I was asked by someone on our mailing list to explain my study methods and the materials I use for study, or material that I have found especially helpful. (I have been asked more than once for recommended study material.)
I thought the two points might be worth sharing with others, so the following is the answer to that request.
I did very poorly in school, especially in grammar, spelling and reading, so whatever I may have is clearly of the Lord. There have been too many things happen to think any study ability I might have is mine, for it is not.
I have always loved being around heavy construction equipment (anything with a seat on it and diesel motor in it), and that is the field I started in even before I had a driver's license (my dad owned a gravel pit). My 5 years experience in heavy equipment by the time I was 20 permitted entrance into the Navy SeaBees (Mobil Construction Battalions -- 5 years provable experience was required before Viet Nam). When I got out, both my dad and his brother were working for one of the largest contractors in Indiana, so I went to work for that contractor. I took a few night courses in a Bible Institute, but nothing major. (I met my wife there, and we were married in 73.) I also worked a bus route as a layman. I was single at the time. (1964-1973, or so.)
Through a series of circumstances (clearly Divine Providence), the Lord forced me out of the field I dearly loved, construction, and onto a church staff as the bus/visitation director. I was offered the position because I had been faithful as a layman in those areas, not because I had been to college. The position was with the church that had the Bible Institute where I had taken some evening Bible courses. So while I was on the staff, all those around me who were my age were college students.
I determined at then that I might not be as smart as those fellows, but I could at lease read my Bible and pray as much as they could. (This was about 1974.) So I set aside several hours every morning for simply reading the Bible and prayer, a practice I still follow (from at least 4:30 AM to 8:30 AM when I was working for others. Now the period may last till 12:30 PM, depending on how involved I am in a study. Now I take off Monday.) For 10 years, I did not use any material other than Scriptures and some basic study material, e.g., Strong's, Vine's, Edersheim). So I read the Bible through 10-15 times a year.
(See "how to study" below.)
The Bible Institute and all the churches where I have been are strong dispensational Scofieldites. However, reading all the Bible as a whole and writing things down as they came to mind started presenting some problems with what I had been exposed to --- dispensational theology. What I heard being said just did not correspond with the way the Scriptures were fitting together for me. I expanded the writing past the five points. It was probably about 1980 when I started having serious problems with what I had been taught.
Knowing no other "doctrine" than dispensational Scofieldism, what I was seeing and writing down I kept to myself --- I did not want to be considered a heretic. I had acquired a few books, primarily dispensational, along the way, e.g., Oliver B. Green and a few others, so I knew of no other doctrine. I had heard of TULIP, but only mockingly from my old Bible Institute friends.
I came to Linden in 83 as a dispensationalists, but with very serious problems with that system -- it just did not fit togther with what I saw from Scripture. But I kept it to myself.
The fatal blow against my dispensational, Scofieldism upbringing was delivered by an evangelist I had come here in 1984 or so. He told me of Jack Hyles' boy, David, and how David had absolutely gone to the Devil, in the most vile, wicked manner (over sex). Almost all the Christians I knew up to that point, including myself, reverenced Jack almost as God on earth. When he told me of the mess David was in and how his dad was covering it up, I was shaken to the very roots of my dispensational faith. (There is more to it than just this.)
The Lord started bringing books to my attention that verified what I was seeing from Scriptures; one of the first being RJ Rushdoony's Institutes of Biblical Law, V. I. I saw then that what I was seeing from Scripture was not heresy. The more I looked, the more I found that what I was seeing had been the historic Christian faith and practice until the rise of dispensationalism. Another book was The London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689.
I heard an evangelists, John Weaver, speak at a meeting in Indianapolis, and he was using some of Rushdoony's material that I was familiar with. So I had him in for some meetings. We sat down and talked about what I was seeing from Scripture, what I had been taught and the conflict I was having trying to reconcile Scripture with the teachings of the elders. I asked him for some suggestions for books to add to my library. He looked at what I had, and told me I needed to do some housecleaning. I did, and threw away most of my dispensational Scofield material. He gave me some ideas of what to look for, and I have since added to them.
