I suppose I’m an unlikely voice to be sounding a warning about reading and studying the Bible. After all, I’ve just taken a new job at a Bible college and seminary. Beyond that, for the last 25 years I repeatedly challenged the people I pastored to get into God’s Word on a daily basis and deeper level.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some risks involved. In fact, there is a danger that increases in proportion to the time and effort you invest in Scripture. The more familiar you get, the more at risk you become.
What’s the danger, you ask? A theology professor from Princeton, B.B. Warfield, explained it well back in 1911 when he wrote these words to his students:
“…the great danger of the theological student lies precisely in his constant contact with divine things. They may come to seem common to him because they are customary. . . . The words which tell you of God’s terrible majesty or of his glorious goodness may come to be mere words to you—Hebrew and Greek words, with etymologies, inflections and connections in sentences. The reasonings which establish to you the mysteries of his saving activities may come to be to you mere logical paradigms, with premises and conclusions, fitly framed, no doubt, and triumphantly cogent, but with no further significance to you than their formal logical conclusiveness. . . . It is all in danger of becoming common to you! God forgive you, you are in danger of becoming weary of God.”
So how do we protect ourselves from this danger? Not by reading and studying less. But by making sure we move from reading about God to responding to Him. By remembering we are not dissecting a dusty, ancient text but hearing the very words of God—living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). By opening the Bible with the mind of a learner and the heart of a lover. By seeking transformation not just information.
And if we are pastors or theological students, we protect ourselves by never losing sight of the privilege we have to devote ourselves to serious study of Scripture. As Warfield reminded his seminary students, “Think of what your privilege is when your greatest danger is that the great things of religion may become common to you. The very atmosphere of your life is these things; you breathe them in at every pore; they surround you, encompass you, press in upon you from every side.”
Our great danger is actually a great privilege. Remember that next time you open your Bible.