Sunday, October 23, 2011

Biblical Interpretation Course (July - Oct 2011)

It's been over a year since I last wrote and updated my blog. Thanks to Bro Casey (*curtsies*) from my Biblical Interpretation course, that I am now finally writing SOMETHING on my blog. Under the good influence and encouragement of our dear friend, D, Gerald and I decided to take the step of faith to sign up for a course in AGBC (Assemblies of God Bible College) - BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION. We thought it was good and necessary for us to learn how to interpret the bible correctly, as we desire to serve God more effectively in His Kingdom and leading His people. I remember Gerald & I had this conversation when we were on holiday in Perth in May this year and we discussed about taking up this course. We felt that in this day and age it is not the most straightforward thing in understanding the bible holistically; more so, to apply it correctly in our lives and in helping others walk closer to God. Despite the challenge of having to commit one night per week to attend class (and not forgetting doing homework), we decided to take the leap. It helped that 6 of us friends signed up together, and that was the beginning of a fun course.

This blog entry is our final homework to blog about our learning experience. This entry is a reflection of 5 interesting ideas/concepts/practices that I have gleaned through this class-every aspect of it.

1. Interpreting the bible is tough work! With all the different tools to help us to interpret God's Word, it is really not how we thought it was done before attending this class. There are so many factors that can affect the way we interpret God's Word! There is the Historical context, the Literary Context, questions of content, the World of the text, the World of the reader, Biblical Narratives, the Genres, etc. It seemed to me that to interpret correctly, we need to employ all these tools to get a clearer and more accurate interpretation of the particular passage we are studying.

Having gone through this course, my challenge is really to put in hard work (though I must qualify that it is easier said than done) to read God's Word in its rightful manner, and not just read it at face value. (Then again, we also learnt that sometimes, we have to take the word at its face-value). Applying the different tools of interpretation will help me to expound on a passage better for better understanding, and to teach and share better with others.

2. Diagramming. I love diagramming! I felt it was a practical and one of the more comprehensive way of de-constructing a passage, and it was a good way to see the overview and thrust of the passage. Of course, not forgetting "fanboys"- Conjunctions.

After doing diagramming, the main thrust of a passage can be so different from what we thought it to be in the beginning, and this may totally swing the main message from what it is actually supposed to be. I remember of an example shown, of the points of a sermon from a passage which was so different from what it was supposed to be, after diagramming. It affirmed that as leaders or teachers, God will hold us accountable for what we teach, so we have to do our best in presenting the whole and proper truth of God's word.

3. Many people are misled and misinterpreting the bible. From the many examples shared by Bro Casey, for example, Phil 4:13, 2 Kings 2:9, I learnt that it is so important to know the context and the world of the text. I learnt also, how to look at a passage to see if the principle has to do with moral absolutes and cultural relevance. Many people, even myself, are reading God's Word and applying it incorrectly, knowingly or unknowingly. It's scary that many times, we read God's Word according to what we want to hear and interpret. I feel the challenge is to apply what we have learnt in Biblical Interpretation to our reading of the Word, and to keep practising so it becomes a filter in us to interpret the Word as best as we know how. I remember Bro Casey shared an example of the song that he used to sing about "Cover me, Lord"or something, and how we sing songs that are even incorrectly interpreted. It's very subtle (and this is the scariest part), that wrong interpretations and applications of the Word may cause us to have wrong concepts and teach wrong things to God's people.

I want to be someone who learns and understands as whole a truth of the bible as possible, so I can know God better and to teach others better. I also want to apply God's truth correctly and appropriately so that I do not digress from the truth, even that 1 degree.

4. 1 Thess 4:3-8. This passage is quite hard to forget. Our homework was all on this passage. But what struck me, what our final CGP, which required us to think of how we can contextualize this passage to our world and culture today, and I learnt that the world then, is somewhat similar to our world today.

I am even more convinced that God's principles, though sometimes deemed old-fashioned, prudish, simple, even idealistic, is still applicable and works in our world today. Our God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow indeed. Through the different homework exploring different aspects of this passage, it helped to really see this passage as what was important rather than what we thought, or seemed important. It is indeed God's will that we be sanctified, to live a life of holiness, by not indulging in sexual immorality but to lead pure lives.

5. Last but not least, the fellowship among the saints was unforgettable. Thank you, Bro Casey for making us work in groups. We had good times sharing our lives and testimonies with one another. It was heartwarming to see my group being so willing to help one another, and putting in their best efforts to help get the work done. What touched me was the willingness to cover one of our group mates, J, when she was going through a difficult time in her family. Everyone was so understanding, and everyone chipped in to relief her work. But J was also amazing, as we saw her heart of wanting to contribute in any way she could, even in the midst of her family situation. Thanks, Fiery Five. You guys made the course great fun!

God indeed put us in communities for us to learn, grow and love. I learnt to get to know people for who they are, as every face tells a story indeed.

This course has been very beneficial. Though it was challenging doing the homework and all, it was worth it, as we learnt more through our homework. Thank God for Bro Casey who taught with passion and with great wisdom. Kudos to you, teacher!

My personal conclusion after going through this class, is that, we can never fully and completely interpret the bible, because we only know in part. I guess that is why Jesus is the Author and Perfector of our faith, and we live out our faith as best as we know how. I know God is most pleased when we live out our faith and live out His Word. Learning the Word in a deeper way helps me then, to live out my life as a pleasing sacrifice, holy and acceptable to Him. I know this is Eternal Life and this is what pleases Him.

(Of course, I do feel a bit smarter after this class, haha!)


Anonymous said...

I knew that the diagramming would surface! You're just so good at it!

Couldn't agree more about knowing what we're believing and hence the effort taken to understand what we know.

Thanks for the Nespresso and chwee kueh!


Anonymous said...

Hi Emma,

Ah.. we should all be old-fashioned, prudish, simple, even idealistic for our God, yes? hee. . . Just like our group presentation, man, I still get the chills whenever the recall strikes me! hahaha... but thoroughly enjoyed the whole night's entertainment. A wonderful way to end all the assignments. Thanks Em, for your care and prayers. For me this term, it's not the studies but the friends I made that truly etched itself into my memories. You guys really personified the meaning of brothers and sisters in the house of God. Thanks much.

cocoheng said...

I still can't believe you love diagramming!!! but i know it's helpful!haha, like the part about God's principles that transcend through the ages...very true indeed. God is so modern and up to date....

Zoe said...

It was hilarious the way you descibed conjunctions as 'fanboys'.. Indeed diagramming was fun even though it looked so tedious and brain cells consuming when Sis Davina was teaching us. I was struggling with which word is the coordinating conjunctions, which word is the subordinating conjunctions and even which word is the verb! I felt as if I was being confronted by the fear of English Language yet again. I used to be terrified by the complicated grammar of the English Language when I was in primary school. But doing it as a group, it wasn't so stressful. At least I could have people to check with if I wasn't sure. Yup! Diagramming was fun!

Eric.Lim said...

Hi Emma,

So well sum! You are the Queen of Diagramming, lol! It has been a pleasure working with you and you are such a good host at your place. Hope to see you next semester. God bless you heaps! Eric

Rev Casey n Davina Ng said...

Interesting reflection. Keep up your new hobby --diagramming!