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:

Prideful Overconfidence

“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.

Worldly Distractions

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:

  1. 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.      
  2. 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/
  3. 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.


Being Renewed Day by Day

By Warren Coe


My shoulder was sore so I rubbed that awful mineral ice on the hurting spot.  Pushing past the smell, I let the ointment do its work.  When I woke up the next morning I was reminded of an undeniable reality in my life—I’m getting old.  I stopped short of the morbid prospect that someday I will die.

My elderly friend, Clinton was dying of bone cancer.  Because his pain was excruciating, he could no longer shake my hand when I made my pastoral visits.  In spite of his pending departure from this world, Clinton was always hopeful.  He talked about seeing Jesus Christ face-to-face.  Heaven was ever present on his mind.  He was a perfect example of a person with a trusting faith in the face of great suffering.

Every time I visited Clinton, he mustered the strength to quote 2 Corinthians 4:16, 17.

For those who trust in Jesus Christ, death does not have the final say.  It is like a gate we walk through.  John Bunyan in Pilgrim’s Progress saw death as a river we wade through to the other shore.  In Christ we overcome.  In Christ death is swallowed up in victory.  All of us are getting older but in Christ we are being renewed day by day.

If you want to know more about Christianity or how to know more about the Bible contact me at warren@villageschoolsofthebible.org.

Being Renewed Day by Day

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy | Eric Metaxas

Reviewed by Warren CoeBonhoeffer

A Book worth Reading

I confess a hagiographic spirit—I am fascinated by and adore the great men and women of faith. Reading their biographies is like enjoying a fine steak dinner—you read slowly and enjoy every bite.

This past fall my study group chose Eric Metaxas’s Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy for our discussions. Each Saturday was pure delight as we walked with Dietrich Bonhoeffer through the dangerous times in which he lived. I’ve concluded that Mr. Bonhoeffer would be welcomed in our group. In fact, he would love the perspicacious spirit we enjoy.

In reading Metaxas’ Bonhoeffer, I discovered a brother and friend who saw the decline of God and His gospel in a relativistic culture; a culture that would soon be devoid of a moral center. It was this culture that gave the world the final solution and World War II. It is this prophetic spirit that makes Bonhoeffer a prophet for our time.

A Man of His Times
Metaxas shows the sweeping vistas that make Bonhoeffer a great historical figure. “As Adolf Hitler and the Nazis seduced a nation, bullied a continent, and attempted to exterminate the Jews of Europe, a small number of dissidents and saboteurs worked to dismantle the Third Reich form the inside. One of these was Dietrich Bonhoeffer—a pastor and author, known as much for such spiritual classics as The Cost of Discipleship and Life Together, as for his 1945 execution in a concentration camp for his part in the plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler.”

No period in modern history was more disruptive to the human experience than WWII. No political power wore the face of evil as Hitler and the Nazis. This was Dietrich’s world. Because he was German he lived at the epicenter of unmasked hate. To make matters worse he witnessed a supine and pusillanimous church that laid down, without a whimper, to Hitler’s thuggery. God became weightless. The radical gospel was un-preached. Christ was a mere historic figure and no more.

A Disturbing Discovery in America
In 1930 Bonhoeffer visited America. He attended Union Theological Seminary in New York and experienced the American Church seen. Harry Emerson Fosdick was the preaching pastor at Park Avenue Baptist Church where John D. Rockefeller attended. Bonhoeffer was surprised by the liberal bent of the church and their anti-intellectual approach. In the words of Eric Metaxas, “They had jettisoned serious scholarship altogether.” p.103

Bonhoeffer observed, “In theology and the church they [students at Union Seminary] do not see the radical claim of truth on the shaping of their lives. Community is therefore founded less on truth than on the spirit of ‘fairness.’ One says nothing against another member of the dormitory as long as he is a ‘good fellow.’ There is little intellectual competition and little intellectual ambition. This gives work in seminar lecture or discussion a very innocuous character. It cripples any radical, pertinent criticism. It is more a friendly exchange of opinion than a study in comprehension.” p.104

