Karl Dahlfred wrote an excellent post: “Is the Bible alone really enough for Christian life and faith?“In it he notes those in the Protestant tradition firmly hold to the idea of Sola Scriptura–that “Scripture alone is authoritative and sufficient for teaching and leading the Christian life.” As he helpfully highlights, we generally equate this with inerrancy (authoritative). But equally important is sufficiency. One of the key elements of Disciple Making Movement thinking is the Discovery Bible Study. This is a form of inductive group study. A very rough outline of the process of an oral DBS (you can also do a written process) is as follows:
- read the story through multiple times
- close the text and have each member of the group retell the story, with the rest of the group helping correct (this helps with accuracy & memorization) - if the group is too large you can do this in subgroups.
- discuss the text using three basic questions: a) what does this tell us about God & his character; b) what does it tell us about people including ourselves; c) how will I obey God from this passage?
- Final question: who will I share this story with, this week?
There’s more to a DBS than just this, but these are the important points. There are certain assumptions critical to the success of a DBS. Here are a few:
- There is no single group leader or teacher–the whole group participates in discussing the text. (Any “leader” is simply a facilitator of the discussion, making sure everyone participates and no one dominates the conversation). The Scripture is the authority–not a teacher.
- Different people in different life situations will have different applications of the text; individual applications do not represent normative interpretations that must apply to everyone. Everyone has their own “I will” statement in response to the text.
- No “Bible study” outside of the text itself is required. The Holy Spirit is the one that teaches, opening our eyes to what the text tells us. This is infinitely scalable: if you have the written text (or an oral retelling, in the case of an orality situation), you have enough.
- Having a group reading the Scripture together, using a self-correcting process, significantly prevents error (if someone goes off a bit, just ask–“can you show me where you find that in the text?"–and most heresies are started by influential and charismatic single leaders cherry-picking verses, not by groups reading the text).
DBS does not mean Bible teachers are wrong or bad. We should all be learning from each other, and from others; books and published studies are ways to access the wisdom of many. I have learned much from the writings of people like C. S. Lewis, N. T. Wright, Beth Moore, and Tim Keller, to name just a few. That said, the power of DBS is that it gets us into the text itself, and teaches us to listen to the revelation of God, which is profitable for application to daily life. Sola Scriptura means Scripture is all we need. Reading endless commentaries, studies, books, and hymns on 1 Corinthians 13 isn’t the point of life–the point is to live it out, and for that, we need little more than the text itself and a willingness to put it into practice on a daily basis.