Basic Facts Every Christian Should Know

One of our young people and his friend from another church interviewed a number of pastors in the Kokomo (IN) area. To their surprise, a number of them could not recite the Ten Commandments.

Another one of our young people participated in an after-school Christian ministry where the leader asked if anyone could recite the Ten Commandments. She was the only one who could do so (the leader was surprised, because on other occasions, no one was able to perform that feat). You would think the leader would have changed his lesson plan and taught the kids the commandments then and there (I wonder if he knew them), but his question was merely a jumping point for a lesson about the loss of absolute truth.

We live in a day and age where speakers complain about believers not knowing the basic facts, yet these leaders do nothing to remedy the problem. Complaining about the problem, or revealing it, is not enough: we should, instead, fix the problem. And we should not move on until we have done so.

In the past, I’ve taught the Ten Commandments and Persons of the Trinity during our morning service, conducted a combined Sunday school for grades 1-8 to teach these basics and more, and offered similar material during our Sunday evening service. I have taught much of this material during AWANA or, in recent years, to our summer youth group.

As I was studying 2 Peter (1:12-13) in preparation for one of my sermons, I realized that I had not properly “reinforced” these teachings in recent years. Peter wrote:

Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder.

All Christians need to know and review the basic “facts.” Most of us agree that, by and large, learning concepts is better than mere memorization of information. But not always. Rote memory has gotten a bum wrap: Learning by rote is an excellent way to lay a foundation—especially if you contemplate what you have learned!

I do not want to place the bar too high; instead, I will list what I consider the bare essentials for every Christian to know by rote—basic Christian facts that correspond to learning multiplication tables in math. You might use this information as a list for your own personal achievement, and for instructing your children at home, teaching Sunday school or other classes for children, teens, and yes—adults!

The temptation is to get too deep in analyzing these very important subjects. A superficial rote memorization, though, lays a foundation that can be expanded upon later. Detail-constrained people and the TMI crowd are not the best at teaching these basics!

1. The order of the books of the Bible

Like learning the alphabet before reading, knowing the order of the books of the Bible is foundational to deep Bible study. If you are fortunate enough to have children who have been taught the New Testament and the Old Testament songs, you have an “easy way” to learn the arrangement. Breaking the task into manageable “chunks” is helpful.

Let’s begin with the New Testament. You want to be able to think through the order, so here is a list you might use.

New Testament

  • The Historical Books (Matthew-Acts)
  • Paul’s Epistles (Romans-Philemon)
  • Hebrews
  • General Epistles (James-Jude)
  • Revelation (Remember, it is not Revelations.)

The list of Paul’s epistles can be the most difficult. Remember, all the “T’s” are together (1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus); an acrostic for Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians is “Gentiles Eat Pork Chops.”

Learn each section before moving on to the next. Always review from the beginning. (“Matthew, Mark….”)

Old Testament

We again have some useful divisions

  • The Torah (Genesis-Deuteronomy)
  • The Historical Books (Joshua-Esther)
  • The Poetical Books (Job-Song of Solomon)
  • The Major Prophets (Isaiah-Daniel; note that Lamentations is an appendix to the book of Jeremiah.)
  • The Twelve Minor Prophets (Hosea-Malachi)

You can create an acrostic for the twelve Minor Prophets, or you might compromise and look them up in the index if you cannot seem to conquer this challenge. If you know the order of the Old Testament books except for the Minor Prophets, you can get by. Here is an acrostic I use:

Howard Johnson Ate Olives (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah)

January May Need Heat (Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk)

Zoos Have Zebra Mammals (Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi).

The book most people cannot locate is Nahum. Odds are if you can locate Nahum without consulting an index, you know your Bible order!

2. The Ten Commandments

These are found in Exodus 20, but they are not numbered. I reduce them down to bare bones paraphrases for easy memory. I am more concerned that people still know their commandments at age seventy-three than I am about perfection of wording at age twelve. The secret is to think through them in three sections:

Four commands relating to God:

  1. No other gods
  2. No images
  3. Do not misuse God’s name.
  4. Remember the Sabbath Day.

Then the authority we recognize first in life, our parents:

  1. Honor your parents

Then we think of five sins, from worst to least:

  1. Do not murder.
  2. Do not commit adultery.
  3. Do not steal.
  4. Do not lie.
  5. Do not covet.

Thinking through the commandments really helps. When explaining meanings to children, they will often ask about adultery. A kid-friendly way to explain this is, “If you are married, do not look for anybody else.” With coveting, I’ll explain it is wanting something too much—so much that you make yourself unhappy or you are willing to do something wrong to get it.

