I remember as a child reading numerous books in the Choose Your Own Adventure Series. This collection of books has a variety of options for the reader. At certain points, there is a choice to be made – choose option one and you get to go to page twenty-three. If you choose option two you are directed to page forty-one. Essentially this allows for a number of scenarios to take place and numerous twists and turns of the storyline based on which option you choose at each of these predetermined junctures. They are great fun for young readers given there is a choice to be made.
While these types of books are great fiction excitement, especially for the young reader, many, unfortunately, take the same approach to how they read Scripture. If a part of Scripture says something that does not jive with our preconceived notions, denominational stance, or the statements of our favorite author or theologian, we select a different page, moving through Scripture in an attempt to find a storyline that suits our fancies.
How This Affects Our Approach to Scripture
The Choose Your Own Adventure approach to Scripture can take many forms. Typically it begins with one’s presuppositions impacting the reading and understanding of pet passages.
For instance, let’s use the example of origins and the seemingly never-ending debate on the meaning of the word day (Hebrew word yom). Is a day really a day close to or very similar to how we understand a day to mean (i.e. 24-hour cycle of time)? If not, how long was that day given the contextual markers that indicate it being a typical cycle of 24 hours? Based on the decision one makes about the word day can impact a number of other issues related to origins.
If a day was a long period of time meaning there is the ability to insert millions of years into the text, is there also room for other things to be acceptable such as the evolutionary process? If so, was there really an Adam and Eve who were actual human beings created by God as the first male and female? If not, in what ways does that impact our understanding of sin, salvation, and redemption? Depending on the initial choices one makes can greatly impact how the remainder of Scripture is analyzed and understood.
How Our Presuppositions Affect Our Understanding of Scripture
Now the intent of this post is not to debate origins. I am just using that as an example of how this Choose Your Own Adventure approach to Scripture can take place. If one’s presuppositions and outside opinions are the first point of consideration then we’ll have issues in our interpretation of the biblical text. Instead of seeking to understand what God has said in His Word, our reading of Scripture will take a different path than the one God has laid out for us in His Word.
Ultimately, choosing your own perspective and interpretation is a result of concocting together just enough “proof-texts” that seem to support one’s position. The process of taping those texts together came about by jumping from here to there throughout Scripture; instead of following the established storyline God has provided from Genesis 1 through Revelation 22. More often than not, when we get the beginning of Scripture wrong, it can lead us down incorrect paths as we examine the remainder of Scripture. If the foundation is not properly established, the story we are affirming is one of our own making and not the message found in the pages of Scripture.
This is an issue we all must tackle. I have written before on the distaste I have for the acceptance by many in the Body of Christ for ten different views being all equally correct on any number of theological issues. I often wonder if the reason for those varying views relates to this issue of the Choose Your Own Adventure approach.
It seems as if when our denomination says you must believe this particular element of doctrine, we turn to page 27. When we get to that page, we are told another point of doctrine is the right one so we are instructed to turn to page 81, and so on and so forth. Along the way, more often than not, I would submit the actual instruction manual of God’s Word was never consulted to see if the proper direction was to turn to page 27 or page 81. It is just assumed that was the direction one should go because a denomination, popular author, or someone with a popular blog says it should be so.
Search the Scriptures like the Bereans
I can tell you one thing and that is the Bereans were not of the Choose Your Own Adventure crowd. We find in Acts 17:11, “Now the people here were of nobler character than the ones in Thessalonica; they eagerly welcomed the message, checking the Tanakh every day to see if the things Sha’ul was saying were true.” Did they check Facebook, their favorite author or blogger or their denominational creed to see if the things Paul was preaching were true? Absolutely not! They went right to the pages of Scripture and searched daily, understanding the importance of checking the manual of God’s Word from the very beginning pages to make sure what Paul was saying was truth.
Now as I have noted before, there is nothing wrong with reading books, blogs, or listening to a favorite speaker or listening to your pastor. Hopefully, what you read or listen to is coming from individuals who are dedicated to the Word of God and prayer. Even still, the temptation is to check with those individuals first before consulting Scripture and listening to the Holy Spirit for guidance. When we listen and seek after the word of man before the Word of God, the result can often be a Choose Your Own Adventure race through Scripture. In the end, it may seem like a valid and interesting storyline, but if we are not careful, we have skipped over the challenging parts in favor of that which seems to fit into our personal opinion or the opinion of man.
If you have found yourself skipping around in Scripture to find those passages that appeal to you or one’s that fit into your presuppositional dogma, I challenge you to rethink your approach to Scripture. God desires His people to spend time in His Word, digging into the easy and challenging passages. We are called to conform ourselves not to the writings of our favorite author, but to the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2). This renewing of our minds comes about through the work of the Holy Spirit writing God’s Word on the fabric of our hearts. Each and every page of Scripture is to be examined. Each principle and pattern fit into the larger storyline of salvation, restoration, and redemption.
God has not provided a Choose Your Own Adventure book. Instead, He has provided us His manual for righteous living that shows us how to love God and to others. Grace and mercy are bestowed upon us through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and new life through the resurrection of Christ. Every page of Scripture reveals that storyline.
If you find yourself developing a theological dogma that is not rooted in the pages of Scripture, you have likely succumbed to the temptation of the Choose Your Own Adventure version of the Bible. I submit we all are doing that to some degree. Instead of Choosing Our Own Adventure, let’s echo the actions of those noble Bereans and search the Scriptures daily to see if what we are being taught is in alignment with Scripture. What is correct can be embraced and what is incorrect will need to be rejected. This is a daily process of refinement that takes a lot of grace-driven effort on our part.
So I challenge you today to toss aside your Choose Your Own Adventure approach to Scripture. Replace it, instead, with a renewed dedication to daily examining the Word of God, spending time in prayer, and listening to the Holy Spirit from His Word. As you take this far better approach, Scripture will come alive and you’ll begin to see God’s Word in a fresh and powerful way. While the Choose Your Own Adventure scenarios may seem appealing, it is not how God desires us to read or understand His Word.
Michael lives in Belleville, IL, a suburb of St. Louis, MO with his wife Erica, adopted daughter Alissa, two cats Molly and Sweetie Pie and horse Beckham. After spending eight years in the United States Navy as a Yeoman, he has been employed for the past ten years by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) where he oversees advanced educational programs. Michael holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Religion (Biblical Studies) from Liberty University and is currently closing in on completing a Master of Arts in Religion (Biblical Studies) from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. He is an avid reader and blogger.