What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? — T.S. Eliot in The Waste Land.
If Christians are out of touch with God’s truth, then where is the value for those seeking authentic spiritual life? The scandal of the church is that Biblical illiteracy has reached such epidemic proportions in America that many Christians may well be propagating a gospel different than the one to which Christ called His people.
Research by Pew, LifeWay and the Barna Group show that:
- 40% of church attenders read from their Bible just once or twice a month.
- 1 in 5 churchgoers say they never read the Bible.
- Many Christians cannot identify more than two or three of the disciples.
What many Christians believe is folk Christianity:
- 81% of born-again Christians think, “God helps those who help themselves,” is a Bible verse.
- 1 in 5 evangelical Christians believe there are many ways to get to heaven.
- 59% of evangelicals believe the Holy Spirit is a force and not a personal being.
- Many Christians hold unbiblical views on hell, sin, salvation, Jesus, humanity, and the Bible.
Biblical illiteracy leads inevitably to a downward spiral of false doctrine, confused practice and a form of pseudo-Christianity where people believe whatever they want.
Why are we so biblically illiterate? Here are some perspectives:
“We don’t need more head knowledge — we already know more of the Bible than we put into practice anyway.” This kind of excuse legitimizes hazy Bible knowledge, and perpetuates lazy passivity. “It’s about the Holy Spirit, not the Holy Bible”, say some, thus denying the Holy Spirit’s role in inspiring the Bible as authoritative in everyday life. “I simply follow the Holy Spirit’s nudges,” say others, as if they are perfectly capable of discerning, independently of God’s truth, if those nudges come from the Holy Spirit, an evil spirit, or their own self-serving convictions.
According to Pew Research, one in four Americans can’t manage to read just one book a year. Educator Neil Postman observed that we Americans “amuse ourselves to death.” Reading exacts intense intellectual involvement that is interactive and dialectical. However, when reading is abandoned in favor of technologies that keep us passively entertained, it upends our capacity to think. If we don’t read, we won’t think critically. We just go with the flow, even if the flow takes us in the wrong direction.
Is God a priority per the Great Commandment? Many Christians say so. Yet research shows that Christians spend:
- More time watching television than reading, studying or internalizing God’s Word.
- More time on social networking sites than reading God’s Word.
- More time playing video games than reading God’s Word.
The need for revival
We will not believe more than we know, and we will not live higher than our beliefs. The lack of Christian conviction in this generation can be directly traced to biblical illiteracy in the pews and a paucity of biblical preaching and teaching in our homes and churches. Americans revere the Bible but don’t read it. And because they don’t read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates. We need a revival.
Where to from here?
Recovery starts at home. Parents are the first and most important educators of their own children, diligently teaching them the Word of God (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Parents cannot outsource their responsibility to the congregation. God assigned to parents this 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. Pastors and churches must make biblical knowledge a central aim of ministry in order to produce believers who know how to be faithful, maturing disciples. Small groups need quality leaders to get beyond superficial Bible study. Youth ministries need to be equipped, not just to keep kids busy, but for meaningful spiritual formation.
For this generation, the time is now
This generation must seriously address the problem of biblical illiteracy, or a devastatingly large number of Christians risk believing a corrupted gospel. The consequences are potentially disastrous, which is why Paul warned “even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” (Gal 1:8).
A Place of Joy
God calls us, not to a wasteland — a famine of God’s Word — but to a place of joy where the Word of God is integral to our lives. As the prophet Jeremiah said, “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts.” (Jeremiah 15:16).
Village Schools of the Bible
Village Schools of the Bible comes alongside and helps churches, parents and individual believers. Every spiritual revival since Old Testament times has involved an earnest return to God’s Word. Our deep desire is to see people transformed by God through an immersive study of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Our mission: Teach God’s Word and Transform Lives. We believe that when God’s people understand and apply God’s Word they live in God’s joy, serving others in everyday life at home, church and work — and around the world.
One of our students wrote of our Cover-to-Cover Bible Survey course, “This course has been life-changing for me…I feel like my relationship with the Lord has grown so much, and my understanding is much more in-depth. I am excited about the Word.” Another wrote: “Cover-to-Cover has been life-transforming. I explain to my friends the depth of understanding that I’ve achieved through this course and how the Bible has come to life for me. Cover-to-Cover should be for everybody!”
Please join us as we pray for a return to God’s Word, and for spiritual revival.
To learn more about Village Schools of the Bible, click here.
This blog post has drawn extensively from the following sources:
- Berding, K. The Crisis of Biblical Illiteracy and what we can do about it. Biola Magazine. Undated. http://magazine.biola.edu/article/14-spring/the-crisis-of-biblical-illiteracy.
- Mohler, A. The Scandal of Biblical Illiteracy: It’s Our Problem. Jan 20, 2016. http://www.albertmohler.com/2016/01/20/the-scandal-of-biblical-illiteracy-its-our-problem-4/
- Stetzer, E. The Epidemic of Bible Illiteracy in Our Churches. CT, July 15, 2015. http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2015/july/epidemic-of-bible-illiteracy-in-our-churches.html
Written by Warwick Alcock, Director of Strategic Operations, Village Schools of the Bible.