I consider myself blessed to have been surrounded by some really good influences when I was a teenager. Like many kids that age, the kids in our youth group were able to come up with lots of good questions. If we came across a difficult, or strange sounding scripture, we would ask what it meant. If we came across a scripture that seemed to challenge what we had been taught, we would ask about it. Sometimes we would play devil’s advocate, and argue for a different point of view, just to see if the beliefs we had been taught could withstand the scrutiny. We weren’t trying to be difficult or rebellious. We just wanted to figure things out on our own.
I can remember quite vividly a time when we were asking some challenging questions, and our Bible class teacher just kind of threw his hands up and very honestly admitted “I don’t know. I just don’t know. That is a really good question. Let’s just keep studying, and maybe in time we can figure it out.”
That stuck with me. There are times when humbly admitting “I don’t know” and “just keep studying” are some of the very best answers we can give. With that answer, he both admitted his own lack of omniscience, and pointed us back to the Bible for our answers.
As I grew older and began talking with others about their experiences growing up in the church, I learned that not all kids were blessed with that kind of humility. For many, when they asked questions about difficult passages, their Bible class teachers would just tell them that the passage was too difficult, and it wasn’t really that important anyway. Or if they asked a question that challenge a deeply held belief, the Bible class teacher would simply look up a cookie-cutter answer in a commentary, and then dismiss the question. Although these teachers were probably just trying to protect their students from drawing erroneous conclusions, the students walked away feeling like certain questions about the Bible were simply off limits.
There are many knowledgeable teachers, preachers, and commentary writers out there, and we can certainly learn a lot from other people’s perspectives. But the true object of Bible study is the biblical text itself. “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him” (Prov. 30:5). The Bible will often provoke questions, but the Bible will not mislead us. We need to be dedicated to understanding the text, all the text, no matter what questions it may raise, or what conclusions it may lead us to. Don’t allow anybody to protect you from the Bible.