Balancing the Sword - A comprehensive study guide to life's manual
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Definition of word.

Bible study
Bible study

Bible study, when used as legal or educational academic vocabulary, divides into two major classifications:  (1) devotional study and (2) academic study.  These special distinctions crystallized for the academic world through the U.S. Supreme Court case Abington School District v. Schempp 374 U.S. 203 (1963).  The Court ruled 8 to 1 that school-sponsored Bible reading in public schools is unconstitutional. Prior to 1963, Pennsylvania and some other states required publicly educated students to regularly hear portions of the Bible read and to recite the Lord's Prayer.  The left-leaning Court, contrary to all of America's history since 1607, ruled that public schools were permitted to fund academic study of the Bible, but were not permitted to fund devotional study of the Bible.  The judges labored through their opinions to explain the perceived difference.  The following chart offers overly simplified differences that have artificially developed between devotional study and academic study. 


Contrasts Between Devotional Study and Academic Study
Reader's Motivation devotional academic
Student's Belief believer (faith set firm) unbeliever (faith set aside)
Student's View participant's personal view nonparticipant's impersonal view
Proponents Christians secularists
Primary Sponsor faith-based institutions and parents secular educational institutions
Place of Learning theistic churches and homes atheistic classrooms
Study's Purpose informative and instructive informative only
Teaching Purpose "the teaching of religion" "the teaching about religion"
Final Goal application from conviction awareness without conviction
Desired Influence both conversion and adoption neither conversion nor adoption
Teachers' View aiding belief; opposing unbelief "neither aiding nor opposing"
Teachers' Loyalty prefer Christianity and denounce idolatry "prefer none, and disparage none"
Religious Relativity exclusive superiority of Christianity religious pluralism and equality
Academic Discipline theological anthropological or cultural
Study Tone confessional neutral
Emphasis spiritual, ethical, and practical literary, cultural, and historical
Interpretation historical with miracles historical with myths
Assumed Authorship God through men men by deceit and delusion
Bible Accounted sacred secular
Honor to Scripture Word of God; transforming  socially influential; literarily beautiful
Judgment of Reader reader is judged by the Bible reader is judge over the Bible


Can the Bible be studied objectively?  Judge Stewart, in his dissenting opinion, observed that if schools taught the Bible apart from or devoid of faith, then government schools would be merely adopting an alternative religious view ... "a religion of secularism."  In truth, all people see every subject theistically or atheistically.  Theists consider every pebble as originating from the Creator; atheists consider every pebble as originating from nothing. 

Another problem with the above distinctions is that those who study the Bible devotionally can and should study the Bible academically and vice-versa.  Jesus commanded: “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart [i.e., devotional reading], and with all thy soul [i.e., being], and with all thy mind [i.e., academic reading], and with all thy strength [i.e., practical doing]: this is the first commandment” (Mk. 12:30).

The Court's 1963 ruling and subsequent rulings have clarified that homeschooling parents and Christian schools are free to teach the Bible both academically and devotionally.  Likewise, in every educational setting, students are free to study the Bible for both academic and devotional benefits.  The 1963 ruling pertained to government funded schools, books, administrators, and teachers---not students.

The questions in Balancing the Sword narrowly focus upon the words of the Bible.  Interpretations and application of the Text are left for individuals, parents, pastors, and teachers.  The quotes at the bottom of the pages extol faith and confidence, but are also actual quotes (without commentary) from historical figures.  Balancing the Sword fosters rigorous academic familiarity while harmonizing with devotional intent.

Author: Allen B. Wolfe

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Balancing the Sword is a structured study guide for every chapter of the Bible.