3. The Three Points of the Gospel

These are derived from I Corinthians 15:1-6. When memorizing this, I encourage folks to emphasize, “for our sins.” The fact that Christ died is history, but the fact that He died for our sins is theology and salvation!

  1. Christ died for our sins.
  2. He was buried.
  3. He rose again on the third day.

4. The Three Points of the Great Commission

These are derived from Matthew 28:19-20. I summarize “teaching all things” as “discipleship.” The points, then, are these:

  1. Evangelism
  2. Baptism
  3. Discipleship

5. The storyline of the major events in the entire Bible

These include Creation, the Fall, the Flood, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Judges, King David, Solomon, divided kingdom, Babylonian Captivity, return to Jerusalem under Ezra, birth of John the Baptist, life of Jesus, Pentecost, inclusion of the Gentiles. The best way to get this is by reading through the Bible. Attending Sunday school and attentiveness during sermons over the years helps to refresh these, too. Children’s story Bibles help rehearse the main narratives.

6. Persons Who make up the one Triune God

  1. Father
  2. Son
  3. Holy Spirit

Please do not teach “God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit” as the Trinity. This is not quite accurate. By calling only the Father “God,” you are implying that the Son and Spirit are something less than God. By naming Jesus as part of the Trinity, you are including His human nature, which had a beginning (remember, God has been triune eternally). God the Son has always existed, but the human nature of Jesus began in Mary’s womb.

7. The importance of the nation of Israel

This is a topic of controversy. Although all Christians would acknowledge the importance of Israel in the past (the nation producing the Messiah, the Bible, and the Apostles), most of Christendom believes that God is done with Israel forever. We disagree and assert that this is an important issue.

At present the existence of the nation of Israel is an indication of God’s faithfulness and thus an evidence of the truth of the Bible. The only thing that makes sense of Israel’s existence is God’s end-time plans for Israel (her future conversion and exaltation during the Kingdom Age). See Romans 11.

(Note: I recognize that many SI readers do not believe in an exalted Israel in the future. Please feel free to nix this one if your views differ from mine.)

8. The Solas

These are the five Biblical “alones” reclaimed during the Reformation. I prefer to condense them to two statements:

Scripture Alone. We are not saying that the Bible is the only authority, but rather, the Bible is the only infallible and thus the final authority. (Other authorities—like governments, parents, or church leaders—are fallible but to generally be respected; clear Scripture, however, can trump these authorities.)

Salvation by God’s grace alone through Christ alone by faith alone to God’s glory alone.

9. Minimal verses every Christians should understand and have memorized

John 3:16, I John 1:9 and the “Romans Road” verses (Romans 3:10, 3:23, 5:8, 6:23 and 10:9). It might be good to also include Ephesians 2:8-9.

John 3:16 is a simple salvation verse. I John 1:9 is a verse every Christian needs to know—confessing our sins to God and dealing with guilt is an important part of a godly walk. The Romans Road verses can be used for personal assurance but are especially well suited to lead someone to faith in Christ. The Ephesians verses are, in a sense, a clarification of what Romans 6:23 means—salvation is a gift. A gift really is a gift!

We are never done learning as Christians, so please do not stop with the above! This is meant to be a starting point, not an ending one. Just as we learn our multiplication tables and then move on to division, fractions, and decimals, so the basic Christian “facts” are a foundation upon which to build.

For SI readers, an addendum: Those of us in leadership (whether lay leaders or clergy) must repeatedly re-lay this foundation. We should never assume our folks have this foundation. I would challenge skeptics (optimists who believe their people know all these facts) to give an anonymous test to their Sunday school class, youth group—or attenders at a morning service. But be prepared for disappointment! I believe the overwhelming majority of Christians do not know their basic Christian facts by rote. They might pick up the Ten Commandments if given a multiple-choice quiz, but can they list them? Not many can.


Ed Vasicek was raised as a Roman Catholic in in Cicero, Illinois. During his senior year in high school (in 1974), Cicero Bible Church reached out to him, and he received Jesus Christ as his Savior by faith alone. Ed later felt a call to ministry and enrolled at Moody Bible Institute (B.A., Pastoral Studies/Greek). After graduating, he served as pastor of Victory Bible Church of Chicago (a branch work of Cicero Bible Church) and married Marylu Troppito. In 1983, the couple moved to Kokomo where Ed began pastoring Highland Park Church, where he still serves. Ed and Marylu have two adult children, Hannah and Luke. Ed loves to write. He has written over 500 weekly columns for the opinion page of the Kokomo Tribune, published articles in Pulpit Helps magazine, and populated his church’s website with an endless barrage of papers. You can access them at www.highlandpc.com.

