Bible Literacy in the Church
I was glossing through the list of Biblical topics on the Blog Entry page, and I noticed the phrase "Biblical literacy." This is a subject that I have pondered for several years now. Please understand, this is not meant to be a rant about people who are, I believe, devout and well meaning Christians. However, I have noticed in, let's say, the past ten years, that Biblical literacy seems to be declining in many churches. I have found that many adult Christians, who have been raised in the church, have an appallingly low level of basic knowledge of the Bible. They profess to believe the Bible and all it teaches, yet many of them have not the slightest idea of exactly what that may be, beyond some nice Sunday School stories. I have seen numerous polls that indicate this is a continuing problem. Perhaps a few anecdotes will illustrate my point:
- When the movie The Passion of the Christ was popular several years ago, a church I was attending had an open discussion about the film. Now this was a church composed mostly of educated people, intelligent people. However, during the discussion, several people asked questions about Mel Gibson's presentation of the Passion, that indicated they had very little knowledge of the story of Our Lord's Passion themselves. "Was the demon baby that Satan carried in the Bible? Did Jesus really speak Latin in the Bible?" These are just a couple of the questions asked.
- In a Sunday School class I co-taught, we would often say, "Please turn to your Bibles, and look up <fill-in-the-blank>. I was astonished at how many of the adults in the class would have difficulty locating various books of the Bible, or how many people would say something like, "Were David and Saul in the Old Testament or the New Testament? And when did King Saul change his name to Paul?" (I'm not making this up.)
- Just a few weeks ago, an adult at the church where I direct music asked me, "Where in the Bible does it describe Peter's crucifixion?" When I told her that there was no description of Peter's crucifixion in the Bible, she seemed very confused.
As I said above, I am not attempting to belittle the faith of fellow Christians. And I certainly don't think simple knowledge of facts from the Bible constitutes a living faith. However, I am often amazed at how many mature Christians are content with an understanding of Scripture that doesn't go beyond an elementary level. I am reminded of Paul's discussion of milk and meat in 1 Cor. 3. Because they were still living in the flesh, they were not ready for the meat he was ready to feed them. (The footnote in the NET Bible on 1 Cor. 3:2 is particularly instructive here.) There are many Christians in today's church who are sticking with milk, when they should be moving on to meat. Especially in this Internet age, when we have great resources available to all (like this website!), it is scandalous that people should be content to live like that.
I'll climb down from my soapbox now.