You Can’t Just Read the Bible
by D.A. Carson
A layperson can read the Scriptures and understand the Scriptures. It is important to keep saying that. There is no esoteric guild of specialist priests who impose a certain kind of interpretation on the conscience of believers. And even in practical experience you sometimes see that, don’t you? Occasionally you’ll find an old woman or man who is semi-literate, and yet such people may have read their Bibles through again and again. Although they can’t self-consciously make all the correlations a sophisticated systematics can make, nevertheless, they have a kind of nose for error and heresy. Somebody comes along with some screwball idea, and they can immediately say about forty verses that make them question something or other.
You want to say even at a practical level, I want people to read and reread their Bibles. God himself says, “This is the one to whom I will look: he who is of a contrite spirit and who trembles at my word.” So, it really is important to say that before you start putting in footnotes about the importance of presuppositions and structures and all the rest.
We All Have Presuppositions – Good or Bad
But the converse danger of thinking you can do it all yourself from scratch is no less pernicious, and maybe more so. Take an analogy from science: no scientist has to start proving the existence of molecules every time he or she begins an experiment in chemistry. There are all kinds of givens based on what has already been thought through, discovered, or demonstrated before; but every once in a while, one of the scientific theories gets overturned because of new evidence. Nevertheless, any scientist brings an awful lot of presupposition to the next round of experimentation or the like.
Similarly, no one, absolutely no one, can read the Bible without some pre-understanding…