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DOlinger's picture

Good thinking and food for thought, Ed. May I offer a slight emendation and a small but helpful addition?

On point 3, I think the passage presents two, not three, points in the gospel:

1. Christ died for our sins, according to the Scripture
and was buried;
2. He rose again the third day, according to the Scripture
and was seen.

The "buried" and "seen" observations are simply confirmations of the "died" and "rose" points, which are highlighted by the phrase you noted, "according to the Scripture."

Second, on point 5, I use a little chronological trick to help me place everything in order. Key OT actors appear every 500 years: Noah, 2500 BC (this is the most controversial date); Abraham, 2000; Moses, 1500; David, 1000; Ezra, 500.

This pattern makes it fairly easy to place everything else into a confined slot. For example, the Egyptian period is between Abraham and Moses, so it's around 1750; the judges are between Moses and David, so they're around 1250; Elijah is between David and Ezra, so he's around 750. That helps me remember order for pretty much everything in the OT, and order has a lot to do with cause and effect, which has a lot to do with harvesting key principles from history. My students find it helpful as well.

BTW, the AD dates do the same thing with major theologians: Paul, 0; Augustine, 500; Thomas Aquinas, 1000 (or so); Calvin, 1500; Barth, 2000. (Please don't take Barth's inclusion as an endorsement; but he is a major theologian.)

Thanks for the thought-provoking piece.

Dan Olinger, PhD
Chair, Div of Bible, BJU

Charlie's picture

Ed, what a great piece. Your pastoral heart really shines through here. Memorization of key Scriptural facts is indeed a good foundation on which to build, one for which I am quite thankful. I think Christianity a few centuries back used to be much more insistent on accomplishing this in both children and adults. One thinks of Richard Baxter's crusade to catechize the parish. In seminary, I heard repeatedly (though I admit I never saw a primary source for this) that the [URL=http://reformed.org/documents/wsc/index.html Westminster Shorter Catechism[/URL ] was designed for children around the age of 8. Wow. Family worship used to be a really big deal, at least in Calvinist Scotland and early (Calvinist) America. I think there are still some people doing family worship, but my impression is that the majority of the Church, even the conservative Church, is ignorant and haphazard about it. I do think, though, that the ghost of James Montgomery Boice may haunt you for your condensation of the solas.

Dr. Olinger, I will henceforth refer to church history as the Paul-Augustine-Aquinas-Calvin-Barth continuum. Poor Luther and Schleiermacher!

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Aaron Blumer's picture

Quote:
Dr. Olinger, I will henceforth refer to church history as the Paul-Augustine-Aquinas-Calvin-Barth continuum. Poor Luther and Schleiermacher!

Oh well, somebody had to go.

Dr.O, I've found the 500 year markers helpful as well. Can't remember where I saw them first, maybe Talk Thru the Bible by Wilkinson and Boa.

Anyway, thanks, Ed. I think we might have a quiz at our church.

Ryan's picture

Thanks Ed, for the reminder. As a high school Bible teacher it is good to remember the value of instilling this kind of framework in my students.

Just one thought however... while I acknowledge that 1 Cor. 15 presents the gospel in somewhat of a "nutshell," I think that we should be careful not to think (or teach) that this is all that the gospel consists of or entails. Paul was assuming a lot that he fills in elsewhere in his letters. The wages of sin, The deity of Christ, his sinless life, the necessary response of repentance and faith, etc. are all part of the gospel as well. So while I see the value to some degree of using 1 Cor. 15 as a teaching device about some of the basics of the gospel, we must be careful IMO that we don't reduce the gospel to those three (or two) facts.

I imagine you wouldn't disagree as most of the other things are more like mental hooks on which much else hangs, I just am a bit cautious (perhaps over-cautious) because I have too often heard 1 Cor. 15 presented as the sum total of the gospel, rather than the center of the gospel, or basics of the gospel, or some such thing.

Aaron Blumer's picture

I think it's fair to say that the term "gospel" is used in the NT in a narrow sense and a broad sense. The narrow one would be what Ed has described, based on 1 Cor.15 where Paul uses the term and enumerates the contents.
Of course, many have pointed out that the points Paul lists in 1Cor.15 do presuppose other points like why He died, and who He is. So these ideas are certainly not excluded.
Romans 2:16, for example, includes the judgement.

