1. Devotional Reading
“A personal reading that is intimately tied to prayer as devotion to God. It is an attempt, a search, to encounter God through sacred Scripture.” Dennis Bratcher
This is where most people in the church spend their time, and the reason most people read the Bible. Its purpose is to come into the presence of God and hear him speak to us. You are not studying the passage for meaning, you are reading it to experience the presence of God, to spend time with Him, and to allow His Spirit to work in your life to transform you.
So you sit down in the morning with a cup of coffee, you open the Bible and read and pray and read and pray…you reflect on what God is saying to you through the passage you are reading. You ask God to reveal himself; to speak to you through the passage you are reading.
Your goal is God’s presence.
The second way of reading the Bible is what I call
2. Doctrinal Reading
“This way of reading Scripture has as its goal understanding the meaning of the biblical text for the larger purpose of drawing theological, doctrinal, or homiletical [preaching] conclusions from it.” Dennis Bratcher
This way of reading asks, “What does this passage of Scripture mean?” You use all the tools you can find to help you understand what God was saying through the original writer. So you study the culture, the language of the passage, the meaning of the words in the original languages, the literary genre of the writing, the context and arrangement of the passage, the theological beliefs, etc. The primary purpose is not simply to experience God’s presence, but to understand what God means by giving this passage to us.
This approach is where our beliefs and theological positions should come from. This process is done openly using the best scholarship available to understand what the passage actually says. Which is why so many Scholars seem like they are fighting about differences. In scholarly circles, they are simply working out…like peer review for scientists…how to understand the Scripture and then how to understand and apply the larger theological principles from them.
One studies the Bible for its meaning…the other for God’s presence. Big problems happen in our spiritual lives when these methods are confused or one of them is left out. Problems occur when we take a devotional reading of the Scripture and use it to develop our doctrinal beliefs or apply what God said to you in a devotional setting with what the passage of Scripture actually means. Problems also occur when we do doctrinal study of Scripture and separate it from the work and presence of God in our lives through devotional reading.