I know this is a very lengthy explanation. So in answer to the questions about my method of in-depth study and books, here is my answer.
I must preface the following with READ YOUR BIBLE. A teacher of God's word has no business even attempting such an all-important task unless he has read through all Scripture enough that the passages fit together for him. How much is enough? That obviously depends on the individual. My skull is so thick that I had read through the entire Bible at least 50 times before the passages started fitting together. I did not do that intentionally, but God in his Providence put me in places where I did it. (I am shamed by the men of old whom I read. They put passages together as I could never do.) Any time the New Testament is read through, the Old Testament should be read through also. It must be read and studied as one word from one God, not two words from two gods, as Scofield tries to do.
I cannot explain my "method" other than as I read Scripture, more passages and ideas come to mind than I can possibly write down. I then look at the passages and their contexts, and things seem to fall together. If something is heavy on my mind (e.g., a particular issue, a previously held doctrine or a question someone has asked), the passages fall together to address what I may be troubled over at the time. In fact, I will go looking for answers in the Scripture, and many times after a very lengthy trip around the "bush," the answers come together. I am justly criticized for using too much time to reach my conclusions, but that is the way I get to the conclusions. When I teach or print my conclusions, I try to edit out the many rabbit trails I followed to get to the point. The rabbit trails many times turn into Examiner mailings.
All of my books have grown out of questions I have had about doctrines or questions someone else has asked me. "Identifying Identity" grew out of a book review I was asked to do by an Identity adherent; the "book review" took probably 500 hours, and resulted in a 92 page exposé of Identity. My book on Infant Baptism was a result of a confrontation with a friend over Infant Baptism: I had to Scripturally justify my stand against it. My book, "The Death of Victory" grew out of my efforts to prove dispensationalism, Scofieldism right, and Dave McPherson wrong. That book, to be published by Ross House Books, Lord willing, has more thousands of hours of study and research in it than I care to think about. (I just plain enjoy research on a topic that has sparked my interest, and can get caught up in it for many hours, forgetting all about time: 8-14 hours can be gone before I even look up.)
I also enjoy just studying through a book of the Bible, and writing down what I see, though I do not feel I have time now for that method of study. I have complete commentaries on several books. This method of study has cleared up many questions from my former teaching, and has forced me to change my views on several subjects.
I will use other works to make sure that what I see from Scripture is not something new, to spark a thought or idea, to find an explanation for something I am unable to put together, or just to study with through a book of the Bible. (I went through Leviticus with Bonar, though he is somewhat dispensational.) One of my ladies told me one time, "If it's new, it is not true; if it's true, it is not new." I have found her statement true.
I know that what I have is strictly from the Lord, because he can "shut off" the passages that come to mind as easily as he gives them. Moreover, what I now love doing is as contrary from my natural abilities as anything could have possibly been.
The purpose of reading Scripture is to learn what God has for each of us. It is NOT to see how much we can read and how fast we can get through it. It is far better to read one chapter a day and get something from it than to read 15 chapters a day and not get anything.
Keep a note book with your Bible. Maybe make the note book small, about the size of your Bible, so you can easily keep it with your Bible. At beginning of a Bible chapter, put the chapter name and date, e.g., Jeremiah 12, April 7, 1999. To make it easier to keep track of, use a new page per chapter.
Here is a list of things to look for. Keep the list in the notebook, and number each paragraph accordingly. [Date:___ Passage:___]
1) Sin to avoid, or sin to confess and forsake.
2) Promise to claim.
3) Example to follow.
4) Command to obey.
5) Lesson to learn, or new truth to note.
6) Question to be answered. Take the time to look up at least one thing in the passage you have questions about.
7) Something to pray about.
8) Verse to memorize or meditate on (write it out).
9) Decision to make
(See examples below.)
As you read, remember three things:
1) the context of the passage
2) to whom the passage is directed; that is, to whom is the Lord speaking
3) the situation that is being dealt with by the passage.