I know I've seen a passage or two where "gospel" seems to include the entire Christian way of life, though I can't seem to find an example at the moment. Usually, it seems to be the message in 1Cor.15 along with points that are indispensable to it.

Ed Vasicek's picture

DOlinger wrote:

Quote:
Second, on point 5, I use a little chronological trick to help me place everything in order. Key OT actors appear every 500 years: Noah, 2500 BC (this is the most controversial date); Abraham, 2000; Moses, 1500; David, 1000; Ezra, 500.

That's a great device, but I would label that more "intermediate." I do emphasize that folks learn at least one OT date, 586. That really helps them navigate the prophets.

Charlie said:

Quote:
I think Christianity a few centuries back used to be much more insistent on accomplishing this in both children and adults.

You are right, Charlie. We are seeing the same problem in the education field, too. We can no longer expect people to memorize at home: we have to teach 'em when we have 'em.

Aaron said:

Quote:
Dr.O, I've found the 500 year markers helpful as well. Can't remember where I saw them first, maybe Talk Thru the Bible by Wilkinson and Boa.
The problem in this area is TMI, Too much information. Walk Thru the Bible seminars can be great reinforcers for those who have read through the Bible at least a few times, but I wonder how many people really retain all that info?

DOlinger wrote:

Quote:
On point 3, I think the passage presents two, not three, points in the gospel:
1. Christ died for our sins, according to the Scripture
and was buried;
2. He rose again the third day, according to the Scripture
and was seen.

I admit there is a parallelism there, so you could do it that way. But more is not always better, especially when getting the basic facts down. Still for memory, I think the 3 points are easier and briefer. Kind of the same philosophy I expressed about the commandments:

Quote:
I am more concerned that people still know their commandments at age seventy-three than I am about perfection of wording at age twelve.

Ryan said:

Quote:
Just one thought however... while I acknowledge that 1 Cor. 15 presents the gospel in somewhat of a "nutshell," I think that we should be careful not to think (or teach) that this is all that the gospel consists of or entails.

Well, this is about getting down the Basic Facts. I believe Paul himself makes it clear that the I Cor. 15 passage are the BASIC foundation, but not all there is. Note I Cor. 15:3

Quote:
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance

Aaron said:

Quote:
I think it's fair to say that the term "gospel" is used in the NT in a narrow sense and a broad sense. The narrow one would be what Ed has described, based on 1 Cor.15 where Paul uses the term and enumerates the contents.
Of course, many have pointed out that the points Paul lists in 1Cor.15 do presuppose other points like why He died, and who He is. So these ideas are certainly not excluded.

I think we can all probably agree with Aaron's summary on this idea.

Thanks for the great discussion, everyone! And if any of you take quizzes in your Sunday School classes, church services, or fellowship/study groups, please share the results!

"The Midrash Detective"

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Without appearing to fail to appreciate the article and its value I am provoked with interest in understanding how learning the order of the books of the Bible as it is published enhances one's understanding of the Bible or as it was stated with the analogy:

Quote:
Like learning the alphabet before reading, knowing the order of the books of the Bible is foundational to deep Bible study.

While it might be true that understanding one portion of a book is contingent upon understanding another portion of another book(s) and in that way it might have the similarity to the elementary learning of the ABC's before progressing, nevertheless I find it difficult to grasp that one need learn the order of the books as they are published before greater illumination is effected.

I do realize it is handy and helpful, maybe, to not have to use a table of context but simply memorizing it as an essential instrument for further enlightenment is something I would like explained. It occurs to me that as a matter of practical consequence the student of the Scriptures, due to their familiarity, would eventually have the locations down rather rapidly as it is.

But don't misunderstand me, I am not dissuading anyone's memorization of the order of the books, certainly not, I am merely interested in reconciling how such a memorization of a table of contents is "foundational to deep Bible study". And if there is some response my hope is additional inquiries are welcomed.

Ryan's picture

Quote:
"I do realize it is handy and helpful, maybe, to not have to use a table of context"

Alex, this was one of those typos that spurred me to think... what if there was such a thing as a table of context in our Bibles, what a helpful tool that would be. How much bad preaching would be eliminated if such a thing existed.

