A Teaching Ministry of Fellowship Bible Church of Greenville
In a recent Sunday School class at our church, the instructor used the analogy of that ubiquitous feature of all SmartThings – iPads and Pods, SmartPhones, GoogleSearch and other gadgets too brilliant by half. That is the AutoFill feature, whereby the device anticipates the word you are typing and offers to short-circuit the finger process and fill in the word. It’s a time-saving device, and one sometimes thinks that if we are blessed with any more time-saving devices, we will complete our text or email five minutes before we start it! AutoFill is not infallible, to be sure, and its cousin, AutoCorrect, is downright dangerous. But it is convenient when typing or texting long words (texting long words? Who does that??). Still, there are other areas of our lives where AutoFill is thoroughly counterproductive.
The analogy drawn in Sunday School class was that, after we have been in Christ for a few years and have (hopefully) read our Bibles with diligence, a sort-of mental AutoFill creeps into our reading and our study: we conveniently ‘fill in’ the rest of the story, or the interpretation of the parable, or the doctrine being set forth as we read sections of the Bible. This, too, is a time-saving device that allows us to read larger sections of Scripture without being troubled by original thought or disturbing question. The literal and the figurative aspects of this feature are quite similar: both gather historical data from previous use, and then use that data to anticipate present thought. If I type a name in a text message – no matter that the name is unusual and ethnic – my SmartPhone remembers it and offers to complete that name the next time I type the first few letters. In a similar manner, when I firm up a conclusion in my mind regarding the interpretation, meaning, or application of a Scripture passage, my mind subconsciously offers to AutoFill that conclusion whenever I read that passage in the future. One usage is convenient, though fallible; the other is stifling to my growth in knowledge and grace. Somehow we need to turn off the AutoFill feature of our mind. But if it acts subconsciously, how do we turn it off?
The fundamental problem with AutoFill with regard to our reading of Scripture, is that it is an unconscious result of doing what is, in itself, a good thing: faithfully reading and studying God’s Word. But there are several tactics that we may employ in order to make sure our time in the Word is always fresh, and our minds always engaged…and AutoFill turned off. First, recognize that such a thing as mental AutoFill exists, and realize that it probably affects our reading of any familiar material much more than we think. Second, resist the urge to stay in the same sections of Scripture – the Pauline Epistles, the Gospels, or the Psalms and Proverbs, for instance – and range throughout the Bible, reading large sections of Old Testament Law, or Prophets, or History along with New Testament History and Doctrine. Finally, reject the notion – sometimes implied, sometimes explicitly stated – that your supplemental study reading must be within a narrow, denominational and doctrinal band, and receive – critically and carefully – the contributions of other perspectives and other ages in the Church.
We need not fear being led astray, for “the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you…”(I John 2:27). Therefore, if we indeed have no need that any teach us, we are free to learn from the teaching of many. And in the process, we can disable AutoFill.