A GPS for the Bible?

When you travel, how much do you rely on your GPS? In your car? In your phone?

We use it often. I’ve tracked taxis. I’ve charted walking paths in cities to a restaurant or other destination.

And of course we rely on it when driving somewhere. Confidence that we are on the right path is priceless. Having an estimated time of arrival helps with planning.

But we have discovered that slavishly following the GPS can lead to lost time or even the wrong path. We were just in Naperville, IL heading back to Ohio. I punched in the street address. It said turn right. I said, “Huh?” Then it said you will reach your destination in 35 minutes. Admittedly I drive fast. But I’m not paring 4+ hours off a trip. Oops, the GPS defaulted to the closest city with my street address–Joliet.

Once I was waiting for my wife to pick me up at an airport while she was enroute from another location. She was about 1.5 hours late. I told her that regardless of what the GPS might say, to make sure she got on Interstate 77. Well, the GPS routed her over the Appalachians to Interstate 75 in order to avoid tolls. It wasn’t set up well. She went way out of her way.

I’ve seen a similar situation with Bible study. We may come to it with pre-formed opinions. We just read our opinions into the words.We lose that “Ah, ha” moment when a new truth sinks into our awareness.

Or, perhaps we choose the wrong GPS.

I remember when that point came home to me. About 45 years ago I read a popular Christian book. It had a few obvious flaws of logic, but the overall theme seemed sound. And everyone around me thought it was great.

Then I read the author’s next work–a study of the letter to the Hebrews. I started the book, but something seemed wrong. I went back to the beginning and opened to that letter reading the translation of the Bible I used at the time (and probably comparing through an 8-translation Bible I have) along with the book. I just kept muttering, “Where did he get that?”

I put the book back on the book shelf and never read that author again. He lost his place as my GPS.

I read lots of scholars and theologians. But I read them in light of the Bible itself. I try to stay true to many of the earliest students–Augustine, Jerome, the Desert Fathers, and others.

A GPS is a good thing; but only if used wisely.

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