Thanks,

Ryan

Matthew J's picture

In teaching young people, I have found that knowing the books of the Bible not just in their order but also in their historical order can help them further put together the whole of Scripture. Since revelation was progressive, it seems to me that the Bible books progressively reveals the unfolding purposes of God culminating in Revelation. It is not that certain times the books are always chronological (Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther all present some difficulties with order), and there are repeats (Kings and Chronicles); but I recently realized the importance of this teaching a church history class to high-schoolers. We were talking about the cannon of Scripture and I realized they needed to be able to quickly identify a book of the Bible and its general location in revelatory history. The best way I know to do this simply and quickly is to memorize them. So we deviated in class and began memorizing the books of the Bible. BTW, all the students were able to write them out almost all correctly (or fairly close) with just a week of study. I think we expect too little of our young people academically.

BTW, Edd, I appreciate your emphasis on rote facts, our education system seems to have downplayed memorization in favor of "discussion." While discussion and critical thinking are necessary, how can one think critically if there is nothing to think about. Facts are important.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Quote:
I do realize it is handy and helpful, maybe, to not have to use a table of context but simply memorizing it as an essential instrument for further enlightenment is something I would like explained.

For a very practical reason. Bible studies are an important tool for growth, IMO, as are sermons. If you can't find the texts under study, you will miss out a lot. People who do not readily know the order of the books of the Bible are less prone to actually turn to passages, or, by the time they get there, the speaker/teacher has moved on to another passage or is done discussing it.

Being "quick on the draw" is an important skill because most people learn better if they both see AND hear. This would fall under the category of "practical skills."

It can be hard for the theologically minded and the detail-oriented to get down to basic skills. We are talking about starting points, not ending ones. We are talking about primer readers, not Shakespeare.

"The Midrash Detective"

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Ryan wrote:
Quote:
"I do realize it is handy and helpful, maybe, to not have to use a table of context"

Alex, this was one of those typos that spurred me to think... what if there was such a thing as a table of context in our Bibles, what a helpful tool that would be. How much bad preaching would be eliminated if such a thing existed.

Thanks,

Ryan


LOL Yeah...rather ironic we might need it more than a "table of contents"!

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Ed Vasicek wrote:
Quote:
I do realize it is handy and helpful, maybe, to not have to use a table of context but simply memorizing it as an essential instrument for further enlightenment is something I would like explained.

For a very practical reason. Bible studies are an important tool for growth, IMO, as are sermons. If you can't find the texts under study, you will miss out a lot. People who do not readily know the order of the books of the Bible are less prone to actually turn to passages, or, by the time they get there, the speaker/teacher has moved on to another passage or is done discussing it.

Being "quick on the draw" is an important skill because most people learn better if they both see AND hear. This would fall under the category of "practical skills."

It can be hard for the theologically minded and the detail-oriented to get down to basic skills. We are talking about starting points, not ending ones. We are talking about primer readers, not Shakespeare.

Thanks for the response but I do not see how, again, simply having a quicker reference aids in the actual comprehension. Even if it is a matter of speed, simply being able to turn somewhere faster does not actually amplify comprehension. As to teachers, I am confidence most good teachers who are theologically minded also understand the learning process from start to end so I would resist the temptation to dismiss objections based on the "you just don't understand, you're too theologically minded" case. Further, most good teachers I know of take the time to inform the students which passages they want them to view and give them time to turn there and if they don't intend on the student viewing the passage but are just referencing it, their teaching will reflect this. But this really is not an argument I want to take because we enter into the "whoever is the fastest understands the Bible best" conclusion which does not survive long.

I find the unusual assertion that memorizing the table of contents "foundational to deep Bible study" very untenable here. I do agree that the friendliness of such a memorization to the matter of our convenience is real but unlike learning history, languages, or elementary doctrines which enhance our capacity to grasp content, simply being able to turn somewhere about 20 seconds before another person who uses a table of contents seems to render dubious the proposition that it is a foundational necessity for deep Bible study.

And I do agree that anyone suggesting that learning the table of contents is not valuable, is wrong. I just would not assign its value as a foundational necessity to deep Bible study. I believe one can have deep Bible study and not have the table of contents memorized. However, I do not wish to detract from the contribution of the rest of the article and have made my point which seems obvious enough to my own satisfaction so I don't feel the need to further it unless you have other questions or someone has a further challenge to my observation. Thanks.

MClark's picture

On an aside, I learned the books of the Bible in Spanish before I learned them in English and still find myself thinking of the minor prophets in Spanish when needing to turn there. Smile Guess it proves the point that what we learn when we're young sticks with us.

