Thursday, January 18, 2007

Bible Verse Memorization

Beth Quick heard Adam Hamilton speak about the importance of memorizing Scripture:

Hamilton also wondered why we don't teach people to memorize scripture anymore. Actually, I had a great deal of scripture memorization in my childhood church. Hamilton knew a Sunday School teacher who used the same approach as mine: bribery. I got paid a nickel for memorizing verses, which I did with dedication because of this incentive. I think on of the biggest mistakes liberals make actually is not knowing their scriptures well. I know my bible pretty well - it doesn't make sense to speak from it or argue for or against certain interpretations or whatever if you don't even have ready access in your mind to what you are talking about.

Although I'm a voracious reader of the Bible, I've never attempted to memorize parts of it. But it's time for a change. I'll memorize one verse a week, starting with Romans 3:23:

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God


bob said...

John I'm not a big fan of verse memorization but I'm also not a fan of reading the Bible one verse at a time. I think one of the biggest abuse of the Bible comes when verses are taken out of there context. So anything less then trying to memorize whole chapters seems fruitless.

John B said...

I think Bob is way off base. Certainly, proof texting leads to all kinds of abuse. On the other hand, to be able to speak the words of God while offering counsel is powerful. They provide comfort, encouragement and challenge.

I think main reason people don't memorize scripture is laziness. Memorization takes effort.

And as I see it, the reason many liberals don't memorize scripture is because to memorize something is to acknowledge it's power and authority in one's life. I mean, what good humanistic lib wants to memorize, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" or "the wages of sin is death" or "no one is righteous, not one" or "Christ died to save sinners." But then, Bob will probably accuse me of abusing the Bible and he may be right, since I'm one who has fallen short of God's glory and who has been "saved by grace through faith."

I include a memory verse every week in my bulletin. How many people actually look at it again after the service is probably a pretty small number. But if I as the pastor don't regularly encourage people to put the word of God in their hearts, who will?

Anonymous said...

I agree with john b. Scripture memorization is a good thing. In my ministry, I have a program called "Bible Blast Off," in which children memorize scriptures for stickers and points. If they gain 100 points by the end of the revival, they win a special prize. (I can't afford giving kids money, but stickers are pretty darn close to currency in the world of children).

I figure if I can "bribe" children to memorize John 3:16 to help them understand that God gave his only-begotten Son for us, or II Cor. 5:17 to know that they can become new creations in Christ, then I have fulfilled my call as an evangelist. As bob as noted, some Bible verses can be taken grossly out of context, but I would rather take that chance than not encouraging people to "hide the Word in their hearts"--which, by the way, is a biblical admonition (Ps 119:11)

Dan Trabue said...

"I think on of the biggest mistakes liberals make actually is not knowing their scriptures well."

I hear all manner of accusations tossed at "liberals," most of them nonsense. But this one comes closest to reality.

Progressive Christians tend to not want to "force" things on anyone and rote memorization of the Bible seems a rather pedestrian treatment for such a grand book. Yet, I know my Bible far better than my children do and I'm glad that I do.

At our church (which would be classified as "liberal" by most), it is an issue we contend with: How to get our children and other members to become intimately aware of the Bible without some of the less than ideal impositions of rote memorization?

We ARE a people who take the Bible extremely seriously and we are trying to find a balance in teaching that to our kids.

John said...

Dan, could you tell us about your church? Denomination, outlook, that sort of thing?

Mitch said...

I think traditional key-verse memorization is a good thing, but here' a couple of other approaches.

* The first thing that my college NT prof (Charles Talbert) required was for us to memorize the structure of the book we were studying. The first quiz was always a "match the pericope to the chapter" test. To this day, I'm pretty good at guessing which chapter a biblical passage calls home.

* My 4th grade Sunday School teacher required us to memorize the names of the books of the Bible in order. We began every week by reciting them. This is a very basic approach to learning the structure of the Bible itself. Useful not only for "sword drills," but for understanding the big-picture.

Both of these approaches complement the key-verse approach.

the reverend mommy said...

OK, I'm really not conservative, per se, but I don't like "liberal" either.... but to claim that liberals don't memorize the bible seems like a type of mudslinging.

