Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Are we becoming Biblically illiterate?

Here are two quotations, the first by the well-known atheist Richard Dawkins and the second by highly respected Christian researcher, George Barna.

"I must admit that even I am a little taken aback at the biblical ignorance commonly displayed by people educated in more recent decades than I was." (Richard Dawkins, author “The God Delusion”)

In his research review for 2009, Barna makes a number of conclusions. His third major theme is the lack of Biblical literacy in the U.S.

“Bible reading has become the religious equivalent of sound-bite journalism. When people read from the Bible they typically open it, read a brief passage without much regard for the context, and consider the primary thought or feeling that the passage provided. If they are comfortable with it, they accept it; otherwise, they deem it interesting but irrelevant to their life, and move on. There is shockingly little growth evident in people’s understanding of the fundamental themes of the scriptures and amazingly little interest in deepening their knowledge and application of biblical principles.”

Read more of Barna's research here.

I am aware of research that indicates that as many as 50% of church attenders read the Bible twice a week or less. I suspect that many believers are not reading the Bible on a daily basis at all.

So what's the answer? In part we should expect and encourage all believers, whether new to faith, or long established, to read about a chapter a day (or more!), in sequence. This encourages contextual reading, and helps guard against a sound-bite mentality or a pick-and-choose approach. Certainly a devotion on one or two verses is beneficial, but we also need to grasp historical and literary context. It is well said that a text without a context is a pretext!

Being ignorant of what God says in his Word is a serious challenge!

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