Thorough students of the Bible do know the books of the Bible in order, whether one wants to argue that it is essential for study or not. Based on what I acknowledge is merely anecdotal evidence, I would say that those who do not know where to find a certain book in their Bibles usually are not studying the Bible for themselves. Helping someone to learn the books of the Bible gives them a tool to become better Bible students; at the very least, they will not be hindered (or frustrated) by the difficulty of finding the right passage at the right time. Granted, a newly saved believer may rely entirely on his table of contents; but if he is serious about growing and learning (and studying the Bible), he will soon have their order memorized.

Given our experience with discipleship and ministry, I agree with Ed. Thanks for a great article and some good ideas, Ed!

Ron Bean's picture

When I was young (shortly after the Apostle Paul planted our church), the following things had to be memorized in order to "officially" become a member of the Sunday School:
- The Books of the Bible
- The Romans Road
- The 12 Apostles (52 MAB ST)
- The 12 Tribes of Israel
- The 10 Commandments

In addition, we learned to draw a free hand map of Palestine to the tune of O Tannebaum. (first the line of coast we make, then Merom, a marshy lake, then the Sea of Galilee, directly east of Mount Carmel .....) and locate major cities.
We also learned a hymn each week (partly because they weren't enough hymn books for everyone).
The Sunday School curriculum drawn up by the pastor took us through the Bible in about 5 years.

While I can't remember where I put my car keys, I still remember these things.

And thanks to Dan Olinger, the "500 year" list has been added.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Susan R's picture

My overall view of facts is that they provide a framework on which to hang the more complex information. You won't understand complicated topics without having some basic facts under your belt, and someone who has mastered a concept will be able to provide supportive facts in any discussion/debate.

I'm often amazed that people who've faithfully attended church for 10-20-30+ years don't have many of the basics Bro. Ed lists available for recall. But we do have to be careful not to mistake recitation for understanding- some of the kids who can win all the sword drills and Bible quiz games can't tell you the meaning of the Lord's Supper or believer's baptism.

Ann B.'s picture

Quote:
Memorization of key Scriptural facts is indeed a good foundation on which to build, one for which I am quite thankful. I think Christianity a few centuries back used to be much more insistent on accomplishing this in both children and adults.
I am eternally grateful to my folks for giving me the foundation discussed here. Every night we read aloud from THE BIBLE IN PICTURES FOR LITTLE EYES by Ken Taylor, to the point where my siblings and I knew the dialogue and pictures from memory. I thought that those illustrations were the official pictures of the Bible! Then there was Miss Clara, the godly older lady who taught Sunday school and various other classes for children - I can still see her smiling face while singing loudly, "Let us SING the books of history, of history, of history; Let us SING the books of history, the story of the Jews. There's Joshua, and Judges, and the story of Ruth - and First and Second Samuel, and First and Second Kings. . . ." etc. etc. My husband was saved later in life and did not have this good foundation, and he had a lot of catching up to do.

This is a critical subject, and I appreciate seeing it laid out so practically.

Welcome to the SI posting world, Dr. O.!

Paul J. Scharf's picture

As I have stated on SI before, if you add together what the average kid in a fundamental church will get from children's church, Sunday School, AWANA and Christian day school combined, it will not begin to hold a candle to what I was mandated to learn in my Lutheran grade school experience by way of Bible knowledge.

And we had to learn it PERFECTLY -- not just "close is good enough 'cuz its the Bible." Smile

This is a great mystery: the very people who you might think would be committed to the Bible above all else are instead plagued with Biblical illiteracy. In many of our Baptist churches, Bible knowledge is looked at as something almost superfluous, as if it is only for the "super-saints" or "super-curious." Often people are skeptical even of pastors who might "know too much," and seem more comfortable with those who "preach on their level," and focus on application rather than exposition. I suppose that the pastors who didn't know the Ten Commandments might fit in that category.

In my experience, the KJV-only mentality, especially among those who hold the position but cannot defend it with any factual basis, often ties to Biblical illeteracy and a Christianity that is built solely on emotionalism.

Editor in Chief – Dispensational Publishing House

Bible Teacher, Minister, Educator, Author, Journalist

Ron Bean's picture

Then there was the IFB preacher who said that the Tower of Babel was destroyed in the flood.

As to Christian Day schools, I've seen everything from Hermeneutics, Bible Doctrines, OT and NT Survey through re-cycled Sunday School curricula to Bible as an elective.

Bible facts like those mentioned are essential as is basic Bible doctrine and those Bible facts are the "grammar" that form the foundation for further learning. I still use the chapter content of the NT I had to memorize.

