In some ways, BSF follows the model of the “inductive Bible study” that was so popular in the eighties and nineties and which was the bread and butter of groups like InterVarsity, Campus Crusade and Navigators. This constructs the Bible study such that one reads the text and only the text to glean from it scriptural and spiritual insights. Probably, if one used that method in concert with other kinds of study, it would provide a fruitful avenue of spiritual growth.
But that is the problem.
Most protestant evangelical Christians that I know do not do that. They rely on the inductive study alone for spiritual growth, eschewing any commentaries by those that have studied the text in its original language and who have paid attention to word usage, cultural norms, literature type and the range of possible textual interpretations based on those variables. This can, and often does, result in a flat view of scripture that is lacking in symbolic richness and depth. Worse, it can lead to a skewed interpretation of scripture that derives only from the flat text.
One of the by-products of this practice is the tendency toward distrusting and rejecting any possible scientific conclusions that do not appear to comport with the face-value reading of the text. Enter young earth creationism, a reading of scripture that, two hundred years ago, would have seemed very strange to the average Christian.
Twice, my BSF leader used the term “evolutionist” when he really meant “atheist.” During discussion, another man, who is well-meaning, pleasant and very intelligent, referred to the “evolution religion” as though it were fact. I am quite convinced neither one of them would be able to spot evolution on a map but it sure sounds good to take a swipe at those mean, evil atheists.
Coming away from BSF last night, I had two main thoughts:
- That, for all of its energy and exuberance, the modern protestant fundamentalist evangelical mindset can be very draining and wearing in its simplicity and one-dimensionality.
- If the leaders of BSF ever found this blog, they wouldn't even pay my bus fare out of there.
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