Thinking Theologically About Taking Notes

In the How to Study Your E-Bible series, I listed digital tools for note-taking with respective methods (recording mp3’s, outlines, etc). I mentioned that the process should be easy, accessible, and personal but in this first of three posts I wanted to highlight seven points of a theological methodology for note-taking.

One. Reject passivity with the preached Word of God. If we believe that God is speaking the text (notice my phrasing and check out my argument if you need convincing) or at the very least speaking through the text (a weaker claim though still valid enough for this point) then we would do more than just hear what is being said.

Two. Listen to the preached word as an expression of loving God (Luke 10:27). Now get this: the ancient Jews didn’t think the heart was the seat of emotions like we moderns do. So we read the text and think “ah, love the Lord with all of your feelings.” They thought the seat of emotions was the kidneys (or the bowels it reads in some places). The Heart was more like the seat of personhood—what we often mean by Mind. Likewise, what we moderns mean by soul is usually “My Immaterial Self” but the ancients saw Souls as “The living person”—more like the living body. God says “Love me with all of you!” Not just emotions. Volition. Strength. Body. Mind.

Three. Intentionally seek obedience opportunities (Acts 17:11). As the Bereans weighed what was said, so should we—but that shouldn’t be the end of the process. The Bereans were nobler not because they only researched to see if those things were true, but upon seeing them as true they acted on them by believing.

Four. Have more care with Scripture than the compiled message. The compiled message includes a whole mess of things that the preacher is relying on: style, humor, illustrations, etc. But these things are all within our realm of generating. God’s wisdom is above us (Isaiah 55:8-9; see also Job 28:12-28; Jeremiah 51:15-17) and against the Sinful Us (1 Corinthians 1): we must realize that he alone is wise (Rom 16:25-27) relying on the message over the messenger.

Five. Acknowledge the weight of the wisdom of God. By this I don’t mean listen to intangible inner feelings or urgings to authenticate the message; what I mean is that if Scripture is the Word of God, we must realize that they are the words on which we live—its potency, sufficiency and necessity is vital. The preacher up front is not vital (which is why I really don’t like when preachers say that God has laid this message on their hearts) but his Word definitely is.

Six. Give ear while trusting the Holy Spirit. By this, I still don’t mean some internal intuition, like a Spiritual Spidey Sense, that warns you of the mishandling of Scripture: the Holy Spirit isn’t the Force.  What I mean is that God speaks Scripture, and we must trust what He has said (and is saying) over against what an individual is saying no matter how flashy he or she says it. We might find this confirmed in church history or by Bible commentators as the Holy Spirit also worked in history illuminating people throughout Church History.

Seven. Plan to do hard thinking. Too often modern-day Christians make arguments for ignoring swaths of Scripture in favor of “meditating” on a three word subset of a verse. This is merely setting up our own imaginations as the final authority while using the Word of God as a springboard. It’s dangerous, foolish, and unabashedly childish. With this meditative/devotional approach we sacrifice the explicit teaching of Scripture with a thin veneer of something we call Spirituality but is merely modernity’s romanticism having sway—in other words, we’re enthroning emotions like the rest of the world and think we’re Spiritual Jedi’s while doing it. And unfortunately, this comes out with how we treat preached messages. We walk away with a take home bit that we “meditate” on and think we’re being spiritual.

Next I’ll look at how to take notes.

(Crossposted at Digital Sojourner)

Facebook Comments

One reply on “Thinking Theologically About Taking Notes”

Leave a Reply