Today's picture and saying is borrowed from Jame McGrath. At first I did no think much about it, but then the more I pondered it the more I realized how true it is. Many who identify themselves as Christians know very little of the Bible. They claim to know it, but in truth anything they know is secondhand knowledge from a pastor, television, and other sources. The Bible has a mythical status in our society, but few really know what is in it. And even they do know a verse or a story chances are they do not know the wider context or perhaps where to find it. We are a society that is biblically illiterate.
Unfortunately this is not just a problem among the laity. The level of biblical illiteracy in the average incoming seminary student is astounding. I am constantly surprised how little people training for the ministry actually know about the Bible. I am not talking about critical issues. No, its the basic stuff. Most people have a few stories that they know, but probably have never read. I remember a student in one class who was shocked to read about the strange clothing John the Baptist wore. The student had never read this before! Is this not basic Sunday school material?
I am not sure what is the root of the problem. Maybe it has always been like this and I have always had an unusually odd level of biblical knowledge. But if a group is going to claim that the Bible is the source of their authority you would think they would actually be somewhat familiar with it. But then again, I imagine there are few Americans who have ever read the US Constitution.
I suppose part of the problem is that we often approach the Bible to see what we can get from it. We are looking for promises, answers, etc. But how often do we read it just to be familiar with it?Perhaps if we knew more of it we would be more careful how we use it. But the fact is most of us simply swallow whole what someone else tells us is in the Bible and we hit the button that says "I agree load it up." I wonder how different society might be if the people who claim to be living "according to biblical principles" actually had read some of it.
What do you think? I am off base here or have you noticed a growing biblical illiteracy among people identifying themselves as Christians? Is there an identifiable root cause?