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I was embarrassed in front of hundreds of people

I'll be heading to downtown Pickens, South Carolina to meet a coffee shop owner about having weekly Bible studies at their location. I do love hosting coffee house studies; the atmosphere is a whole new dynamic. Those attending seem to want to discuss and ask at an exciting clip.

Our ministry's aim for these Coffee Mug Bible Study is to simply supply Biblical answers to questions about the Bible. The evening sessions are broken into two halves. The first part is an in-depth study on a subject like Heaven, near-death experiences, or what the Bible says about those who have never heard the Gospel. The second half is the most adventurous, because we have a Q & A box. Anyone attending can fill out a slip of paper anonymously and ask a Bible question on any subject. We’ve had questions about suffering, after-death visions, Armageddon, alcohol, infant mortality, end-times prophecy… like I said, any subject.

My reason for these types of Bible studies was partially because of an intense memory I still carry, a memory of whenever I was a new-to-the-faith Christian entering a Bible college. My recollection concerns a large lecture-hall class, with three hundred students receiving an overview of the New Testament books. As a new Believer (I had come to Christ about six months earlier), I heartily enjoyed this instruction. The professor was friendly and engaging, his manner was clear and easy to grasp, and he seemed down-to-earth. One day, he opened up a segment of the lecture class time to asking questions.

I must state at this point in the story that at that time of my life, I was extremely shy. Some of you may not believe this, but I was very self-conscious as a teenager. I did not like to ask questions in any class, so you can imagine that I had a strong reason for raising my hand in front of hundreds of students and asking a very simple question to the professor. He smiled, acknowledged my hand and asked me to speak loudly.

I cleared my throat. “Sir, could you tell me how we came to just sixty-six books of the Bible? Why not a hundred, or two hundred? I mean, I know something about the Dead Sea scrolls and the discovery of documents – what if someone tripped over a rock and dug up another book of the Bible? What if a shepherd in Israel goes into a cave and finds a new book of the Bible?”

The professor lowered his head and literally waved me away.

“That’s impossible, the canon is closed.” And he started to speak on another subject.

I was stunned and confused. What was a canon? Why was it closed? Why wouldn’t he explain himself? Was there a secret to all of this?

An older student across the hall came to my rescue. “Sir,” he called out, “I understand what the other student was asking. He wanted to know how we can be sure that there are not new books being added to the Scriptures today. Is there a way that we can know that no new Bible book can be ‘discovered’?”

The professor hardened his face. “I’ll tell you what I just told him. The canon is closed. It’s impossible.” He looked at his notes. “Let’s move on.”

And that was it. End of discussion.

Hey, what happened here?

I asked a simple straightforward question. I wasn’t smug. I wasn’t confrontational. Why was I shut down?

Did I do something wrong?

Please understand, I harbored no ill will toward the professor; in fact, I had other classes with him in later years in much smaller settings (some in classes as small as eight) and found him fascinating. However, I learned a clear thing: he didn’t like taking questions. To this day, I am not sure why he opened that freshman class to questions at all. Why did he shut me down? Perhaps he felt it would take too long to answer my question. Perhaps he thought I was trying to trick him. Perhaps he was just having a bad day.

But I cannot find any of those to be acceptable excuses.

I was extremely embarrassed, and I’m sure I blushed a crimson red. I do remember making myself this promise:

If I ever become a teacher, I will never do that to a student. If he or she has a question I will do my best to get an answer, even if it takes a week of research.

And that’s what these Coffee Mug Bible Studies are about. Getting answers to people who have questions. They can be Protestant, Catholic, agnostic, Hindu, Buddhist, atheist or Wiccan, I don’t care. If they have a question, I feel it is our commitment to get them an answer.

Because there are so many people who have questions about spiritual things. It’s only fair to get them the right answer.

From the Bible.

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