In Dan Brown’s (in)famous The Da Vinci Code, Bishop Aringarosa is the intentional distraction. Throughout the story, he is carefully presented as a suspicious character, but in the end, we discover he is Brown’s pawn to tempt his readers toward wrong conclusions. The bishop was tricked by the real villain. However, perhaps it came as little surprise to those who know Italian, and their literary devices: aringa rossa is Italian for “red herring.”
A red herring is something that distracts, whether intentionally or not, from the real purpose and goal. It can be a logical fallacy or a literary device. Either way, a red herring misleads the audience, or the argument, by presenting itself as plausible, yet does not prove to be what it seems.
I find the same can be said of the common Bible-reading advice that we make sure to take away specific points of application every day. It sounds plausible, but in the end it can be an important distraction.
What Is “Application”?
The common advice is appealing because we all want to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22). Who wants to feel the failure or share in the shame of being pegged like one “who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror . . . and goes away and at once forgets what he was like” (James 1:23–24)? It would seem, at first glance, that Bible application is an essential spiritual discipline to consciously pursue every time we encounter God’s Word—but that depends on how we define “application.”
The key question we need to answer is what effect should regular Bible intake have on our hearts and lives—and how does it happen?