A Study in Details: Exact Knowledge and Sherlockian Advice for the Teachers of Scripture


I’ll admit, the title is lengthy. Fourteen words that could probably be summed up in three may be overkill, but it reminds me of older works written in the 18th century. However, it summarizes the main idea behind this post.

I love Sherlock Holmes. It is no secret. If someone asks me what my favorite book is I reply without hesitation, “Sherlock Holmes.” My favorite movie? Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Favorite TV show? BBC’s Sherlock. I love everything about him. But one of my favorite aspects regarding Mr. Holmes is that he has much to teach me. I have said before in passing that if I could be as studious and detailed as Sherlock my life as a teacher and student of Scripture would be much more productive. In this series of posts I want to share readings, whether long or brief, from the novels of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I see applications to preachers, teachers, small group leaders, and disciple makers. So, if you fall into one of these camps, please read on. “The game is afoot!” [Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure of the Abbey Grange]

In A Study in Scarlet, Dr. John Watson meets Mr. Sherlock Holmes for the first time. Being an injured former military man with no friends, no work, and soon to have no home, John was looking for an affordable place to stay. During a conversation with a former acquaintance, one young Stamford. By happenstance the young dresser mentions that another gentleman was looking for a roommate. This begins the long friendship which was to ensue between Dr. Watson and Mr. Holmes. In describing Mr. Holmes Stamford informs Watson that “He appears to have a passion for definite and exact knowledge.” [Stamford, A Study in Scarlet]

The need for ‘definite and exact knowledge’ when studying, reading, and teaching the Scriptures should be evident in the most basic sense. Unfortunately, a brief look into blogs, a short ‘sermon’, or even a glance through many commentaries will yield ample proof that this truth is not so basic. Scripture is clear that study is necessary for both one’s personal growth as well as the mutual encouragement of others (Joshua 1.8, 2 Timothy 2.15 and 3.14-17 to name a few). Why would Holmes have this passion, as Stamford puts it, for ‘definite and exact knowledge’? For Holmes, it dealt with legal matters, with justice. These are, no doubt, of the utmost importance. The proper punishment for the guilty individual is vital. In the affairs of men there is not a higher calling. But students of Scripture are not to live in the affairs of men alone. Our minds are to be on heavenly things (Colossians 3.1) and as such should be filled with heavenly thoughts (or Scripture, if you will). As such we should have a passion, an all-consuming goal for ‘definite and exact knowledge’, and that of Jesus of Nazareth. He is the One Whom we teach. It is Him that we point to in our studies, in our messages, in our small groups, in our shopping trips, in our school assignments, in our friendships, in a word, our life.

Our description from Stamford seems to have an equivalent thought in the Tanakh, in the book of Nehemiah.

“He appears to have a passion for definite and exact knowledge.” -Stamford referring to Sherlock Holmes

“They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.” -Nehemiah referring to the Levites

Do you see the connection? The Levites had  a passion for definite and exact knowledge of God’s Law and sought to pass that on to His people. May this be our goal, our prayer, each time we study and present God’s truth.

Discernment: A Vital Gift

A tree is one of the most beautiful aspects of creation. There is one stem, one trunk, and then there are so many branches and leaves. Each leaf is unique, a incredible work of art. The tree can teach us much. The lesson I want to learn today, however, is that of unity.

Donald Bloesch, a scholar and theologian, writes, “….Christians sorely need the gift of discernment to make the proper evaluations.” [Bloesch, The Holy Spirit: Works and Gifts, 145.] He is dealing with different variations within Christendom that view the Spirit in diverse ways. 
His comment is so vital for today. There are so many variations, so many denominations, so many view points. Which one is correct? Which one is wrong? The spirit of discernment, mentioned in 1 Corinthins 12.10, needs to be exercised today. We need to discern, to judge in order to determine which view is correct and which view is not.

Another point Bloesch makes is to differentiate between heterodoxy and heresy. He defines the two, “Heterodoxy signifies the elevation of what is peripheral over what is essential in the faith, while heresy leads to a denial of what is essential.” [Bloesch, The Holy Spirit: Works and Gifts, 145.] It is imperative that, in Christendom, we learn to do this. Is it difficult? Yes. Will it be messy? Of course. But if we are to follow Christ, then we are to seek unity. Harmony, oneness, and “a complex or systematic whole” are words and phrases that describe what we should be seeking.

Too often we make peripheral issues the main focus and lay aside essentials.

I end with these words from the Messiah, and pray that believers may be one, אחד, a God-glorifying harmony.

John 17.20-23

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.