Commonsense Christianity

Commonsense Christianity

Are You Qualified to Study the Bible?

Promenade girl in blue dress with parasol walking in garden oil painting by Steve Henderson

It takes a lot of skill to paint the human figure, and not many artists can actually do it. Some who can, choose to not do it by choice; but many who cannot, use that same statement. Promenade, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold. Licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas, iCanvasART, and Framed Canvas Art.


We live in a time and place of people fascinated by degrees, credentials, and man-made accolades, to the point that, when unimaginative employers look for people to fill the cubicles, they are more concerned with a person’s university background than they are with any ability to actually perform the work required.

(As an aside, these same professional job recruiters, who no doubt have degrees in Professional Job Recruiting, creep people’s Facebook and social media accounts, more concerned with how much wine someone drank on Friday night, than that they know the difference between him and me and he and I. So they hire teetotalers who consistently write, “Her and me talked to he and they and said that they’re business model was to unsustainable.”)


Artists Should Know How to Draw

As you may know when you read my articles and look at the artwork, I am married to a professional fine artist, Steve Henderson. Whether or not you like representational art, you have to admit that the guy knows how to draw a face so that it looks like an actual person, as opposed to an 8-year-old’s interpretation of it. As far as university degrees go, he has a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA), which on a personal level means that it took years of practice and study to transcend the misinformation and poor teaching he paid so much to experience, and on a professional level that he cannot instruct at the college, university, or even high school level, because he doesn’t have enough education.


Whether or not he can actually paint, draw, or create a piece of fine art of excellence is not the issue.

The funny part of this is that, in several private workshops Steve has given, more than one of his students has been a university-accredited professor, taking his class because he or she is untrained and unskilled in the artistic discipline. Once Steve was told,

“I’m supposed to teach a watercolor class next semester and I’ve never done watercolor. I hope I learn enough in this workshop to pass it on to the students!”

I’m sure I don’t need to point out the irony of this situation.

The Worship of Degrees


But this is the world we live in, the world of men who set up systems and require people to fill out forms, and take classes, and endure seminars, and undergo sensitivity training, so that a new generation can get the job and pass on the lack of knowledge that they received themselves. Ultimately, it is not whether or not one can actually perform the work for which one was trained — cut hair, practice medicine, teach art, or know the difference between you’re and your — it’s whether one has the piece of paper saying that one is appropriately licensed to do so.

Lady of the Lake woman in yellow sheer skirt and hat standing by water original oil painting by Steve Henderson

Because humans are not goats, or rock fish, we were born with the ability to think, reason, learn, meditate, pray, and read. Let’s use those skills. Lady of the Lake, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas, iCanvasART, and Framed Canvas Art.


Within conventional, establishment Christianity — the kind overwhelmingly and depressingly practiced in countries like the one in which I was born and live, the United States — we are not immune to this fascination with education, and even the smallest, rural churches point with pride to their Pastor with the PhD, convinced that, because of his advanced seminary education and ability to name drop Greek and Hebrew words, he knows so much more than the rest of them.

(More likely, he knows how to use Strong’s Concordance and a lexicon, resources available to any of the rest of us.)

License to Study?

While we are not required, yet, to undergo licensing to study the Bible for ourselves, the subtle pressure is there among us, as church congregants are firmly encouraged to join small groups, under the shepherding aegis of an approved leader who walks them, step by agonizing step, through workbooks, worksheets, and pop-culture books by pop-culture preachers expostulating about Jesus, the Bible, and the abundant, purposeful, intentional and missional life we are supposed to be living.


“You’re reading the Bible by yourself, without any commentary or notes at ALL?”

I’m not sure if this is a mortal sin or a venial one, but increasingly, it is something we are not encouraged to do because, you know, if you’re not guided by an expert, you may get something wrong, and that could be very, very scary — maybe even resulting in a generation of Christians believing that, if only they say the right words and tap into an inner power, they can get anything they want.

Dumb Fishermen

At times like this, it’s good to remember that the pillars of our faith, the ones who started the whole Jesus message and died for it, were ordinary people — many of them fishermen — and none of them with PhDs with an emphasis in Biblical counseling or Media Arts and Worship. Despite not having written a doctoral thesis on church growth, they managed to successfully teach others the best news the world has ever had, and the consistent message was not, “Go ye forth and get a degree,” but, “Tell everybody about Jesus Christ, who He is, and what He did.”