One of the most liberal people in my aquaintance (EXTREME liberal, as in "seminary prof when the God-is-Dead thing came out") has the entire book of John memorized.

Sweeping generalizations ... I don't like.

And I have found more of those "liberals" in my congregation are likely to have read the entire Bible than some of the conservatives.

I find it's more about how seriously you take your faith and how spiritually mature you are than a liberal-conservative spectrum.

I currently am working on memorizing the chapter of Romans 8... btw.

the reverend mommy said...

And the Romans 3 bit is good, but I would suggest taking it down all they way to verse 27 -- verse 23 gives you the condition -- the following verse paint the picture of salvation.

In fact, this is one of my favorite passages in the New Testament for memorization, since it gives both the human problem and the divine solution.

Pair it with Eph 2 -- you end up with an entire systematic theology that is good and sound with orthodox doctrine.

the reverend mommy said...

Oh, and here is something else -- I am working on getting the Romans 3:23-27 bit memorized in Greek as well. Might as well, while I'm at it.

And (just for an additional bit of weird) -- since I started memorizing so long ago, I do it in KJV. Habit.

BruceA said...

I think that Mitch has some very good suggestions about memorizing the structure. I, too, learned the New Testament this way in college, and even though I don't have many verses memorized, I can usually name the book (if not the chapter) when someone gives me a quote.

I have used about a half dozen Bible versions through the years, and as a result I have trouble memorizing any of them.

BruceA said...

Also, I think that both Bob and Reverend Mommy have a good point about memorizing entire chapters. That provides the context for understanding what might not be clear from an isolated verse.

Dan Trabue said...

My church (since John asked) is Jeff Street Baptist Community at Liberty.

Nominally Baptist and being kicked out of the Southern Baptists (although we would have left eventually on our own, I believe), we are affiliated with the Alliance of Baptists, Baptist Peace Fellowship and the Welcoming and Affirming Baptists.

We have a mixture of folk who often say they wouldn't be going to church if they couldn't find one like Jeff Street. Our members have abandoned or been abandoned by the Catholic Church, Presbyterians, Quakers, Baptists (mostly) and various other religions or come from a non-religious background.

Because of our positions on peacemaking, gay and lesbian issues, women ministers, etc, we have been identified as a progressive or liberal church, but as the Reverend Mommy indicates, those titles can be less than helpful.

We do have Sunday School, Bible clubs, VBS and all that sorta stuff, but it's a bit more laidback and less-pushy than what we experienced growing up.

Does that help?

Dan Trabue said...

Mennonites! I left mennonites off my list of where we come from. Myself, I think we're best defined as a freelance anabaptist church.

John said...

A rich tradition to draw from. Thanks for sharing, Dan.

Brett said...

A few months ago, I decided to memorize the introduction to the Book of John. I read it over and over out loud to myself (whispering, really, so I wouldn't bother my wife.) I have memorized a few key verses here and there in my lifetime, but nothing like this. I read it several times a night for a couple of weeks. One evening I began to cry as I read "He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know him. He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him." John 1:10-11. It just made me really sad.
I sometimes recite the passage to myself, most of the time when I am in the car, and I still get goosebumps at certain points. It means so much because I didn't read over it. I read it over and over and memorized each word. I was forced to internalize what was in front of me. I have not done that with other passages, but I should. There are some passages, particularly in the Book of Romans that would be great to have memorized and internalized in the same way.

Joel Thomas said...

I'm still trying to memorize the 23rd psalm. If Adam Hamilton can teach me the art of (verbatim)memorization, praise be to God, because no school teacher, parent or friend ever could. After saying the Lord's Prayer for more than 40 years, I still stumble over the words without the text.

John B said...

I'm glad to read about several people memorizing entire chapters of the Bible. That's even better than memorizing just a few verse.

I have found that conservatives are far more likely to quote scripture when making a point than liberals. It probably has a lot to do with how we view the Bible. Maybe liberals are those who see the forest and conservatives look at individual trees. It that's the case, then both are right and need to learn from the other.

anotherview said...

Please help me. I want to memorize the Bible, but....

anotherview said...

Sorry, I forgot to use the tag:

My post on which version to memorize

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