Studying God's Word is not coming at it with a desire to find what you want to be there. It is approaching it with as little pre-suppositions as possible. Whenever there are multiple viewpoints on an issue, I try to read the best arguments for every side and study them out in light of Scripture in order to determine the truth. Sometimes the answer is not one or the other, but a combination of both. Sometimes the answer is neither, but something different. Other times, the answer will be one or the other. But if we never give the opposing viewpoints an honest ear, how can the Holy Spirit teach us His truths?
Very few books I read does the author present as honestly as possible the arguments of the opposing viewpoint. Most of the time the authors will attempt to vilify the opposing viewpoints, misrepresenting them and imposing his own conclusions drawn from assumptions onto those viewpoints. This is not helpful to anybody. Whether you agree or disagree with the opposing viewpoint, you need to present it honestly with all its strengths and weaknesses. Then hold it up against the light of Scripture to see what is true and what is not.
When I am studying God's Word, there are three simple rules I abide by:
- Context, context, context! You need to consider the immediate (surrounding verses), sectional (surrounding chapters), and/or canonical (other passages) contexts, as well as the language, cultural, geographical, and historical gaps (or contexts).
- Compare Scripture with Scripture! Even when expositing Scripture verse-by-verse, you need to consult the whole counsel of God's Word, otherwise isolating a passage to the book it is contained in can lead to some very bad interpretations.
- Wrestle with and submit to what the text actually says, and conform your beliefs accordingly. When you study Scripture openly and honestly, you are inevitably going to challenge some of your presently held beliefs. You need to be obedient to the Lord and conform your beliefs accordingly, regardless of your emotions. Anything less is disobedience, which is rebellion.
Regardless of what traditions we hold to, regardless of what system of theology we follow, regardless of what denomination we belong to, we must subject and compare all teachings with the Scriptures and hold the Scriptures as the only authority. I agree with most of Reformed theology, the doctrines of grace, and the five solas, but where they do not agree with Scripture, we need to reject such teachings and tradition and conform our beliefs to the Word of God. Reformed theology, the doctrines of grace, and the five solas are not infallible, inerrant, or inspired. Any true student of the Word, a Berean at heart, understands this and will subject these, and all systems of theology, to the scrutiny of the Word of God. How we were raised, what we were taught, and what we presently believe must conform to Scripture. Otherwise we are blind, ignorant, disobedient, rebellious fools.
"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16-17