They had what all Christians — regardless of the letters after their name or a certificate attesting that they completed an in-house church leadership seminar — have: the Holy Spirit as our guide and teacher, living within us:

“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14: 25)

Take Him at His word, literally. Read the Bible for yourself. Pray — privately — to God. Trust that He will teach you, and stop relying upon any other human being to do your thinking, or live your Christian life, for you.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity where my message is consistently that individual Christians stand up tall and think for themselves.


Posts similar to this one are

Should Christians Think?

Should You Question Authority?

Grammar Despair (if you don’t know when to use “him and me,” or “he and I,” you’re in a big group — which includes people with PhDs, by the way. This short, easy book, which I wrote and self-published, will quickly and efficiently answer your questions about a lot of common, but not impossible to solve, grammatical challenges.)


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  • Carolyn Henderson

    Excellent, Laura. We are children, indeed, in God’s family, and we learn through humility and trust in the Father. Like you, I read multiple versions. I used to read the notes more, but increasingly, I find them bothersome and manipulating, gently nudging me to think a certain way about a difficult verse. That is, when they even bother to address a difficult verse. Most of the time the notes ignore it!

  • Carolyn Henderson

    I love your responses!

  • Carolyn Henderson

    Jennifer — you’ll find that friend in the oddest place. And he or she will be the most unexpected person — I’ve seen this happen too often to doubt it!

    Regarding the ministry — that is depressing, but it’s not abnormal. This is how churches run these days, and when one attends them, one must recognize this climate of control. As long as you know it’s there and you fight it, you won’t be overcome by it. Think of the church like an orange, and squeeze out what sweetness you can get from it.

    As a homeschooling mom, you are doing incalculable good in the lives of your children, your family, and anyone who runs into you. Do not underestimate this! Nobody, NOBODY cares about your family the way you do, and nobody is qualified to teach and love them the way you do. Embrace this, and rest in it. God doesn’t count numbers. He loves people.

  • Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom

    Can you tell, how much you make me think?! I write novels in response to your posts! Ha!

  • Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom

    Wow, once again you have blown me away Carolyn.

    A little bit of background before I get to my main point – I go to church so I can connect with other Christians… I have been praying for a spiritual friend so that I can fellowship and pray and share (I think I told you previously that my husband isn’t Christian, so my journey is very solitary). I still haven’t found that friend… maybe my church is too big?! I keep praying though.

    Anyway, for almost 1 1/2 years, my church has been looking for someone to lead their Children’s Ministry. When I first saw the job posting I was excited. I am a former Early Childhood Educator with over 20 years of experience, I have a degree and I’ve been the director for two different child care programs. I thought I would be very qualified for this job. However, upon looking at the church’s qualifications I became very discouraged. I needed to have training in ministry, 5 years experience working at various levels in the church, assorted church accreditation and qualifications, and the list went on and on. I was so disappointed.

    I think I’m qualified without all that extra stuff and quite frankly, I feel some of that extra stuff clouds the purity and beauty of the message of love, grace, and salvation.

    However, I think God had other plans for me anyway… I’m homeschooling my girls and that takes a lot of time, prayer, and focus. I don’t think I could do both.

    Anyway, once again you’ve made me think, contemplate, and dig deep. Thank you!

    Thanks for sharing and for linking up to the #SHINEbloghop.

    I hop you had a lovely weekend.

    PS – Your husband is so gifted, he creates absolutely beautiful paintings!

  • Laura Connell

    Reading the Bible through the eyes of a child is how many people come to know Christ. That’s how I started reading the Bible and that’s how Jesus answered my questions and drew me to Himself: through the words of Scripture NOT study notes. Now I use different versions of the Bible including ones with notes but the relationship with Christ was founded upon reading the Bible as a complete newbie and letting the verses open my eyes.

  • Carolyn Henderson

    I am always amazed when I run into people who actually believe what the Bible says — they are so rare. I spent hours on the porch talking to a young woman who truly believed what is written in the book, and it was a beautiful time of sharing our thoughts, ideas, questions — can’t imagine a better church service than that! I hope that your young man has gone on into greater growth and belief, and that he continues to inspire those around him.

  • John Quinlan

    Some years ago my wife,Dorothy, and I attended an Easter Sunrise service in the Big Bend area of Texas. No church, we sat on the side of a mountain. A teenage boy lead the service. No “theology” school, No training, no degree, just read and believed the Bible. We agreed afterward that it was one of the best services ever. That kid was a true believer.

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