From Think on These Things, March 2017; used with permission.
I concluded my article titled “Biblical Illiteracy” with these words:
Biblical illiteracy is well recognized today. There are many reasons why not only the general population but also the evangelical church has little understanding and knowledge of Scripture, and I have tried to identify some of these in the body of this article. With all of the attacks on the trustworthiness of Scripture, coupled with general lack of biblical knowledge and apathy toward what it proclaims, it would be easy to despair for the future of the Scriptures.
But God’s Word always accomplishes that which it is sent forth by the Lord to accomplish (Isa 55:1) which is to teach, reprove, correct and train His people in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16). We have the promise of Jesus that His Word will never pass away (Matt 24:35). Rather than despair we should make every effort to pass along the Lord’s truth to the next generation (Deut 6:4-9; Psalm 145:4). At this point we need to consider some means to do so. What can we personally, and corporately as the church, do to address the issue of biblical illiteracy?
It is to this subject we now turn.
Reasons for biblical illiteracy are many: lack of emphasis and teaching of the Bible in our churches, youth programs that major on entertainment rather than the Word of God, Bible colleges and seminaries that prepare ministers to be CEOs rather than shepherds who feed the flock a rich diet of Scripture, confusing MTD for biblical Christianity, and simply laziness and distractions resulting in neglect of personal reading of the Bible. But one other culprit surely is the increasing challenge to biblical inerrancy. If Christians do not believe in the inerrancy of the Scriptures then by default they believe the Bible contains errors and, therefore, cannot be trusted.
If this is the case then why bother reading it? Major attacks on the truthfulness and reliability of God’s Word have been prolific from the New Atheists such as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, and skeptics such as Bart Ehrman. But, sadly, theologians closer to the core of the faith are also adding fuel to the fire.
Read Part 1.
The bad news does not end with LifeWay’s latest survey. Considered the most comprehensive study on the religious views of teenagers ever conducted, a four year effort led by Christian Smith called the National Study of Youth and Religion in 2005 determined that the majority of American teens believe in God and worship in conventional congregations, but their religious knowledge is remarkably shallow, and they have a tough time expressing the difference that faith makes in their lives.
Though the phone survey depicted broad affinity with religion, the face-to-face interviews found that many teens’ religious knowledge was “meager, nebulous and often fallacious” and engagement with the substance of their traditions remarkably shallow. Most seemed hard put to express coherently their beliefs and what difference they make.
Many were so detached from the traditions of their faith, says the report, that they’re virtually following a different creed in which an undemanding God exists mostly to solve problems and make people feel good. Truth in any absolute, theological sense, takes a back seat.
“God is something like a combination Divine Butler and Cosmic Therapist” who’s on call as needed.1
From Think on These Things, Feb. 2017; used with permission.
Both statistical research and anecdotal observation come to the same conclusion—America, a nation once steeped in Scripture if not always living in obedience to God, has joined the ranks of the biblically illiterate from around the globe. Both theologians and sociologists speak of our “post-Christian” culture, which, while still being fueled to some extent by the capital of Christianity, is now all but coasting on empty.
Albert Mohler, in a short article entitled “The Scandal of Biblical Illiteracy: It’s Our Problem,” quotes pollsters George Gallup and Jim Castelli as saying, “Americans revere the Bible—but, by and large, they don’t read it. And because they don’t read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates.”1 As a result, Mohler documents that fewer than half of all adults can name the four Gospels, identify more than 3 disciples or name even five of the Ten Commandments. Eighty-two percent of Americans believe that “God helps those who help themselves” is in the Bible.
"The schools shall require regular courses of instruction by the completion of the 12th grade in the history of the United States, in civics, in the Constitution of the United States ... and making available, as an elective course of instruction, the history of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible," reads the amended text.