Bonhoeffer would continue his critique of the America church in the early 1930’s as being more a social organization than the supernatural body of Christ. Her pastors were more concerned with “practical out-workings” of Christianity than deep theological understanding. You can almost hear them say, “Doctrine divides so let’s talk only about the practical application of Christianity and social justice.” Bonhoeffer added, “That the lack of seriousness with which the students here speak of God and the world is, to say the least, extremely surprising…” pg.105 Bonhoeffer concluded that the anti-supernatural and anti-intellectual nature of the American church would “accelerate the process of the secularization of Christianity in America.” pg.105

The Great Decision
Perhaps no matter occupied Bonhoeffer’s mind more than whether to return to Germany. Hitler’s troops were burning down Europe. The German church was obsequiously compliant to the Fuhrer’s demands. The only voice of opposition was the Confessing Church in which Bonhoeffer was a founding member.

In 1939, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote to Reinhold Niebuhr. “I have had the time to think and to pray about my situation and that of my nation and to have God’s will for me clarified. I have come to the conclusion that I have made a mistake in coming to America. I must live through this difficult period of our national history with the Christian people of Germany. I shall have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trial of this time with my people”. p.321

Dietrich returned to Germany and joined the plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. He carefully stated his decision to join the resistance movement. “Thus we were approaching the borderline between confession and resistance; and if we did not cross this border, our confession was going to be no better than cooperation with the criminals. And so it became clear where the problem lay for the Confessing Church: we were resisting by way of confession, but we were not confessing by way of resistance.” p.361

Failed Plot and a Criminal’s Death
History records that the assassination attempt against Adolf Hitler failed. The saboteurs were rounded up and killed—even Dietrich Bonhoeffer. One of his last stops was Buchenwald. In Metaxas words, “’Buchenwald was one of the Nazi centers of death.’ But it was not merely a place where people died; it was a place where death was celebrated and worshipped…Buchenwald and its equivalents throughout the Third Reich were living embodiments of the satanic worldview of the SS, where weakness was preyed upon and crushed. Human beings were sometimes murdered for their skin, which was used to make souvenir items such as wallets and knife cases for members of the SS. The heads of some prisoners were shrunken and given as gifts.” p.504

With time running out for Hitler, guards transferred Bonhoeffer to Flossenburg. It was here that the Nazi’s executed Dietrich Bonhoeffer just hours before the allied troops liberated the prisoners. Providence decreed an early home-going for one of the few prophets in Germany during World War II.

His Source of Strength—the Word of God
Without a doubt, the source of Bonhoeffer’s strength resided in God’s Word, the Bible. Somehow through the morass of German school of higher criticism of the 19th century and neo-orthodoxy in the 1920s and 1930s, Dietrich managed to discover the Bible as God’s Word. He accepted the Bible as God’s Word. He believed the truths it taught. It was the Bible that held his conscience captive.

Bonhoeffer, in writing to his brother-in-law Rudiger Schleicher said, “First of all I will confess quite simply—I believe that the Bible alone is the answer to all our questions and that we need only to ask repeatedly and a little humbly, in order to receive this answer…that is because in the Bible God speaks to us. Only if we will venture to enter into the words of the Bible, as though in them this God were speaking to us who loves us and does not will to leave us alone with our questions, only so shall we learn to rejoice in the Bible.”

“And I would like to tell you now quite personally: since I have learnt to read the Bible in this way—and this has not been for so very long—it becomes every day more wonderful to me. I read it in the morning and the evening, often during the day as well, and every day I consider a text which I have chosen for the whole week, and try to sink deeply into it, so as really to hear what it is saying. I know that without this I could not live properly any longer.” pg.136, 137

Note: Good Christians may differ in their conclusions about whether or not it was godly wisdom for Bonhoeffer to be involved in the plot to assassinate Hitler. However, regardless, Bonhoeffer’s story is worth reading and understanding in the times in which we live.

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy | Eric Metaxas