One church leader described it as “scandalous.” He’s referring to Americans’ knowledge of Bible content.
It’s true that the average American would not fare well on a Bible quiz. Many cannot name the four gospels, or more than two or three of the disciples, or many of the 10 Commandments. Some believe Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife, and that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife.
Some Christian leaders say this lack of biblical literacy is the chief cause of society’s moral decay. But others are not so sure. Pastor and author Jeremy Myers said, “The problem is not that people don’t know the Bible. The problem is that we don’t even follow or practice the little bits we do know.”
And Myers fears that some preachers and teachers may actually be contributing to the problem by implying that accumulation of Bible knowledge is the ultimate goal.
What’s the ultimate goal? I’d argue that it’s a growing relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Scripture is a means to that end. To that end, I read the Bible daily. I love how it points me to Jesus. (That’s become more powerful since I’ve been reading The Jesus-Centered Bible, which makes frequent color-coded links to Jesus throughout, including in the Old Testament.)
If we truly desire for people to know, love and follow Jesus, I’m not sure it helps to discount them for under-performing in a Bible Jeopardy game. But I pray, as they read the scriptures, they’ll get better acquainted with God and his incredible love for them. I’m less concerned that they can regurgitate the names of the 12 tribes of Israel.
Can we shift our focus from viewing the Bible as an academic compendium of facts, figures and names, to an adventuresome account of a loving God who sacrificed everything for us, who invites us to follow him everywhere?
I invite you to listen to my conversation with Jeremy Myers about the Bible and its role in our lives–in this week’s Holy Soup podcast here:
Good timing. I just posted an article about the “Weakly Reader” (the Bible) yesterday. Without spending time in the Weakly Reader we will wallow in waywardness. https://stevesimms.wordpress.com/2016/08/09/weakly-reader-makes-me-strong/
Too many Christians know a great deal about the Bible, but have a limited understanding of the God of the Bible. I agree, it is a living relationship with Jesus Christ that is the key to living as a Christian, not how many Bible verses I know. After all, church history is full of “Bible-believers” who justify all manner of evil – think slavery.
Lee commented on Facebook: “Majority of preachers would and do flunk. This is what that old preacher said when I was 5 and he was an old man. He never had to go to school either.”
Interesting point that definitely comes from a more conservative milieu that I am in. Left-of-center Christians and preachers tend to downplay the importance of Bible knowledge and rely on those who are trained to explain it in a sermon. I have always found it ironic and even frustrating that so many of my fellow Presbyterians, who pride themselves on the level of education of the clergy and laity, do not read the Bible. The excuse I hear most often is “I don’t know anything about it.” Well, if someone recommends Agatha Christie to you, not knowing anything about it would not deter you from reading one of her books, would it?
Beyond that response, I remind people that men and women died, often horrible deaths, to ensure that the Bible got into the hands of the plowboy. Wycliffe, Tyndale, Hus all believed that even the uneducated could understand enough of the message to know the way to salvation and how to live a Christian life. That idea runs throughout the many creeds that are included in the PCUSA constitution. Yet here we are, holding bachelors and masters and doctorates, and we are afraid to crack the cover of the Bible.
When I was a kid memorizing countless Bible passages and hymns, I didn’t understand the need for it. I was told that one day, I would. I certainly came to that understanding. It’s not about trivia, though that can be fun, it’s about being able to grasp the message of God’s Word and have an overarching understanding of how God works from Geneis to Revelation.
Let me get this straight. Are we to worship God or Jesus Christ? I’ve heard people start to pray to God and slip into praying to Jesus and then back and forth and back and forth. The visitor in the pew gets confused enough.
and the evangelical ‘living relationship with Jesus Christ’ doesn’t wash with generation ‘Y’. It seemed strange as I listened to a recent ‘gushy’ preacher sound like she was having a intimate conversation with her lover. Upset me to say the least.
Conservative churches shy away from the ‘deep personal relationship’ theology and talk more about God and the divine love we appreciate and demonstrate in our lives.
Don commented on Facebook: “I’m guilty of knowing, but not doing……
Guess that’s why we need to ask constantly for our sins to be forgiven and repenting….”
Bible knowledge is most vital for our salvation depends on the Word of Yahuah and our obedience in doing His Words, Will, Commandments or Laws. Most of us depends on others and learns from prominent pastors but what if the pastor himself is unaware of teaching false doctrines / errors or heresies which is exactly what happened to me. Though I am a born again believer, Spirit filled, I seek Him daily and study the bible diligently since I was a novice, yet I was so easily misled by winds of doctrines. It was not until after 10 years later, only was I set freed from the strong deception of many false doctrines circulating in the churches worldwide. So! Beware and seek for the truth.
It really is all about hiding God’s Word in our hearts by daily reading, or by memorization, that brings life change. Saw this happen years ago with North Philly street gangs.
First, Jeremy is a great guy who I love following on social media. He seems to approach ministry with humility and a good sense of humor. Your discussion on the podcast was a good example of this.
Even among the functions of elders listed in the Bible (apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers) not all of them are going to have the same understanding of a given passage of scripture. They are going to see it in relation to the way God has given for them to serve the body of Christ.
If it is like this for recognized “ministers”, how much more will believers from so many different walks of life see some scriptures as more applicable to their lives and to those God may minister to through their lives?
All a bunch of white washed tombs
[…] past week I was interviewed by Thom Schultz, the CEO of Group Publishing, for his “Holy Soup” podcast. Thom interviewed me about whether or not biblical illiteracy is that big of a deal in the church […]
[…] was recently interviewed by Thom Schultz, the CEO of Group Publishing, for his “Holy Soup” podcast. We talked about whether or not biblical illiteracy is a problem in the church. Lots of people […]