The Foundations of Bible Study

Why do adults study the Bible? Current literature in the field of Christian education emphasizes the need for application of Biblical principles. A wide range of materials exists for facilitating this kind of study. At one extreme are those texts that focus almost exclusively on a literal understanding of the biblical text. Rarely does a bible study curriculum cater to the needs of adult learners that internalize and transfer what they have learned to situations that confront them in life. Adult learners, or perhaps all learners, who wish to live by the principles of the Bible need to have a grounding in both the process and content of the text.  Another category of Bible study texts represents the “cookbook” approach. These texts provide a large number of exercises for students to complete using rote memorization or lower-level thinking skills.  At the end of the lesson, learners feel a high level of comfort with being able to recite chapter and verse, but they are unable to transfer what they have learned beyond the classroom.

Many adult learners are mature Christians who bring a range of life experiences as well as professional and social competencies to their understanding of what is good and right and true in the world. They refer to the Bible as their standard for living righteously but often find a need to discern the moral essence of scripture in a diverse and rapidly changing society. Because they are adult learners, they require an apparent and immediate application of the knowledge they are consuming.  And they typically approach the learning task from a problem-centered perspective.  Furthermore, their successes and failures in the learning task will be highly personal and relevant to their unique contexts. Most texts used for Bible study do not incorporate into its pedagogy these needs of adult learners.

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