Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Imagination Driven Bible Study?

Stage Setting-Seeker Sensitive National Community Church highlights Rick Warren's Bible "study" methods from his book, Twelve Ways You Can Unlock God's Word...

“With the Biographical Method of Bible Study you select a biblical person and research the Scriptures to study his or her life and character. You try to become thoroughly acquainted with that person’s inner life and find out what made it a spiritual success or failure. Ask God to help you think and feel with him or her so that your study becomes a life-changing experience.”

"Use your sanctified imagination to get inside his/her mind and see how he/she thinks, feels, and responds to circumstances."

"Stay away from books/commentaries written about biblical figures until you have exhausted every Bible reference about that person and drawn your own insights from Scripture."

Editor's note: Given Rick Warren's track record for twisting scripture, one should first consider sitting under a Bible-believing pastor-teacher who would provide proper instruction on how to study the Bible.


  1. I checked out the link to the blog that talks about this study. What made me uneasy is the words that said the Bible is first and foremost a story. Does that bother anybody else? He should be saying that God's word is first and foremost God's inspired word. I hear this reference to God's word being a book of just stories, and I am afraid that this idea is being promoted to today's youth. When we downplay the inspired word of God, we leave ourselves open to any teaching, and negate who God really is.

  2. Hey- I help lead our small group ministry at NCC, and I wanted to jump in really quickly here and try to clarify what we are and are not saying in this particular post.

    First, Sarah Owen, the author of the post about biographical study, is one of our most gifted inductive Bible study teachers. The comment about not checking commentaries first is to uphold sola scriptura-- that people should read the Bible first for themselves, seeking to understand through study and the illumination of the Holy Spirit. And then look at commentaries later, after they have studied it for themselves.

    Secondly, on the topic of sanctified imagination. We pull that from the Psalmist who encourages us to "meditate" on Scripture and the principles that St. Ignatius taught his disciples for implementing that process. God has blessed us with creative, imaginative minds. We don't imagine away His precepts or dilute His truth, but there is something to be learned from placing ourselves in the stories we read in his word. For example, when I approach communion, I contemplate Christ’s passion as He walks the road to the cross. I “hear” the angry mobs shouting for His crucifixion and wonder if I had lived in Jerusalem at that time, would I have been one of them? I “see” His body broken for me and am flooded with humility and gratitude for His gift of grace.

    Regarding the comment that the Bible is first and foremost a story. We are not in any way saying that it is only story. And we wholeheartedly embrace the inspiration and infallibility of Scripture. This blog is written for our internal NCC leadership who have already signed a leadership covenant agreeing to that doctrine. So we don't feel the need to re-state what is already a "given" to our leadership team.

    I do not intend this comment to be a defense of our blog or of Rick Warren, but merely to suggest that perhaps we can be diligent students of God’s Word and still employ the creative imaginations He has given us. And although we may disagree on the “sanctified imagination” concept and other issues, I am glad that we are united in our passion for seeing people come to know and claim God’s truths for themselves.

    Sorry-- this is really long! :)

  3. Heather Z.,

    Please know that those of us who work together at Christian Research Net, such as the author of this post here at Watcher's Lamp, are well aware what you are and are not saying.

    With all due respect the contemplative aspect of "imagination" becomes crystal clear when you speak of "meditation." The Hebrew concept of meditation had zero to do with contemplative spirituality.

    The Psalmists refer to meditating as in seeking God for the proper meaning of the text of Scripture, as in ruminating upon, thinking about and memorizing the Bible. Remember these people often memorized tremendous amounts of the texts of Scripture because they didn't have their own "Bibles."

    And the man-pleasing result of this imaginative "meditation" is also clearly seen in the Reformation-reversing ecumenical appeal to apostate Roman Catholics, so-called "saints" like Ignatius.

    No, better we meditate on the absolute truth that the "imagination" of our heart is desperately flawed (e.g. Proverbs 14:12; Jeremiah 17:9) and we simply must "Test everything" (1 Thessalonians 5:21) by Scripture.

    This we have done and the result is we have written this post in prayerful hopes that people like you will repent of this centered of the self semi-pelagian new evangelical emerging rebellion against the Bible.


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