54: Is Biblical Illiteracy the Real Problem?

In this episode John and Gregg discuss an article from the Biola University alumni magazine purporting to identify a “crisis of biblical illiteracy” within evangelical churches.  The author, Kenneth Bearding, holds a Ph. D. in hermeneutics and biblical interpretation, and targets biblical illiteracy.

John sees the article as “click bait”: dramatizing an issue in order to curry readership.  Gregg found one of the comment to the article very helpful, which stated that in the author’s examples the people seemed not so much biblically illiterate as historically and culturally under-informed.

Similarly, John wonders if this article is not proposing a “cure” without having accurately diagnosed the problem!  In other words, by presenting a loaded topic that has only one ‘acceptable’ answer (e.g., no good Christian would approve of biblical illiteracy).

Gregg goes on to highlight the distinction between a problem and its symptom.  So is lack of Bible reading / biblical understanding the problem, or is it symptomatic of something that underlies it?  In other words, if we want to address the issue properly should we not be asking Why people are disengaged from the Bible (rather than simply prompting them to re-engage, as the article seems to do)?

John sees this approach—mistaking symptoms for problems—a common response when Christians “under-achieve” or seem lack lustre is their faith.  Particularly, the author presents the issue in personalized terms that seem, according to the author, to be about a) not managing your time well, b) not trying hard enough, or c) not having the right priorities.

So where Bearding rebukes his readers as “sinful” for playing more video games and watching TV than reading their Bibles, rather than simply rebuking them and telling them to “get back on track” John wants to know what might be prompting people to act this way?  Further, John wonders why Christians who really want to be in relationship with God and with whom the Bible really resonates need, seemingly, to be coerced to read their Bibles—won’t they naturally want to do this?  In other words, John argues that we set our priorities based on reasons and driven by certain motivations.

Gregg echoes John’s concerns, and believes that much of what the author touches on is more complex that Bearding admits.  Further, while he believes that Bible reading is important, in contrast to Bearding Gregg views memorizing Bible verses to be less important than biblical research and exegesis.

Gregg further speculates that the real problem here, where biblical illiteracy is but a symptom, concerns the basis for (and reality of) one’s relationship with God.  Good questions to probe this might be: What is your relationship with God based on?  What role does love play, what role does truth play?

John closes by discussing his impressions of N. T. Wright’s Simply Jesus.  John explains how he found Wright’s presentation refreshingly different.  Wright both provides a great deal of back-up for his views and depth to his argument, yet his writing is very approachable to the layman, such that instead of coercing us Wright provides readers with the tools to make an informed decision.

4 thoughts on “54: Is Biblical Illiteracy the Real Problem?

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