“We have been shocked at what we learned. Students from strong, conservative churches were sending us some of their best Christian eighteen-year-old students who did not know who came first, Abraham or Moses. They were not sure if Barnabas was in the Old Testament or the New Testament. When asked to put a list of major biblical books in proper order (such as Exodus, Psalms, Isaiah, Matthew, Romans), they failed miserably. When asked if Paul believed in the resurrection of the body, most said “No.” … “Recently one of my students told me that she was sure Jesus was baptized in the Dead Sea of Israel. Another thought that Paul was one of the twelve apostles.” He goes on to say they did not know of heroes of the faith like Luther, Augustine, or Wesley. Matters of doctrinal basis for their Christian Identity were beyond their grasp.
As I read this I remembered something that happened as I was teaching a youth class. I had a list from a post by Greg Stier called What if Jesus was on Twitter. It was several quick sentences in twitter fashion about things Jesus might say if he used twitter. I figured the youth would love it. As I read them off I noticed many confused faces. They did not know these bible stories. Go and check out the list these are basic bible stories that should stand out (such as Jesus clearing the temple, the disciples going fishing after Jesus’ death). They did not know them. I’m not blaming the church or the teachers because it’s our own responsibility to meditate on the word of God.
It isn’t just youth and young adults. I know many people that are strong Christians. There is plenty of fruit in their life to show it and you can see it in the way they care for others. Yet they have never read the whole bible. They have never even read the New Testament. So why are Christians not reading the bible? I was saved and baptized at age 14. I tried reading my bible and never got very far. It was hard to understand so I would give up. This happened over and over until I was in my early thirties. I then set a goal of getting through the bible in a year. It took a little over a year. I tried it again. It went a little quicker. Every time I read through the bible I pick up more and more and it gets easier and easier to understand.
Wayne Grudem explains the biblical reasons for this in his essay “The Perspicuity of Scripture ” in Themelios 34.3 especially section 2.3. God expects us to have put forth the effort to read the bible (Ezra 7:10) and have the willingness to obey it. (James 1:22-25) Then through the Holy Spirit (Psalm 119:18, 27, 34, 73) we will start to understand what we are reading.
So what do we do about this lack of bible reading? We must show Christians that the bible is fun to read, pastor’s need to teach that God expects us to spend time meditating on His Word, and we should exhort each other to spend time in scripture.. The bible is God’s love letter to us. Would you not read a love letter from the one you truly loved? Then you should read the love letters from the one who loved you so much that he saved you through the death and resurrection of His Son.
G.M. Burge, “The Greatest Story Never Read: Recovering Biblical Literacy in the Church,” Christianity Today 43 (Aug., 1999), 45-50
Wayne Grudem, “The Perspicuity of Scripture,” Themelios 34:3 p 288-308
Another post about this problem that contains a lot of statistics can be located at http://www.theologicalstudies.org/page/page/1573625.htm