My conclusion is that the best place to do this is at home.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Aaron Blumer's picture

Maybe the home is indeed the best place, but I'm personally grateful that there are multiple places. We've been teaching the books of the Bible to our "JOY Club" kids (for the most part, these are neighborhood kids who do not attend our church).
I learned them as a kid in "Junior Church." We went over them and over them until we could quote them very quickly. Then we did Bible Drills for years after that.
By itself, it's perhaps not a huge thing, but for us it was part of a culture of Bible literacy. Every service at that church (and the ones we attended after that one as well) was an event in which we heard the sound of dozens (or hundreds, depending on the church) of people turning to multiple passages of Scripture as we examined the word together. It still sounds like a kind of music to me.

Larry's picture

Quote:
My conclusion is that the best place to do this is at home.
Given the basic lack of biblical literacy in our culture, even among church people, this may simply further the problem rather than solve it.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Ron Bean wrote:
My conclusion is that the best place to do this is at home.

I agree, but when it is not being done at home, where is the second best place? Anywhere is better than nowhere. There is no reason we cannot incorporate rote memorization of this material into our AWANA and Sunday School program, for example. It just takes a little determination on the part of leaders and a willingness to do something a little different for a season.

Some information, like the names of the Apostles or the 12 tribes of Israel are probably not that crucial, IMO. The two Great Commandments, however, might be a good addition, as one brother here at the church suggested.

Paul Scharf said:

Quote:
As I have stated on SI before, if you add together what the average kid in a fundamental church will get from children's church, Sunday School, AWANA and Christian day school combined, it will not begin to hold a candle to what I was mandated to learn in my Lutheran grade school experience by way of Bible knowledge.

I think we should learn from this. There is no reason why we should not set up a mechanism somewhere in our church programs to make this happen. I am doing this on Sunday morning as my sermon "intro." I did the same thing about 1999, so, as I mentioned, it is time to repeat. Three minutes a week with the adults is a good starting point. I almost think that we pastors should guarantee that our people are given a significant opportunity to learn these things by rote while in church or Sunday School. The days of people studying at home are tragically mostly over.

"The Midrash Detective"

Ann B.'s picture

Quote:
As I have stated on SI before, if you add together what the average kid in a fundamental church will get from children's church, Sunday School, AWANA and Christian day school combined, it will not begin to hold a candle to what I was mandated to learn in my Lutheran grade school experience by way of Bible knowledge.
Well maybe our church is unusual, but between all of the church activities mentioned above and what we taught at home, our children got a great background in the basics. Surely our churches are doing a better job that what that quotation implies.
Quote:
Some information, like the names of the Apostles or the 12 tribes of Israel are probably not that crucial, IMO.
What? You mean all those times of singing "There were twelve disciples, Jesus called to help him, Simon Peter, Andrew, James, his brother John. . .Philip, Thomas, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddeus, Simon, Judas, and Bartholomew"---were not important???

Paul J. Scharf's picture

[quote=Ann B. ]
Well maybe our church is unusual, but between all of the church activities mentioned above and what we taught at home, our children got a great background in the basics. Surely our churches are doing a better job that what that quotation implies.

Ann,

I do not know your specific situation, and I hope your kids are doing fantastic. All I can say is, I have been a member of six fundamental Baptist/Bible churches over the past 25 years, including more than eight years of pastoral experience and three years of serving as a Bible teacher in a Baptist Christian school. This is my story and I am sticking to it. Praise God for the exceptions!

If you are not at all familiar with the Lutheran school/catechism system, you might think I am employing hyperbole, but I am really not. Their zeal for giving their kids a comprehensive Biblical education is completely unmatched by anything I have personally witnessed within fundamentalism. (And they get those kind of results even though they usually only have one hour of church per week!)

Editor in Chief – Dispensational Publishing House

Bible Teacher, Minister, Educator, Author, Journalist

Aaron Blumer's picture

Paul, I suspect--based on many Lutherans I've met--that there is variety from church to church on that score. Of course, you went to Lutheran school, though, and that's probably different. I know more than a few Lutherans who would be hard pressed to tell you whether John the Baptist is in the OT or the NT.
... alas, I know a few Baptists who could do no better.

Quote:
anywhere is better than nowhere

I think that's well put, Ed.

Ed Vasicek's picture

I think there are exceptions, as Ann mentions. But I would ask this question: Are the kids in her church somewhere REQUIRED to memorize the 10 Commandments? What many of our churches do is to teach about them, but kids (and adults) are incapable of LISTING them.

The same is true with an accurate listing of the Names of the Persons of the Trinity, as simple as that is. So let me issue a challenge to one and all: Test kids in your family and church (Sunday school class, study, etc.), and share the statistics with us. As them to produce -- not merely identify -- these two things.

