When one considers the study of Scripture, there is an apt parallel to the approach one takes to the Bible and the way one approaches an art such as photography. Most people, as they study the Bible, are like the individual with the old style 35 mm disposable camera. It does not do much, the pictures are not always clear but you can get a sense of what is going on in the picture. Many people approach the Bible the same way, sometimes the picture is fuzzy (or half missing) but they take what they can get for the low cost and effort and move on.
However, just as with photography, our study of the Bible does not have to be that way. In photography, cameras have all sorts of lenses. They change the depth of focus, field of vision, light incorporation, and many other things. The more styles of lenses one has, the more options of what they can do with a given picture at a given time.
The same holds true with the Scriptures. The lens through which we approach God’s Word gives the ability to observe varying depths, intricacies, figures, and applications that may not otherwise have been possible for our perception. Consider three lenses we can and should use in examining the Bible.
The Doctrinal Lens. This lens focuses upon the aspects of law and commandment. It is the most important and valuable lens of Scripture because when using this lens the reader is honing in on what God desires to be accomplished. This is the core of Scripture. The Bible was given to show us what we need to do to be right with God and to guide us in accomplishing that task (2 Tim. 3:16-17). However, this lens does not just help us see what is necessary for us in our time, but it helps enlighten us as to God’s expectations for men in the past. It allows us to analyze the laws God gave men in bygone generations at other times and places. This knowledge allows us to draw parallels and applications that help us understand the mindset and actions of God, thereby applying his Law for us in an even more complete way (Rom. 15:4). Therefore, the individual who does not read the Law through the lens of seeking to understand God’s expectations of him is going to miss the central key to everything the Book was given to communicate. Unfortunately, some people never attach their doctrinal lens. They are convinced that the Bible is too confusing, or simply a “good book” without any true applications to life and action today. In doing so, they have deprived themselves of the means to truly understand Scripture, and have placed before them an obstacle to ever being able to develop the pictures that will bring eternal life and peace to their understanding.
The Historical Lens. This lens focuses on the aspects of history, geography, and archaeology in Scripture. The Bible is not an historical textbook, but it is a book with a great deal of history in it. Throughout the Scriptures, God directly ties many of the laws, commands, customs, and principles of Scripture with historical people, places, and events. Many of the statements and laws of Scripture are greatly illuminated when considered through the lens of history. The reader who studies through this lens can see things as they would be seen by those to whom the letters and books were originally written. The historical lens gives two great blessings to the Bible student: context and setting. When one understands context he can then answer the questions of why certain things are said, what impact they had both then and now, and better give insight into the value and beauty of the writing or statement. The setting is of great importance because it gives a secular context into which the events can be placed. Often the Scriptures mention historical characters that can then be used to give a frame of reference to those who may not be familiar with the writings or timeline of Scripture. References to the Roman emperors and governors, the kings of various other nations, and many other statements give the value of setting to the statements of Scripture. This lens has also given the means for historical validation of Scripture. Some archaeologists have tried for generations to prove the Bible wrong in its proclamations of places, people, and events; but on every occasion where finds have been made, they have validated, not contradicted, the Biblical record. The historical lens adds a vast depth to the understanding of Scripture, turning it from a two-dimensional sketch to a three-dimensional drawing with depth, breadth, and scope that is perceptible and awe inspiring. Do not forget to use your historical lens.
The Scientific Lens. As with history, the Bible is not a scientific or medical textbook, but it is a book that contains a great deal of scientific and medical information. The scientific lens is important because it is one of the single greatest lenses allowing appreciation for the hand of God on Scripture. Many Christians are derided and ridiculed for placing their trust in the statements of Scripture when it comes to the use of this lens, yet there has not been a scientific fact yet, when accurately represented and applied, that has disproved or contradicted the things seen through the scientific lens from Scripture. Whether it involves the creation of the world, the impact of the flood, the shape and function of the earth and the universe, or the systems involved in the intricacies of life and anatomy: the Bible is always correct. When one examines the laws of God for Israel through the scientific lens, he finds a law thousands of years ahead of its time in laws pertaining to sanitation, general health, disease isolation, and many other factors that man did not know the whys and wherefores until centuries later. The scientific lens adds another layer of understanding and appreciation to the knowledge of God and his communication of that knowledge to man, even in an age where he had no way of “scientifically” understanding why God would give such expectations.
Each of these lenses gives flexibility and depth to one’s understanding of the Scriptures. As with photography, no single lens should be used on every occasion for every project, because their purposes and abilities are different. But when used cohesively and correctly, each of these lenses in tandem can reveal a depth and understanding of God’s Word that will bring it forth in beautiful 3-D imagery that Hollywood itself cannot replicate; and it will leave one wanting nothing but more!