Though many Scripture passages were unique instructions for specific situations within the above three points, every passage has an application for Christians for all time. In other words, don't make a passage say something that neither the context nor author is saying.
Is it God's will?
1. THE WORD OF GOD MUST APPROVE ACTION OR DECISION
2. THE DOOR MUST BE OPEN: CIRCUMSTANCES
3. THE STILL, SMALL VOICE: GODLY PEACE IN THE HEART
I must admit that normally I do not sit down and read a book or author through. I use the following material for research, documentation and to help answer questions that I cannot answer. I may compare several works on a passage to find the one that fits best with what I see in its context. Fairbairn (Ezekiel) shed major light for me on Ezekiel 36-40; Barns shed major light for me on Acts 10. Hengstenberg (Christology of the Old Testament) shed major light for me on many difficult prophetic passages. But just because a great Bible scholar from the past says something does not mean I can accept it. It must fit together properly with other light the Lord has shed on his word for me.
Listed below are some works I have found to be trustworthy -- works that remain basically true to the context of the whole of God's word. I normally stick to works written before the early 1900s. (R) means that this work should be required in every serious student's library, and/or that I found them especially helpful in my study.
Online Bible CD has several of the works listed below on it, (CD). It has been especially helpful in finding passages that I can only remember a word or two, helpful in word studies, helpful in looking up cross references, and helpful in checking what others think about a passage. It has shaved multitudes of hours off the time it takes to develop a thought.
Moreover, there is a large amoung of excelent study material, commentaries, &c., on CD now, and the number continues to grow. CD has placed a very large library within the reach of all who desire to study. Besides, CDs take up a lot less room than hard copy. (We are trying to "downsize", so I am replacing my hard copy library with CDs while expanding my research material.
World Publishers Bible. The cross references in this Bible are, I believe, the closest to the overall teaching of Scripture.
My goal has always been to study what the word of God says, not what others say. So for me, good word studies are the most important study aids I have.
Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT), Moody Press. (R, CD, though abbreviated.) (Moody Press is quite dispensational, but does publish some good material.)
Thayer, Wigram, Brown-Diver-Briggs (BDB), and Wigram. Of the four, Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon and BDB's Hebrew-Aramaic Lexicon are the most important. (R) They are all keyed to Strong's, and are published by Associated Publishers and Authors.
Word Pictures in the New Testament, A.T. Robertson. (R, CD.)
Though I have several sets of commentaries, I feel these are the better ones.
Keil-Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, 10 volumes, Eerdmans. (R)
Matthew Henry (R, CD.)
Barnes' Notes, Baker. (R) He has some dispensationalism, but is good otherwise. Barns' Notes uses Pusey for a lot of the Old Testament. Pusey is good. I did a lot of New Testament studying with Barns.
John Trapp (1601-1669), 5 volumes, Tanski Publications.
Preaching through the Bible, Joseph Parker, Baker. Parker is not really a commentary, but it consists of very good messages on passages placed in their proper Biblical order.
John Gill (CD)
Many folks have written Bible history works, but I feel these are required for serious study.
Josephus. (R) He can be found in a single paper back volume, which is quite reasonable. Josephus, a secular historian, throws a tremendous amount of light on Scripture. He cleared up a lot of things for me concerning the Revelation, including the dating of the Revelation.
Alfred Edersheim, Eerdmans. (R. Some of his works are on CD.) All of his works are important.
History of the Christian Church, Schaff, 8 voluems, Eerdmans.
A good "Harmony of the Gospels." (R) I use A.T. Robertson, hard copy.
Geneva Notes. I purchased the Geneva Bible for the notes, and then found the Online Bible CD which has the notes on it. The CD was a fraction of the cost of the Geneva Bible, and the notes can be read.
The Reformed Pastor, Richard Baxter.
Easton's Bible Dictionary is in the CD.
I have learned that the following authors can normally be trusted, and are good additions to any library. Most of the following teach infant baptism. (Hodge defends it though he admitted Scripture does not teach it.)
R.J. Rushdoony. His Institutes of Biblical Law, V. I, should be required. (R) Ross House Books. (I try to keep up to date on all his books.)
