The Bible and the Institute: On Homework and Devotionals

by Connor Ham, guest writer

There is an old cliché here at Moody that warns, “Do not let the Bible become a textbook.” There is a lot of merit to this proverb. It is true for most of us. We tend to get caught up in college life and forget the sanctity of the Book that we gather here to study. If we are not careful, we can begin to treat Scripture as another source to cite or a lengthy reading assignment to skim through.

The antidote to this problem, I have been told, is simple: have your own personal quiet time every day apart from your studies. I remember hearing this advice frequently my freshman year, particularly because of Old Testament and New Testament Survey. The claim was if I only read the Bible when it was assigned to me for class, it will become nothing more than a textbook. I was therefore told that I needed a “personal devo” time every day, separate from my homework, to break away from academic rigor and just enjoy the word of God for what it is.

I would like to challenge this way of thinking. I do not see this piece of advice as a solution to the problem, but a retreat from it. Instead of confronting the spirit of indifference that can manifest itself at times when we read the Bible as part of a course, this strategy urges students to accept that the Bible is a textbook if it is connected to a class. Therefore, we need another dose of it if we are to be spiritually nourished. But should we concede to denature the Word of God simply because professors require that we read it for their courses? Imagine if a professor said that we had to go to church to pass the class. Would we respond by attending two services, one to meet the course requirement and the other for corporate worship? Of course not! So why do we do this for the Bible?

I am not suggesting that extra Bible reading is bad. Rather, if the reason we are reading more is because the time we spent in the Word for a class “did not count,” we have effectively given a syllabus the ability to de-inspire Scripture.

The fact is that college is hard work. Many students feel as though their class schedules, work schedules, relationships, homework, PCMs, and sleep are too much to balance as it is. So here is my suggestion and you can take it for what it is worth. Do not try to juggle all the responsibilities you already have and then add yet another one: extra Bible reading every day (unless you genuinely want to, then go for it). Rather, prepare your heart for your homework.

If you have to read 10 chapters of Genesis tonight to keep up with your OT reading, make this an occasion to rejoice. You are being assigned something that countless believers before our time could only dream of doing: reading God’s Word for yourself. It is easy to forget in our post-printing press, post-Reformation church context that we are an incredibly privileged people. Throughout most of the Bible’s history, its subscribers have been unable to pick it up and read it for themselves because of illiteracy, or because they were too poor to have a manuscript of their own, or both. We have an abundance of fine English translations at our fingertips, and even the opportunity to learn Greek and Hebrew if we so desire.

Here is a challenge for myself this year that I encourage you to take with me: I want to come humbly before the Bible, acknowledging that it contains the written revelation of the living God, and I want to glean from it the truth and wisdom that await me therein. Will the Bible be a required text for some of my classes this semester? Of course. This is Moody Bible Institute. But whether the Bible becomes a mere “textbook” depends on my own disposition when I study it. With these things in mind, I have high hopes for what this year has in store. God bless.

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