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Biblical Illiteracy in America

“This scandalous problem is our own, and it’s up to us to fix it.” (Mohler) What scandalous problem? Biblical illiteracy. Who is us? According to Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, “This really is our problem, and it is up to this generation of Christians to reverse course.” How big is the scandal?
“Fewer than half of all adults can name the four gospels. Many Christians cannot identify more than two or three of the disciples. According to data from the Barna Research Group, 60 percent of Americans can’t name even five of the Ten Commandments.
“Some of the statistics are enough to perplex even those aware of the problem. A Barna poll indicated that at least 12 percent of adults believe that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. Another survey of graduating high school seniors revealed that over 50 percent thought that Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife. A considerable number of respondents to one poll indicated that the Sermon on the Mount was preached by Billy Graham. We are in big trouble.” (Mohler)
What appears most disturbing about recent research is that an increasing number of Christians fall within the ranks of the Biblically illiterate.
“Christians who lack biblical knowledge are the products of churches that marginalize biblical knowledge. Bible teaching now often accounts for only a diminishing fraction of the local congregation’s time and attention. The move to small group ministry has certainly increased opportunities for fellowship, but many of these groups never get beyond superficial Bible study.” (Mohler)
Stating the problem in even more glaring terms is Dr. Kenneth Berding, Ph.D., professor of New Testament at Biola University’s Talbot School of theology:
“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.” (Berding)
Another aspect of Biblical illiteracy is the tendency of church leaders to teach and preach selective passages and themes to the exclusion of presenting the big picture themes that carry us from Genesis to Revelation. Without a connection to the whole, the parts have no place to nest. As Berding says, Christians used to be known as people of one book. But Christians must also be known as people of the whole book.
Dr. J. Carl Laney, Professor of Biblical Literature at Western Seminary offers a way forward when stating, “How can pastors, seminary professors and Sunday School teachers move beyond merely telling the stories of the Bible to declaring the great story of God’s plan for the ages? The key, I believe, is to give more attention to proclaiming the major Bible themes in our teaching and preaching.” (Laney)

Mohler, R. Albert. The Scandal of Biblical Illiteracy: It’s Our Problem. 20 January 2016. Article.
20 September 2019. <;.

Laney, J. Carl. Biblical Illiteracy in the Church Today, Part 1. 21 June 2016. Western Seminary.
Article. 21 September 2019. <;.

Berding, Kenneth. The Crisis of Biblical Illiteracy & What We Can Do About It. Vers. Spring
2014. 2014. Article. 20 September 2019. <;.

Schreiner, Thomas R. The Problem with Much Preaching Today—And Biblical Theology as the Remedy. 1 March 2010. Article. 21 September 2019. <;.


Published by doctorpaddy

An ordained minister, Christian communicator, and educator.

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