Thursday, December 8, 2011

Some Thoughts on Bible Arcing

I've been into Bible Arcing for awhile, now. I have to admit that it is a great tool for discovering and outlining the flow of the text. It forces you to slow down and really think about what the text is saying–and when you do that, you are forced to interpret the text in a whole new meaning.

At the end of this post, I have embedded an arc I did some time ago on Hebrews 11:8-19. Don't become confused by all the letters and abbreviations. Fortunately, Bible Arc has a series of video tutorials that take you step-by-step through the arcing process. They are very helpful in introducing the student to arcing and really lay the groundwork for becoming competent at this particular discipline.

However, that is not what this post is entirely about. As much as I love arcing I think there are some precautions that need to be brought up lest the beginning arcer fall into some of these mindsets. Keep in mind that this is not a negative review of arcing but rather an admonition to those who are seriously considering learning how to arc.

  1. Arcing should not be the 'be-all-end-all' to the study of your passage. Arcing takes work! It takes thought, reasoning, and diligent observation, and those who begin to learn it will quickly find this out. As human nature would have it, when we become tired we wish to to stop the job, and, if it looks good, we call it "finished."  This should never be the case with arcing. With some passages, you may find yourself spending two to  three days, or even more, discovering the proper relationships between each of your propositions. My fear is that those who spend a great deal of time arcing, when finished, will walk away from the passage thinking that all information from said passage is exhausted. This could be further from the truth. Arcing is simply one, if not the first step, in your study. Those familiar with the Inductive approach to Bible study know that there are three steps: observation, interpretation, and application. Arcing is at that top of the chain–observation! We would do well to keep this in mind as we begin the arcing process. At this point we are just beginning to see how the text "fits" together. Simply observing the flow of the text does not mean we have done all we can do to complete our study. 
  2. Arcing should never replace in depth word studies. Bible Arc provides a full parsing feature which makes it handy if you're working with the Hebrew and Greek texts. This could be a temptation for some to avoid doing any further word study. Greek and Hebrew words often carry a variety and shade of meanings depending on the context. Concreting a singular meaning based on one usage of the word almost always leads to mis-interpretation of the text and even downright heresy! We've all seen the results of the Rob Bell incident and his double standard usage of the word αιωνιος in Matthew 25. Of course, Bell's interpretation goes well beyond the scope of a lack of study and more of a "willful blindness."

  3. Arcing should not replace proper exegesis. Because the site itself states that it is "graphical exegesis" one may be tempted again to abandon the process that often comes with the study of God's Word. How many of us would not want to produce an arc of a particular passage and then boast that we have produced an exegesis of it and not have to go through all the laborious work that is involved in the process. But let's face it–exegesis is hard work and there is no shortcut or easy way to do it. You just have to dig in and commit to not walk away from a passage until you have reached the level where you are unable to any further with your own ability. And even after that, we should be willing to seek out someone who may have a better grasp of the passage to aid our own understanding.

Those are my thoughts on the subject of arcing. Just to reiterate, I am certainly not trying to scare anyone away from arcing, but I am simply realizing some of the pitfalls that we may find ourselves falling into. With that said, look at the sample arc below, then go to Bible and watch the videos. After that, happy arcing!

City of God -

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