Incidentally, a number of pastors who could not list the 10 Commandments were evangelical, including a Baptist minister.

"The Midrash Detective"

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Aaron, I would say that the variety is probably more from one Lutheran denomination to another than from church to church (within the same denomination).
For the most part, the only Lutherans who have schools are the conservaties (WELS, ELS, LCMS, CLC, etc.).
Within a Lutheran congregation, of course, there is still a big drop-off from the kids in the school system to those who attend public school and merely go to the church for catechism. (That is usually done within a separate group in a church which operates its own school.)
Lutherans value their schools very highly, and they are usually academically exceptional. Also, the church's school IS its mission program, so church members pay virtually nothing in tuition for their children to attend.
In grade school, we had memory work to say three days per week from the Bible, catechism or hymnal -- and it had to be perfect or you had to sit down, stay inside for recess and start over.
We basically took a month off from school every year in December to rehearse for the Christmas program, which was all done by rote memory.
Of course, the big problem for many Lutherans -- where Baptists (at least outwardly) have them beat to shreds -- is in application. I can still remember ushering in my Lutheran church as a teenager next to a fellow who still wreaked of alcohol from the night before.
However, as I preach regularly -- you cannot apply what you do not know!! If we could somehow combine the best of both worlds... Smile

Editor in Chief – Dispensational Publishing House

Bible Teacher, Minister, Educator, Author, Journalist

Susan R's picture

Ed Vasicek wrote:

I agree, but when it is not being done at home, where is the second best place? Anywhere is better than nowhere. There is no reason we cannot incorporate rote memorization of this material into our AWANA and Sunday School program, for example. It just takes a little determination on the part of leaders and a willingness to do something a little different for a season.

I agree, as long as kids are never given the notion that a head full of facts means anything to God without first experiencing salvation. That's probably the trickiest part of teaching children, and it's a fine line IMO.

But I also wonder- if we really believe Ephesians 4:11-12 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: then a lack of Biblical literacy in the home should be viewed as an indictment on the church. If parents aren't being equipped to meet their God-ordained responsibilities in the home, then in reality the church is not being effective in its commission.

It's the same for husbands and wives- 1Corinthians 14:35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

Are the men in our churches being equipped to teach their wives and families at home? I think we must be careful to not in any way diminish the foundational structure of and commands aimed specifically for the family.

Ron Bean's picture

When I said,

Quote:
My conclusion is that the best place to do this is at home.

I did not mean to imply that home is the only place.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Ed Vasicek's picture

Quote:
a lack of Biblical literacy in the home should be viewed as an indictment on the church. If parents aren't being equipped to meet their God-ordained responsibilities in the home, then in reality the church is not being effective in its commission.

No, that's like blaming the teachers for the kids at school, the president for the country, on the UN leader for the world. Since Christ is the head of the church, we could probably blame Him, too.

We need to remember that Adam and Eve were not confused about God's will for them and the fruit. It wasn't an ignorance thing. Ignorance or lack of training is only one possible problem. Motivation, discipline, and priorities are another.

Human nature is sinful, and this is true of Christians, too. Motivated Christians who take advantage of opportunities (or find them) are not always the norm. Passive, "do what everyone else is doing" is a prevailing attitude in many cases.

Yet some of these weakly motivated Christians will learn if it is structured for them, in church. Once they gain confidence, this can help motivate them further. But they might end up leaving churches (that formerly did not emphasize learning in the service) if we actually expect them to expend mental energy and learn while at church. Their comment or thoughts might sound something like, "I come to church to worship. not to learn."

Americans are resourceful, and American Christians have great resources. Yet, as (I think) C.S. Lewis said, "The more the Bible is translated, the less it is read."

"The Midrash Detective"

Susan R's picture

Bro. Ed- I'm saying saying that it is solely the church's fault if parents aren't rooted in the Word or able to teach their children adequately, but that instead of saying "Hey, the parents aren't doing a good job, let's ignore the parents and 'take over'" we should be asking ourselves "Why" parents do not feel compelled to view the command from God to teach His principles to their children as THEIR primary task, not the church's. I think when we bypass lazy parents, we just enable and justify their laziness. Does that clarify my comment better? I'm not arguing for the eradication of Sunday Schools or anything along those lines, but that we concentrate on teaching parents with fervor that matches and surpasses our efforts aimed at children. I think it is cattywampus for kids to be able to recite verses and Bible facts to parents who haven't got a clue... speaking of churched families, not unchurched families here.

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