Formational And Informational Reading: A Challenge In Biblical Research

Blasius Abin

Abstract


The need for God is not just a wish to know about Him, but rather a quest to encounter Him, where people can experience and feel the divine. Prayer is one way to encounter God, and studying His words is another part of encountering Him. Both lie at the heart of spiritual formation. Most especially, those who study theology, tend to connote the study of God’s words with scholarly examination of a text. To this analytical method, the rational and cognitive dynamics of human being go into full operation to analyze, critique, reorganize, synthesize, and digest the text they find appropriate to human agenda. In this sense many students, teachers, and church members delve into what they call exegesis. They perceive the text as an object of research and do not allow God to speak to the researchers out of the text. Exegesis is the process of discerning the meaning of the text by examining the words, context, and historical background. Although this process is not the whole, intellectual curiosity has nothing inherently wrong with it. The problem is, by being overbalanced in the cognitive direction, the readers shift everything through the cognitive process of researcher’s mind while thinking that this is proper. This mood of method is called informative study of the Bible.
The study of God’s words must move far beyond mere curiosity and intellectual knowledge. Had more people fixed in their minds a desire to know God and His will in their lives, the more spiritually productive and formative their study would have become. To this general mode of reading, readers allow the passage to open to human being in its deeper dimensions. It means the text itself becomes the subject of reading and human being serve as the object shaped by the text. This method is known as a formative study of the Bible. In summary, readers have a certain level of information about biblical passage such as original context of the text or historical data of a text. There must be a constant interplay between the informational and formational modes of reading. Transformation by God’s words is the ultimate goal of scriptural reading.

References


For the scholarly works on this topic, see Ben C. Ollenburger, Elmer A. Martens, and Gerhard F. Hasel, eds, The Flowering of Old Testament Theology: A Reader in Twentieth-Century Old Testament

Theology, 1930-1990 (Winonal Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 1992), 453; Robert W. Moberly, The Bible, Theology, and Faith (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 457; John Goldingay, Theological Diversity and the Authority of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 237.

James Barr, The Concept of Biblical Theology: An Old Testament Perspective (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1999), 4.

For the basic assumptions of the historical-critical approach to Scripture, see Allen D. Verhey, “The Use of Scripture in Moral Argument: A Case Study of Walter Rauschenbusch,” PhD Dissertation (Yale University: University Microfilm, 1975), 221, 222. Cited by L. W. Bilkes, Theological Ethics and Holly Scripture (Neerlandia, Alberta: Inheritance Publications, 1997), 11, 12.

See for example, Rudolf Bultmann, Faith and Understanding, ed. R. W. Funk (New York: Harper & Raw, 1969; Cyrus I. Scofield, Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth: Ten Outline Studies of the More Important Divisions of Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1965).

Frank M. Hasel, “Presuppositions in the Interpretation of Scripture,” in Understanding Scripture: An Adventist Approach, BRI vol. 1 (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 2006), 30-32.

Peter A. Angeles, “Doubt” in Dictionary of Philosophy (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1981), 65, 66.

M. Robert Mulholland, Jr, The Power of Scripture in Spiritual Formation: Shaped by the Word (Nashville: Upper Room Books, 2006), 61.

Frank M. Hasel, “Presupposition in the Interpretation of Scripture” in Understanding Scripture: An Adventist Approach, ed. Geore W. Reid, Biblical Research Institute Studies, vo. 1 (Silver Spring, MD, 2006), 28, 29.

Cf. Gerhard F. Hasel, Understanding the Living Word of God (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1980), 77, 78.

M. Robert Mulholland, Jr,, The Power of Scripture in Spiritual Formation: Shaped by the Word (Nashville: Upper Room Books, 2006), 61.

Peter A. Angeles, “Doubt” in Dictionary of Philosophy (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1981), 65, 66.

John, Baldwin, “Faith, Reason, and the Holy Spirit in Heremeneutics,” in Understanding Scripture: An Adventist Approach, ed. Geore W. Reid, Biblical Research Institute Studies, vo. 1 (Silver Spring, MD, 2006), 17.

Ganoune Diop, “Inner-biblical Interpretation: Reading the Scriptures Inter-textually” in Understanding Scripture: Adventist Approach, ed. George W. Reid, BRI (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association), 148, 149


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