Ten creative steps to help sequential, reductive, computational-challenged types understand the Bible to the fullest.
No matter how hard I try, I can’t get into Bible arcing.
What is Bible arcing? It’s the graphical tool used to determine and document the flow of thought in biblical texts.
It’s a hot item in Reformed circles. But I just can’t do it.
I just can’t do it.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m down with Bible arcers when it comes to dissecting text into propositions and drawing out connections between it all.
That’s cool. I love it.
But when they launch into 18 distinct relationships based on classification, definitions, comparisons and positive-negative statements…
My minimalist, right-leaning brain just aborts.
Revenge of the Right Brain
So, does that mean my future as an armchair Bible scholar is dead? Does that mean I’ll never be prepared for tough theological questions? I won’t see relationships between texts? Can’t wrestle with the original meaning of the author?
Not at all. There are more ways than one to skin a cat, my friend.
So, in case other sequential, reductive, computational-challenged types are having trouble studying their Bible to the fullest, these ten little steps will help.
1. Read the same 5-8 chapters a day for 30 days.
For instance, I’m reading Mark 1-8 everyday this month. Next month I’ll read Mark 9-16.
2. Start to highlight keywords in texts.
About day 3 or 4, I start to see words repeated. I draw circles, squares, triangles or mangled rectangles around those words.
3. Color code important words.
Around day 10, I break out the colored pencils–colors like Espresso Binge and Washout–and color in the shapes. This way I can start picking up patterns.
4. Create symbols.
There are about 2 miracles per chapter in Mark 1-8. So, out in the margins, I draw a little cluster of grapes to mean miracle. Any mention of the Spirit, a little flame. Get it?
5. Identify key verses for each chapter.
Midway through the month I start thinking about the key verse for each chapter. I put a * in the margin to mark possible candidates.
6. Identify keywords for each chapter.
Any time after day 20, I pencil in the keywords for each chapter out in the margins.
7. Write paragraph summaries.
At the end of the month, I work through each chapter paragraph and write a one sentence summary. I use NASB, so it’s broken up into meaningful paragraphs. Hard work, I know. But summarizing helps me think through each paragraph and prepare for the next step.
8. Write a chapter theme.
This is not a summary. This is a description of what the chapter is about. Big difference. For instance, in John 15 Jesus tells a parable about vines and branches. The theme, however, is about the relationship of believers to Christ and the world.
9. Create an At-a-Glance sheet.
It’s always good to collect all your notes you’ve written in the margin and document in one place. Here’s the At-a-Glance template I use.
10. Read 10-20 chapters from the Old Testament every Sunday.
Right now I’m working through the OT…backwards. On January 4, 2009, I read Malachi. On January 11, I read Zechariah. You get the picture. Bottom line: Don’t neglect the Old Testament.
You could always go a step further and simply memorize a chapter. Or book. Check out these 18 memory tricks if you need help.
It’ll take you about 3 years to get through the entire New Testament. Just depends on your pace.
But no bones about it: Whether you arc or follow these ten high-concept steps…you still have to work.
And don’t get frustrated if you fall behind. [Take it from me: I’m about 10 books behind in my OT reading.] Either pick up where you left off or pick up where you should be. Just read.
What Do You Think?
What creative ways do you use to absorb more of the Bible and build your biblical muscles? Do you arc? Has it improved your understanding of the Bible? Let me know what you think.
Look forward to hearing from you.