complete is certainly dwindling. I realized while scheduling out my senior year that I have completed significantly more courses than I have left to take, which is a wonderfully exhilarating yet completely terrifying thought. The lack of classes remaining in my curriculum left me with a very interesting opportunity this past semester; as I’m nearly at the end of my 30 credits of required Bible courses, I did not take any Bible classes.


I thought this was a great idea. Throughout my years on campus, it is safe to say that I have had opinions on how my Bible classes were constructed. I may or may not have said the following:


“I don’t know why Dr. ______ spends so much time talking about ____. He should be talking about _____.”


“This class makes the Bible seem like a textbook. I loved this book until I was quizzed on it.”


“I know that I would actually enjoy reading this more if I wasn’t forced to read it.”


“With all the reading I have to do for this class, I don’t have time to read the Bible for myself.”


While I may have uttered all of these sentiments about my Bible courses, I know that I am not alone. I know there are many other students on campus that could join my “I don’t want my Bible to be a textbook” campaign. At the beginning of this semester, I had the idea to write an article at the semester’s close to explain how my spiritual life had grown as the result of not being forced to read the Bible.


And well, if I decided to still run with that idea, I wouldn’t have anything to write about.


As you are about to figure out, my title is not going to match the point of this article. But if you identified with the title as I did when I originally decided to write this 4 months ago, I strongly encourage you to keep reading.


Despite my desperate desire for the absence of Bible courses to enhance my spiritual life, my lack of conscious effort resulted in me still not having a consistent devotional time, still allowing my phone to distract me during chapel sessions, and still waiting around for God to increase my desire for Him.


Because that is really what it all boils down to: We want our relationships with Christ to be authentic, personal, and passionate, but we ignore the glaring truth that we have to put effort into a relationship worthy of those adjectives. We want to be able to say that we woke up as the sun rose before our 8 am and sat by the pond with our fair trade coffee and leather-bound, highlighted Bible, because we could think of nothing more important than spending our first 10-30-50 minutes of the day with our Savior. And isn’t that the truth? We just want to be able to say it. If I really look at my desire for my relationship with God, how much of it comes from a genuine desire as opposed to something that is simply an aesthetically pleasing relationship that can fit in a posted square frame? I have a feeling that much of my “authentic” desire comes more from the latter.


We expect a perfect relationship with God because He is perfect, neglecting that His bride is an imperfect mess. Logically speaking there has to be someone to blame, but it can never actually be me; that would imply that I actually have to actively change something to fix it. So I will just blame it on Dr.____ for his unfair quiz questions or on Cairn for requiring me to read every book of the Bible in a four year timespan. Because reading all 66 books over the course of four years is a ridiculous thought. It’s not like they have one year Bible reading plans.


(snarkiness of above comment directed towards myself or anyone else who fits in my boot)


We really need to strive to not see our Bible classes as spiritual hindrances. God has given us each the opportunity to sit under the teaching of the people He has placed in the Cairn faculty. We receive instruction of the Word of God for at least 3 hours a week in chapel in addition to the 3 hours of any other Bible courses. Are there flaws present in class structures or professors? Absolutely, but these redeemable flaws do not condemn the entire purpose of the requirement of these courses. We came to this school knowing that we would leave with “biblical-mindedness;” these courses are how we achieve that attribute.


So yes, the Bible is not a textbook. But instead of fighting against these courses, embrace them with an attitude of joy. The Bible is the only book that can be studied so intensely for four years of undergrad and not be exhausted; there is no other textbook with such endurance. And our spiritual lives are our own, and should have never been placed in the hands of the University in the first place. If you choose to not use these classes as personal devotion time, it is your choice. It is the choice I make all too often. But come this fall, the beginning of my senior year, I will be back to tackle the greatness of the Romans and Apologetics courses. And I am going into them knowing that the only way I will grow in my relationship with Christ is by making the effort to do so, not just by wishing it to happen. I encourage you to do the same.

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  1. Randy Whelchel
    April 25, 2017 at 1:45 pm

    My favorite line (sorry) “anyone else who fits in my boot”. I noted it was not “shoe” but a boot 😉
    And the point that somehow Evangelicals got the idea that growing in age also means they grow in maturity. The two may not be related. Growing old happens, maturity takes work it does not just “happen”

  2. Caleb Bishop
    May 13, 2017 at 1:47 am

    As you grow in knowledge, may you also grow in awe and worship. If at any point you do not feel convicted to respond to these powerful words as if they are from God, but instead they give the same response to your soul as a textbook, set aside your bible that you are reading for some regarded purpose of a man/woman called your professor. Start praying that the Spirit may start dwelling in your heart. For we know that Jesus is the Word, yet Jesus said that it be better that He left that the Spirit might come and as the Helper to teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that Jesus has said to you through everything in life including your professors (John 14:26).

    Too often we stand as the samaritan women at the well talking to Jesus wondering if He is really Jesus and Jesus keeps saying that I am and I want your belief. Too often we are like the disciples who mention to God, well my professor and my parents and church and chapel and friends say this about you, then Jesus/God asks in response, well who do you say and believe and think that I am. It will be a blessing for you the year after you graduate college. When you are more secluded from all the different voices, just as the Samaritan woman was secluded from her society of voices saying where to worship in jerusalem or on this mountain. She was secluded and now it was just here and Jesus, Jesus described to her John 4:23-24 The father is seeking out those true worshippers who worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. for God is Spirit and those who worship Him, must Worship Him in Spirit and Truth. If only after every quiz, almost like McAlack, there was a class only for worship setting aside the human made curriculum, if only in each class there was a single day dedicated to prayer, if only more fellowship happened in the classroom. then we would see more love and grow in learning how to worship God for what He has done. If only every quiz at the end of it, sometimes like our papers, had this (take 10mns of personal heart reflection and prayer, “how has these truths impacted your love of Jesus and worship of Him, How can the Spirit indwell your heart to convict you today, is there anything you need to go and do now to obey Him and stay in His fervent love”. Too often what is on our mind is more what the professors says is truthfully accurate for an academic grade, based as Henri Nouwen mentions as a competition of bests verses sometimes true learning. We become more disappointed in our grade then disappointed that the word did not convict us to worship more, to sing His praise, or walk away changed at heart to love more.

    I have personally found that sitting in the presence of His Spirit like sitting in the presence of a Friend has been very refreshing for me in this time. listening to a worship song that He is teaching me for a season. IHOP. reading over and over again for as long as my soul needs the same psalm or verse until it has sunk into my heart over a months period of time. Reading devotionals of those that are not only truth filled but passionately spirit and devotional worship filled. And watching those we admire around us in how they worship God and draw us to do the same in awe of Him.