The Discipline of Study

This is the most red ink I have put in this book over the past few chapters. I personally love studying, learning more and more about a thing and I take great joy in accumulating knowledge. I always have. And to see that habit lifted up is very encouraging to me. But often I find myself studying not to allow myself to be changed and transformed, but merely to acquire knowledge (and if I am honest, often to show off that knowledge).

As Foster starts out in this chapter, he reminds us that the purpose of the Spiritual Disciplines is the total transformation of the person. They aim at replacing old destructive habits of thought with new life-giving habits. Many Christians find themselves trapped by fear and anxieties because they do not study. It is interesting to me that even the most (what I would consider) devout Christian could be considered unchanged because even though they are celebrating their Creator regularly, seeking to obey Him and follow Him, they are not taking time to truly study Him and His word. Knowing the truth will make us free, not just hearing about it. We need to know it.

Foster gives some very concrete points in his discussion on how to study. The steps of repetition, concentration, comprehension and reflection are all needed to truly study, and I find that often I am only engaging in three of these at best when I attempt to study Scripture for myself. (In fact, Foster’s points about multi-tasking taking our focus away from the text we are attempting to study rings in my ears as I am currently listening to music while I reflect on his words. Just got up and turned it off). Foster also talks about three intrinsic rules of study (understanding, interpreting and then evaluating the author’s work) and the three extrinsic rules of study (experience, other books and live discussion). I find that in these areas as well are my study habits found to be more than a bit lacking.

But there is hope. I can improve. And boy do I ever want to improve in this Discipline. I feel I could gain so much from true study. And studying the great works in addition to Scripture (such as I am doing with Celebration of Discipline and Mere Christianity). I am excited.