Friday, August 9, 2013

Kay Arthur's "Precepts Upon Precepts"

From the July 2010 E-Block.
In our last issue, I noted that I would seek out some of Kay Arthur’s more advanced Precepts material to see if perhaps it kicked up the educational aspects a notch. I have to say that they do, but just barely.

Since this material is often expensive and/or hard to get, I only picked up a copy of the Philippians “Precept Upon Precept” (PUP) guide. Ordinarily, a single sample may not be enough, but I think in this case it will be: The functions of the PUP series are much the same as the NIS series. Induction is the method, but at least this time we’re told to get some study materials, including some commentaries.

Unfortunately, even considering that the Philippians PUP was written in 1988, the collection of commentaries recommended is fairly thin. Most are over 30 years old (meaning, they’d be over 60 years old now). Others are by popular authors like Wiersbe and Walvoord. But I suppose that can be fair. As with NIS, this is probably a decent learning tool for infants in Christ. By the time you’re done, you’ll know where everything in a book like Philippians is – even if you’re barely understanding, in some cases, the importance of what has been written.

What else? There are a lot more questions for readers to answer in PUP, but they’re all pretty much of the same variety as in NIS – “What do you think of this?” or “How can you apply this?” or “What does this text say about X?” In other words, merely inductive study. There are also a few curiosities here and there. Paul talks about circumcision in Philippians, but rather than explain what that is, PUP tells the reader to “look it up in a dictionary.” [73] Huh? One can only guess what a PUP on the Song of Solomon would look like.

Then, on page 95, Arthur says that she realizes that this study of Philippians can be a “little heavy” and she hopes she will not “overload you.” Really? This is stuff that would have been kindergarten material in the first century, but Arthur is worried that it is too hard?

And, there are a handful of unsatisfactory “leave ‘em hanging” comments. On page 102, Arthur points out that “evil” in Is. 45:7 should be translated “adversity”. That’s true, but no explanation is given as to why. The reader is left wondering what the answer is and why some English translations say “evil”.

In close, I suppose I should comment on Arthur’s qualifications to be a Bible teacher. I can find none. The Precepts ministry apparently began as a home Bible study group, and Arthur has no relevant training in Biblical exegesis or exposition. It would be nice if our “stars” of Bible study came with somewhat deeper qualifications than this, but we really have no one but ourselves to blame for making them stars.

Maybe if Ben Witherington called everyone “Beloved,” he’d get a larger audience?

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