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Biblical Illiteracy Is Hurting Christians Big Time
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Almost every Christian home owns a Bible, but how many Christians actually read the Bible? Statistics reveal very poor results! Majority of Christians do not read their Bible.
It seems Christians do not have an urge or a desire to read the Bible. That deep desire to read and study the Bible seems to be lost in time.
Here’s another perspective. If a lay Christian is in conversation with his Muslim friend about Jesus, it is exceedingly possible that the Muslim friend knows more about the Bible than the Christian. This is the plight of Christians today.
An article in Christianity Today, authored by Ed Stetzer, emphasizes the problem of biblical illiteracy with facts:
Christians claim to believe the Bible is God's Word. We claim it's God's divinely inspired, inerrant message to us. Yet despite this, we aren't reading it. A recent LifeWay Research study found only 45 percent of those who regularly attend church read the Bible more than once a week. Over 40 percent of the people attending read their Bible occasionally, maybe once or twice a month. Almost 1 in 5 churchgoers say they never read the Bible—essentially the same number who read it every day.
Because we don't read God's Word, it follows that we don't know it. To understand the effects, we can look to statistics of another Western country: the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom Bible Society surveyed British children and found many could not identify common Bible stories. When given a list of stories, almost 1 in 3 didn't choose the Nativity as part of the Bible and over half (59 percent) didn't know that Jonah being swallowed by the great fish is in the Bible.
British parents didn't do much better. Around 30 percent of parents don't know Adam and Eve, David and Goliath, or the Good Samaritan are in the Bible. To make matters worse, 27 percent think Superman is or might be a biblical story. More than 1 in 3 believes the same about Harry Potter. And more than half (54 percent) believe The Hunger Games is or might be a story from the Bible.
Biblical illiteracy is an epidemic that continues to soar. It is not limited to the USA or UK. This is a worldwide phenomenon. Biblical illiteracy may even be prevalent in our homes.
Why should we read the Bible?
If we believe that the Bible is the Word of God, then as God’s people, we ought to know God’s Word. Significantly, God has commanded us to learn HIS Word.
Today, we have unlimited access to the Bible, yet we do not read it. An article from Biola University reveals why we should read the Bible:
In the book of Amos, people who experienced a “famine of hearing the words of the Lord” are portrayed as undergoing divine judgment. Amos paints a picture of people without access to God’s revelation searching for a message from God like desperate people — hungry and dehydrated — in search of food and water (Amos 8:11–12). In Amos they want it, but are not permitted it. In our case, although we have unlimited access, we often don’t want it…
When God commissioned Joshua (the son of Nun), he charged him with these words: “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it” (Josh. 1:8).
How often should you meditate on it? Day and night. Why? So that you do what is in it.
The Old Testament book of Psalms leads off with these words:
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. (Ps. 1:1–3)
And in another psalm: “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Ps. 119:97). Have you ever wondered how it could be his meditation all the day? The psalmist didn’t have the Bible on his smart phone. Did he carry around a big scroll under his arm? No, he had memorized the passages he was meditating on and was thinking about them. He had committed large sections of the Bible to memory…
Are you aware that the New Testament authors included in their writings more than 300 direct quotations from the Old Testament writers — not counting hundreds of other allusions and echoes of Old Testament language? There is no evidence that any of these authors actually looked up the references as they wrote. They simply knew their Bibles — that is, the parts of the Bible that had already been written. How did they come to know it so well? They worked on it “day and night.” They saturated themselves in it. (Emphasis Mine).
What are the effects of Biblical illiteracy?
Ed Stetzer says that those who do not read the Bible could easily be deceived by the plethora of false doctrines that are in vogue today, “…
Our lack of biblical literacy has led to a lack of biblical doctrine.
LifeWay Research found that while 67 percent of Americans believe heaven is a real place, 45 percent believe there are many ways to get there—including 1 in 5 evangelical Christians. More than half of evangelicals (59 percent) believe the Holy Spirit is a force and not a personal being—in contrast to the orthodox biblical teaching of the Trinity being three Persons in one God. As a whole, Americans, including many Christians, hold unbiblical views on hell, sin, salvation, Jesus, humanity, and the Bible itself.”
If we do not know the biblical doctrine, we could believe in any false doctrine as if it were the biblical doctrine. The danger of not knowing the truth is that we could believe in falsehood as if it were the truth. Truth cannot contain even a speck of falsehood in it. But falsehood could have one or more strands of the truth. However, falsehood will remain a falsehood despite the presence of one or more strands of the truth.
How could we recognize a false doctrine when we are oblivious to the truth? Unless the truth is in us, we can never identify a false doctrine. If we do not read the Bible, we would not know the truth. This is the primary reason why so many Christians believe in false doctrines.
What are the churches doing?
Churches are one of the most significant reasons for this debacle says Albert Mohler, “Christians who lack biblical knowledge are the products of churches that marginalize biblical knowledge. Bible teaching now often accounts for only a diminishing fraction of the local congregation’s time and attention. The move to small group ministry has certainly increased opportunities for fellowship, but
many of these groups never get beyond superficial Bible study.
Youth ministries are asked to fix problems, provide entertainment, and keep kids busy.
How many local-church youth programs actually produce substantial Bible knowledge in young people?
Even the pulpit has been sidelined in many congregations.
Preaching has taken a back seat to other concerns in corporate worship.
The centrality of biblical preaching to the formation of disciples is lost, and Christian ignorance leads to Christian indolence and worse.” (Emphasis Mine).
How do we overcome this biblical illiteracy epidemic?
Those who haven’t read the Bible tend to think that Sodom and Gomorrah were a married couple! Unless we read the Bible, we cannot think and believe in the truth.
Albert Mohler believes that the ball is in our court i.e. the Christian’s court:
This really is our problem, and it is up to this generation of Christians to reverse course. Recovery starts at home. Parents are to be the first and most important educators of their own children, diligently teaching them the Word of God. [See Deuteronomy 6:4-9.] Parents cannot franchise their responsibility to the congregation, no matter how faithful and biblical it may be. God assigned parents this non-negotiable responsibility, and children must see their Christian parents as teachers and fellow students of God’s Word.
Churches must recover the centrality and urgency of biblical teaching and preaching, and refuse to sideline the teaching ministry of the preacher. Pastors and churches too busy–or too distracted–to make biblical knowledge a central aim of ministry will produce believers who simply do not know enough to be faithful disciples.
We will not believe more than we know, and we will not live higher than our beliefs. The many fronts of Christian compromise in this generation can be directly traced to biblical illiteracy in the pews and the absence of biblical preaching and teaching in our homes and churches.
This generation must get deadly serious about the problem of biblical illiteracy, or a frighteningly large number of Americans–Christians included–will go on thinking that Sodom and Gomorrah lived happily ever after.
Finally and more importantly,
let’s not blame our parents or our churches for not teaching us the Bible. Let’s blame ourselves.
Unless we have a great love and a burning desire to read and study the Bible, we would not listen to our parents or our church leaders, even if they teach us the Bible. If we do not read our Bible, our love for the Lord our God is seriously lacking. So if we do not read the Bible, then let us repent of our sin and begin to read and study God’s Word.
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25 Apr 2018
Well investigated and written. We truly are the third generation fruits of our fathers who wanted to listen more to church music and less to the Word of God.
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