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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Where Should a New Believer Begin? - Dr. Drusba Responds

Dear Dr. Drusba

I am a new Christian.  I have read very little of the bible. I want to understand what it says for me and my life, but where should I begin? 

Slightly Overwhelmed
Tulsa, OK

Dear Overwhelmed,

You are right to feel a bit overwhelmed.  The bible is a big book, and some of it is very confusing.  But I am pleased to hear that you are eager to understand the scriptures.

I am often asked this question.  “Where should new believers start?”  People often make the mistake of trying to read the bible like other books – that is, starting at the beginning and reading straight through to the end – from Genesis to Revelation.  People who do this usually begin with a good deal of interest, but often get bogged down in the seemingly endless genealogies. So I don’t usually recommend that people begin with Genesis.

And don’t start with Revelation either, for obvious reasons.

Leviticus through Deuteronomy will provide very little that is immediately applicable to the new believer, so set those aside for now. 

The gospels would seem like a good place to begin – but appearances can be deceiving.  The gospel of John (often recommended to new believers) is filled with long esoteric discourses that are difficult to understand.  Mark’s gospel is abrupt and lacks a proper account of the Resurrection (and that is very important.)  Luke’s two part work Luke / Acts is good, but perhaps too radical for new believers.  And Matthew’s gospel is so rooted in the prophecies of the Old Testament that it is all but impossible to understand without a thorough understanding of the prophets.

So should one begin with the prophets?  By no means!  They are, by turns, abrasive, disturbing, demanding and obscure. Don’t bother with the prophets until you’ve matured a little.

The letters of Paul are complex rhetorical arguments - again too complex for the new believer with little background in the scriptures.

How about the other epistles of the New Testament then?  Hebrews? – requires an extensive understanding of the types and shadows as used in the Old Testament.  James? Too polemic.  Jude?  May cause confusion in the new believer with its use of non-canonical material.

The Proverbs are good – but many of them seem to be contradictory.  It’s best for the new Christian to not start there, as we want to affirm the absolute unity of the Scriptures.

Psalms?  Yes, well some of them are quite lovely. But a close reading will reveal that many of them are quite dark and disturbing.  This may not be a good place to begin for someone whose faith has only just begun.

Esther? Doesn’t mention God. I’m not even sure why it’s included.  Song of Solomon?  What? Are you some kind of prevert? 

How about the historical books?  Samuel, Kings and Chronicles?  There again you have a dull recitation of names and dates.  And it can be rather confusing trying to keep track of those overlapping kings and who was on the throne when and who invaded whom on that date… No. It’s best to leave those books aside for now.

Job? Ecclesiastes?  Of course not.  We’re trying to encourage the new believer.

Joshua and Judges have always been a gold mine for Sunday school lessons – but there again we run into the problem that without proper instruction these books will appear very dark, and violent, and brutal. 

When people ask me, “Dr. Drusba, what part of the bible is best for new believers to read?”  I tell them that they should instead read my 12 page pamphlet entitled: What the Bible Says for You.  It will give you all that you'll really ever need. I have included a free copy for you.  Enjoy it, and may God bless you as you study his word.

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