The Jalopy Way to Understand the Bible
Do you remember the first time you looked under the hood of a car? You may have to go way back in your memory banks to pull up those first images and how your responded to the sight of all the ‘stuff’ you saw under the hood. Maybe you still respond the same way today when it becomes necessary to pop the latch to see what is going on.
I would guess that for each of us, that first glimpse was one of confusion and wonder. So many wires and strange shaped objects. We wondered what was that do-hickey for and where did that snaky, black thing go after it went under that what-cha-ma-callit and over to the whozit with all the dirty stuff on it. We couldn’t use technical terms because we had no knowledge of what it was we were looking at or what its function was. In essence, it was a great mystery to us. There were some of us who wanted to put our hands on the different things we saw in order to try to figure things out while there others of us were just as happy to close the hood and forget what it was we had looked at.
My father owned ‘fixer-uppers’ most of the years that I spent at home growing up. I can remember him taking parts out of them, working on them, and then putting parts back in so that the machine could roar back to life. There were times that the vehicle being repaired was the only vehicle we owned so it was imperative to make the fixes in a timely manner if anyone was going to get a ride to the supermarket or to work. Being a boy and easily bored, I didn’t always sit with my dad while he was making a repair but there were times that I did. It was during those times that some of the mystery was explained and the understanding of mechanics was passed on from one generation to the next. I can remember him drawing a picture on a piece of paper that described how an internal combustion engine generated motion through lots of tiny explosions that pushed opposing pistons up and down within the engine block. That motion was then passed onto to the transmission through gears which caused the axle to rotate which in turn created forward motion of the vehicle.
He would point to a part and name it, “That is the alternator and it generates electricity so the battery won’t be used up by the lights while we are driving. And that’s the radiator – water passes through it and is cooled by the air before it reenters the engine block to keep the engine from overheating.”
It was through his training that I learned to work on my own vehicles. I am no great mechanic but I am not afraid to tackle many of the things that people pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to have someone else do for them. One thing that was interesting about the discovery process was that each thing I learned about how a car worked lead to greater ability to understand how other parts of the car worked. There was a transient quality to the education gained.
I think we need to get back to this type of education when it comes to the study of the bible. Many of us open its covers and we have the same reaction to it as we did the first time we looked under the hood of a car. We knew that there was something there that made the car go but we didn’t have any understanding of what it was. And that correlates well to the bible because many of us know that there is something in there that makes the church go but we have no understanding of how it works.
We need to stop just telling our kids about the stories in the bible and show them how to understand it. That may mean we will need to take some time to understand how to go about it ourselves. We have had a hands-off approach to biblical learning for too long. Yes it is more convenient to have someone else work on your car but there is a price that has to be paid. What price do we pay when we farm out our responsibilities to train our children to the Sunday School class? I am not saying that Sunday School classes are not beneficial for your children, what I am saying is that they need more than that to grasp how to study the bible for themselves.
They need someone to come along, open up the hood, and start explaining how the pieces and parts work together.