A.W. Pink (I will get anything by him I can find.)
E. W. Hengstenberg (translated from the German. I will get anything by him I can find.)
Patrick Fairbairn (I will get anything by him I can find.)
Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, but anything by him is good.
James Hastings. I have found his Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics in 13 massive volumes of great value. (R) (I will get anything by him I can find.) He should be approached with caution in some areas.
A.H. Strong, Systematic Theology. (Required for Baptists preachers.)
C.H. Spurgeon (R) Treasury of David (CD) and Lectures to My Students should be in any Christian's library.
J.B. Lightfoot (I will get anything by him I can find.)
The only works by Calvin I have are his "Institutes of the Christian Religion," which I do not use much.
I have found the following publishing houses can be trusted to always publish sound material. All except Ross House usually publish reprints.
Banner of Truth Trust
Klock & Klock (used books only - a big publishing house bought them out. I will purchase anything I can find by them, so I have found several of their books helpful. They published reprints only.)
T&T Clark (used books only; they published till the early 1900s.)
Still Water Revival Books
Ross Hose Books
Associated Publishers and Authors, Lafayette, Indiana. J. Green's catalogue is available from PO Box 4998, Lafayette, IN 47903. 1-800-447-9142, or e-mail, <email@example.com> Mr. Green does book reviews from a strong Calvinistic stand. He also edits a lot of material, and reprints classics. Anything he puts out can be trusted. He also has a book store that handles good books. I got my set by Trapp through him.
I avoid, other than for specific research, Loizeaux Brothers. They seem to be the "official" publishers of Darbyite material.
Check used book stores first for books you want. There are multitudes of used book stores, if one will take the time to trace them down. Because I have not taken the time to even enter into my computer the list someone sent me of used book stores, I use
Kregel's Used Bookstore
PO Box 2607
Grand Rapids, MI 49501-2607
I carry the Online
Bible, CD, which has the above commentaries on it, along with
a multitude of others, plus many word studies.
Example: Jeremiah 12
Note that the Lord speaks to different people differently from his word, so don't be surprised if what you see is quite different than what the Lord might show another. He may show you a different thing also from the same verse, depending on where each is in his own life.
1) Don't be envious of the prosperity of the wicked, v. 1.
This is also Ps 37 & 73.
2) If I will learn & do the ways of the Lord, he will build me, bless or prosper, v. 16.
3) Even though God is righteous and holy, Jeremiah could still go to him with a question about his judgment. Jeremiah was close enough to him to question him, v. 1. Do we need to draw closer to him?
(The answer to Jeremiah's question: the wicked prosper because sentence against evil is not executed speedily, Ecc. 8:11.)
4) Don't believe what they say just because they are "religious" or just because they are "prosperous."
5) The Lord planted even the wicked, v. 2. The Lord is not going to let the wicked get away with it even though they are prosperous right now.
6) Speckled bird, v. 9? The speckled, spotted were the wages for which Jacob worked 7 years. Christ worked out our salvation for his heritage. We belong to him, and he will protect us.
7) Be not envious of the prosperity of the wicked.
8) V. 3a, But thou, O LORD, knowest me: thou hast seen me, and tried mine heart toward thee:
Another example: Matthew 15
1) V. 9, teaching tradition for doctrine.
2) V. 28, the promise of rewarded faith.
3) 2 examples stand out. V. 28, the example of faith by the Gentile whose daughter was sick ("Yet the digs eat the crumbs which fall from their master's table"). And v. 32, the compassion Christ had on the multitude.
4) V. 14, Christ said to leave alone those who teach tradition for doctrine: they are blind leading the blind.
5) I had not really thought of #4, v. 14, that way. Thus a new truth.
6) Why wouldn't Christ help the woman when she first called on him. (A) The first time she called for help, she called to the Son of David. She was a Gentile, and did not have that privilege. The second time she called on him, it was "Lord, help me." She had that privilege. Anyone can come to him as Lord.
7) Pray for compassion.
8) v. 9 "But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men."
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