Monday, January 26, 2015

Tackling Bible Illiteracy – Part 2

Joshua 1:8 “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it”.

Kenneth Berding, professor of New Testament at Biola’s Talbot School of Theology writes:I've heard people call it a famine - a famine of knowing the Bible. During a famine people waste away for lack of sustenance. Some people die. Those who remain need nourishment; they need to be revived. And if they have any hope of remaining alive over time, their life situation has to change in conspicuous ways. Christians used to be known as “people of one book.” Sure, they read, studied and shared other books. But the book they cared about more than all others combined was the Bible. They memorized it, meditated on it, talked about it and taught it to others. We don’t do that anymore, and in a very real sense we’re starving ourselves to death. Does this sound overly alarmist to you? People who have studied the trends don’t think so. Gallup polls have tracked this descent to a current ‘record low.’” George Barna assesses that “the Christian body in America is immersed in a crisis of biblical illiteracy.” These days many of us don’t even know basic facts about the Bible. Examples: What are the first five books of the Bible? What are five of the Ten Commandments? If you know, then you are in the minority today.

Psalm 1:1-3 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

Berding points out that in the book of Amos, people experienced a “famine of hearing the words of the Lord”. In Amos they want it, but are not permitted it. In our case, although we have unlimited access, (books, CD’s, DVD’s, Flash-drives, radio, television, Internet, Smart-phones, pads and tablets), we often don’t want it. Berding says: "Every time I teach a class called Biblical Interpretation and Spiritual Formation, I ask my students why it is that so few people in this generation are really zealous about the things of God. I can’t remember a time when I've asked that question when someone hasn't mentioned distractions." They are everywhere. When we walk from one meeting to another, are our thoughts naturally moving to Scripture and prayer or thinking on the things of God that we have learned from the Bible? Or do we immediately check to see whether someone has messaged us?

In 1986, Neil Postman published an influential cultural essay titled “Amusing Ourselves to Death.” He argued that personal freedoms would disappear not when a totalitarian government imposed oppression from the outside (like George Orwell pictured in his book 1984), but rather when people came “to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think”. We shouldn't assume that these distractions have no effect on our perceptions of God. Priorities are not as simple as “God first, family second and church third.” What does that expression mean anyway? Priorities aren't based upon a simple hierarchy; they require the proper balance of activities in relationship to one another.  “Meditating day and night” on God’s Word is something that everyone must do. It is basic to the Christian life. It seems to me, then, that in any weighting of priorities the following scenarios are out of bounds: More time watching television, social networking, or playing games than reading / studying / memorizing God’s Word. On this one point we really shouldn't budge: Reading and learning the Bible is such a fundamental priority for all who want to call themselves “Christians”.

That raises a third issue and a challenge, which relates to the job that Christian churches, Christian schools and associated ministries are doing in Christian education. This is why our church is tackling Bible Illiteracy with this “All Church Study”. Our aim is not Bible Mastery, but neither is it Bible Basics. Our goal for each participant is to reach Bible Fluency – a comfortable knowledge of what the Bible is about, where it is headed, how to find what’s in the Bible for knowing God and making Him known.

In Christ, Brian

No comments: