To know God, one must know His word. By his Word, God reveals his plan and his personality. That summarization alone elevates the discipline studying Scripture to a position of prominence within the Christian life. Despite recognizing the truth of that principle, is our time in the Word that often gets pushed aside each day for more ‘important’ to-do’s. I suspect that part of the reason for that is that the value of Scripture reading and study is negated by our casual engagement with the Word. What if we could get more out of our time studying Scripture? Perhaps a more engaging study would cause us to be more engaged.
Through the years, one methodology of study repeatedly given praise is the Feynman Technique. We must first be clear and recognize that a methodology does not make a Bible study. What makes our engagement with Scripture unique is that the goal is not mere head knowledge, but a greater heart alignment to our Lord. This means that the way in which we pursue the Word is different than we would pursue any other knowledge. Therefore, my goal here is not to teach you a method of study, but instead to pull some key principles from a method that may add value to our study of Scripture.
The Feynman method of study is a fairly uncomplicated process that is driven by learning the core concepts very well. Therefore, the following key steps should appear very basic, but their implementation should challenge you to grow. Step one is to simply choose a concept and start studying it. For us that means simply choosing a book of the Bible to begin our study. With that complete, the next step is to study as though you will be teaching others. For parents, a good exercise is to think of your study as though you are going to be utilizing it to teach your children. As you move through the study, write an explanation of what you are studying. That explanation should be simple enough that others can easily understand it but at the same time capture all of the core elements. Because Scripture is an organized book, this may mean that the content of your explanation is driven by a chapter or specific passage, and not necessarily the whole book (although at the end of the study of the book, it would be good to summarize and explain what it teaches in a similar way: a simple explanation that captures the core elements of the entire book). Having written a simple summary, the next step may seem a waste, but it is necessary: identify your knowledge gaps. What this means is identify those areas that you may not understand very well. Joe Carter notes that the areas of your summarization which appear lengthy or confusing are likely the areas that are not well understood. Therefore, focus on those particular aspects specifically, studying in order to refine your knowledge of them. Perhaps a key word or phrase, a description, or some other aspect that is not understood in the passage. Then look into it deeper utilizing biblical resources. Upon understanding better, continue to simplify your summarization/description, add in some examples (such as personal stories or analogies) that may be useful if you were teaching them to someone else.
There are two refinements that need to be made to this process. The first is distinctively Christian: Prayer. Pray throughout your study, both for God’s guidance and thankfulness for His faithfulness to teach. The second aspect, while not distinctively Christian, is especially important when looking into Scripture: application. The Word oF God should not merely be read as a tool to garner more knowledge but should be something the Lord uses to transform us into his image. Therefore, as you summarize the concepts, noting their indication and interpretation, add applications.
The key to a good Bible study is to adapt it to your style of learning. Therefore, pick up points from others on how they study. But feel free to use and discard according to what works for you (I am, of course, talking about how you study, not the interpretation of what you study). If the Feynman Method is something that can be profitable for your study, then it is worth adopting. Regardless though, there are several key principles that all of us should learn:
- Do not be content with minimal understanding: While the Bible is so keyword with life-changing words and concepts and it will be impossible to know it all, neither should we be content with mere basics. When something is critical to understanding a passage, then do not be content with minimal understanding. Instead, invest the effort necessary to understand it well enough that you could teach another).
- Do not be too proud: Have the freedom to acknowledge that you do not always understand it all. Not only is this humility an admirable characteristic, but it will cause more growth as you seek to learn what you don’t know.
- Study, summarize, simplify, share: The process of learning anything should follow this basic pattern. Study the material. Then summarize it in such a way that others could also understand it. Ongoing with this summarization is the need to simplify your summarization. Refined it to the most key elements and then when that is done, share it with others. If you can’t teach it, you probably don’t understand it. So sharing aides both your understanding and someone else’s while creating a bond between the two of you.
Perhaps there are more principles to be determined, but these are key because they capture the basics of learning and can be applied directly to our study of Scripture now.
There is an interesting cycle that takes root. The more one engages in the Bible, the more that person will get from the Word. At the same time, the more one gets out of the Word, the more one is motivated to engage it. I am a firm believer that you will only get out of your Bible study what you put into it (with the Holy Spirit’s help of course). Therefore, because Scripture is vital to our everyday existence, it is vital that we use our existence to engage it.
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