My dear Globdrop,
You “regret to inform me” that your patient’s small group has laid down their forks, spoons, and gossip (momentarily) and have begun to read the Enemy’s book more consistently. Before you knew it, they began to trade meal time for “Bible time” and this makes you quiver, does it? Nephew, it was my suggestion.
You seem to forget that we never fear a man just because he reads a Bible. Some of our most useful vermin, having dedicated their lives to it, are snuggly tenured in religious departments across the country. Remember, we do not mind the Bible hobbyist, the hypocrite, and the text-twister. All goes awry, however, when the humans understand the Enemy’s word, treasure it, believe it, obey it, and are led through it to him.
Our war efforts are hindered not only by allowing real soldiers to wield his book but also by keeping the toy soldiers from playing with it. Every week, we get the privilege of witnessing the group as they frolic about with the very blade of our Adversary. And as they slash each other, they do our work for us. No, my dear Globdrop, the solution is not to shut down such Bible studies, but rather, to join them. And after joining them, to lead them.
HOW TO DESTROY ANY BIBLE STUDY
Nephew, as you seek to lead your first study, the greatest mistake you can make is to let them read Scripture unsupervised — we risk losing them every time the book is open. That invites their Ghost to do his dreadful work. Never be lax on this point.
Now although the Enemy’s Son insults us — calling us birds in his parable — we do love to devour his word from their hearts. But this can be quite troublesome as it usually requires some weeks’ labor with only moderate returns. It remains far easier to prevent his word from ever truly being planted in them to begin with. This we can deliciously do in their — excuse me, our — Bible studies.
To this end, I now instruct you.
1. ASK GREAT QUESTIONS.
Convince them that the proper question for all Bible study is either: “How do you feel about the text? What did you get out of it?” Or, our favorite: “What does the text mean to you?” Oh, I nearly fall from my seat waiting to hear their answers! Joanne feels like the Enemy was a tad harsh with his mother at that wedding. And look, Darrin is getting much out of the text! No doubt he is receiving a wonderful sense of annoyance from our idea that Paul was a bit of a sexist in his letter to young Timothy. And to James, “God is love” means that it is of little consequence whether or not he stops sleeping with his girlfriend.
Let them commune with their feelings and opinions while the Enemy’s book lies open on their laps. Make the apostles’ teaching the occasion to tell stories about how tough their week has been or to soapbox about whatever makes them most passionate. Never let them be confronted with the words of Moses, Isaiah, Paul, John, Peter, or, through them all, the Enemy himself.
2. CONVINCE THEM THAT THERE ARE NO WRONG THOUGHTS ABOUT A VERSE.
When someone does speak up about what they think the author meant, never let it be questioned. Baptize all interpretations as equal. One of my subjects articulated it well just the other day when, unable to bear the momentary silence, she blurted out, “Guys, this is a safe place to share your thoughts on the passage. There are no wrong answers here.” Precisely.
When all thoughts count, all opinions (however ridiculous) matter, when they are cut off from the accurate interpretations handed down from the past, they become a church unto themselves constituted by that emotional fragility (pride) that will make correcting another’s thoughts higher treason than heresy. Globdrop, when all interpretations are correct, none truly is.
3. KEEP THE BIBLE STUDY MERELY THAT: A STUDY.
Bring the Enemy’s word out to be dissected, examined, and (if at all possible) critiqued — but make sure to divide the three strands. They must never read devotionally, theologically, and ethically all together. Keep them to one lane. If your man tends towards a theological bent, give him a heavy head, a shriveled heart, and uncalloused hands. Make him the first to debate, the last to worship, and the first to excuse himself from service.
If devotional, make him sentimental but shallow in his understanding and ignorant to any further application. Let him be deeply affected by his personal devotions but never enough to think too hard or to take the Enemy’s commands too seriously.
And finally, if ethically inclined, let him build his social-justice house without any real love for the Enemy. Let him imagine that he does wonders to advance great causes in the world, all while leaving behind the most significant command: love the Enemy with his all. And his highest mission: Make disciples of all nations. “Lord, Lord did we not . . . ” is one of the most satisfying refrains for our Father Below to overhear just before the patients are placed before us for good.
4. CAUSE THEM TO LOVE THE PROMISES WHILE IGNORING THE COMMANDS AND WARNINGS.
Let them tell each other indiscriminately: God will never fail you! You are his child! God will always be there for you! God has forgiven you and will continue to do so with every failure, no matter what! (Now, of course, do not let the real children believe this.)
Hand out divine promises to all like free popsicles. While the adulterer licks on his Grace-Grape freezie and the unrepentant drunkard slurps on Strawberry Steadfast-Love, never let them realize the fatal error. Cause them to skip over those terrible themes like repentance, new birth, killing sin, and the Enemy’s wrath when the group inevitably wanders upon them in the text. Let them smile at the warnings and filter every uncomfortable text through “Love,” all the while reserving the conditions for other people. Presumption, dear nephew, presumption.
5. LEAD THEM ANYWHERE BUT TO THE ENEMY HIMSELF.
Never slack on this point. If you recall stories from your great-grandfather, Lord Barkmare, the Pharisees had terrific Bible studies until the Enemy almost spoiled things: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life” (John 5:39–40).
Let the mice free in the labyrinth of theology, current events, or ethics but never let them adore him, follow him, treasure him, go to him and find life. All it takes is one sight and your patient may be lost forever.
So, Globdrop, encourage your prey to bring his Bible this week — we will be reading Philippians 4:13 through the lens of human athletic achievement. But never lose sight of your man. Watch whether yours is the sort who will bleed for it, die for it, storm our gates with it. If he seems to be such a man, tempt him to hit the snooze button in the mornings, fill up his calendar in the evenings, and then continue to gently guide him through our midweek, delightful group Bible study.
Your Expectant Uncle,
Greg Morse is a staff writer for Desiring God and graduate of Bethlehem College & Seminary. He and his wife, Abigail, live in St. Paul, Minnesota.