Bible Study: Following the Ways of the Word by Kathleen Buswell Nielson (Mom’s Bookshelf)

Bible Study: Following the Ways of the WordI’ve really enjoyed reading Kathleen Buswell Nielson’s thoughts from time to time on The Gospel Coalition blog, so I was curious to read her new book, Bible Study: Following the Ways of the Word.

Dr. Nielson’s background in literature gives a unique perspective to how we should approach bible study, different from the typical “method” approach. She focuses on the literary aspects of Scripture, without at all detracting from the inspired, inerrant nature of it. With my love of reading, her approach naturally appeals to me!

Bible Study: Following the Ways of the Word begins with the premise that most of us approach Scripture with three faulty assumptions:

  • That the church, both on the local level and in a larger sense, consists of two “classes” of people: the “professionals” and the rest of us.
  • That no one has the right to act as an authority over me.
  • That words lack the power to effectively communicate truth.

These perceptions greatly affect how we go about studying our bibles.  After a discussion of how these three intertwine to impact our view of the bible, Dr. Nielson proposes five key truths about Scripture that should guide how we approach it, posing each one as a question:

  • If the Bible is God Speaking…Then How Should We Listen?
  • If the Bible is Powerful…Then How Should We Approach It?
  • If the Bible is Understandable…Then How Should We Get It?
  • If the Bible is a Literary Work…Then What Should We Expect?
  • If the Bible is One Whole Story…Then How Should We Read It?

She spends one to two chapters on each of these propositions, delving into the implications each one should have on our view and study of Scripture, then wraps up by bringing them all together into one multi-faceted view of the bible and discussing the fruits of personal bible study.
I really enjoyed Bible Study! It definitely offers a different twist on the typical “how to study your bible” manual, and although it focuses more on principles than processes, it’s got plenty of practical application as well. With her literary background, Dr. Nielson was able to bring out aspects that I had never picked up on before. I loved her discussion of Hebrew poetry, and her assertion that we should be reading for more than just getting propositions from the text…we should also relish the beauty of the literary qualities and genres:

God could have inspired an outline or a list of truths. Instead, he inspired a literary work.

Words are important. Handling God’s Word correctly is vital. Bible Study: Following the Ways of the Word emphasizes both the beauty and truth of God’s Word avoiding a simply mechanical, analytical approach to Scripture:

If the Bible is indeed God speaking, then we do well to listen with full and utmost attention to every detail. If it is true that God is the original word-speaker and that every human being uses words only because of the image of God in him, then anything about words, including their literary beauty, has to do with God. We all (not just “literary people” but all of us) need to pay more attention to words.

Bible Study is definitely a worthwhile read for anyone interested in thoughtful and faithful bible study, especially bible study leaders and teachers. I found it encouraging and thought-provoking and will definitely be referring to it again and again!

Thanks so much to P&R Publishing for the review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

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  1. Not Mrs. and not Ms… Dr.

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