When I was in college, I took a class called Biblical Interpretation. I do believe this was one of my absolute favorite classes, primarily because it forced me to stretch my boundaries more than they had ever been stretched before. It was the class that taught me more than I had ever learned before about truly studying the Word of God – and opened the door to much growth in that area since that time.
At this point, I honestly cannot differentiate between much of what I learned in that class and what I have learned since then, but there is one lesson I remember very clearly as having been introduced by Dr. Hays in that class. And that is the lesson of presuppositions.
When we sit down to study Scripture, we go in with a great number of presuppositions. Those presuppositions clearly shape and influence how we learn and what we take away from a lesson. Regular evaluation of our presuppositions is critical if we are to learn properly.
A recent experience reminded me that it’s not only Scripture that we approach with presuppositions. It’s life in general.
The incident in question had to do with a hair dryer. We were experiencing our second hotel stay in two weeks, and I once again had an issue. This time it was with trying to dry my hair after my shower. I picked up the hair dryer and noticed that the cord seemed awfully short. It was going to be just enough length to dry my hair, but I wouldn’t be able to move far from the counter. As I plugged in the hair dryer, I noticed a button on the dryer handle. It was labeled “Push to Retract.” Now, the amount of time between noticing the button and coming to the conclusion that the cord was retractable and therefore not stretched to its full length was not very long. But, I would be untruthful if I said that I wasn’t at least momentarily puzzled.
It was definitely not the fault of the manufacturers that I was puzzled. Hair dryers such as these are consistently packaged in a way to inform the consumer that the cord is retractable. And true, the hotel didn’t maintain that packaging, but it wasn’t even hotel management’s fault that I didn’t know what to expect with the hair dryer.
Essentially it all came down to my presuppositions. I picked up the hair dryer expecting it to be very similar to my own. The thought that the cord would be retractable was furthest from my mind. Consequently, I was prepared to use the hair dryer accordingly – and it would have not only been inconvenient for me, but also incorrect.
In the grand scheme of things, I know so very little. If I can be confused by something as insignificant as a hair dryer, it is obvious that I can be confused by something much more significant. So, what do I do? How do I approach life in such a way so as to not be thwarted by my presuppositions?
Rethinking the whole experience with the hair dryer, I realized that if I had taken just thirty seconds to look over the hair dryer before using it, I would have quickly discerned the additional information needed to operate it. It’s just a slight shift in mentality. It is going from an “Oh, I know how to do this!” mentality to a “What new concept do I need to learn in this situation?” mentality. Instead of being a presupposition of knowledge, it is a presupposition of learning. An assumption that there is always more information to be gleaned. More knowledge to be obtained. More learning to be accomplished.
Whether it be Scripture, hair dryers, or just life in general, there is always more to learn. And if I go into each experience with that presupposition, I just might be amazed by exactly how much I can learn!