Why is biblical literacy so bad in so many churches? This question was asked on twitter a while back and I found the many responses interesting. I’ve shared some of the replies for your perusal…You will note similar themes worded differently.
Find the thread on twitter HERE.
Too many Christians have been Christians for decades without ever having read the Bible cover to cover even one time. And that’s the norm, and it isn’t even questioned by most pastors.
I think that the whole story of Scripture is not explained well and concisely. Sermons cover a relevant life topic or a passage/book, but the big picture of the story is lost.
I have heard dozens of pastors preach, mostly conservative, but some progressive and a bunch of moderates. Most preach topical sermons; the clearest goal I discern is to preach sermons that will be pronounced “good” by the people. Biblical literacy is not a goal.
I think some of it is that many are not in the habit of reading the Bible at home. They hope to learn all there is to learn on Sunday morning…
This Methodist lay person’s view is that too often passages are quoted/cited in isolation. The context of the whole book/whole Bible is too often ignored; using isolated proof texts masquerades as Biblical literacy.
A lot of preachers reference the stories in this way: “We all know the story of Judah and Tamar…” The vast majority of the congregation almost certainly does not know the story. Maybe it’s a function of Christendom. Despite all the hand-wringing about secularism, Christian leaders still assume most people know the Bible. So they don’t equip adult converts to engage the Scriptures and they assume their own children are taught in Sunday school.
The actual literacy level of the US is at play, as well as other factors: The avg reading comprehension level is at a 7th grade level. Therefore, the avg reading level *for pleasure* is at a 5th grade level...They can read the words, sure, but they don’t have the energy or ability to comprehend what on earth or heaven it’s talking about…
Because the Bible is a complicated book of wisdom, poetry, and theology. It challenges us to see things in a new way, and many, many people are desperate for things to stay the same.
Surely lots of factors. In the broader culture, I imagine the Bible has become less prominent in the Western canon. Educated Americans were once familiar with the Bible for academic reasons. In church, I think everyone assumes someone else is teaching people the Bible.
In part because the clergy are not deep lovers of Scripture in so many churches. They need to convey an infectious enthusiasm for God’s Word in all aspects of their ministry.
I believe it’s because we have no idea what it takes to reach maturity in Christ. We assume that a 45 minute lecture about the Bible and a handful of worship songs are going to do the trick. But it takes much more personal and deep work than that.
I saw a quote years ago that has long stuck with me: “It’s the Bible! The book that millions live their lives by and hundreds have actually read!”
I have that picture of footprints in the sand with the poem; is there more in the Bible than that?
Because people are not taught it. They’re taught vignettes, they’re taught to look for their own development, they’re taught a textbook. They often are not taught to consider this the best, most intentional literature they will ever encounter and to apply all literary skills to it all.
Here’s an equal and perhaps more important question: why is Christ-centered orthopraxis and orthopathy so bad in so many of those called to show the world what our God is like? Think of all of those who are biblically literate, yet fail in the two marks of a Christian: love and unity, with the fruits of the Spirit mostly missing in their daily walk.
We don’t sing the old hymns that use scripture. Don’t get me wrong, I love some good rock and roll and some hip hop but I remember Scripture that I’ve sung better than what I’ve read.
Laziness. People prefer being spoon-fed than digging deep themselves.
Because so many people don’t read much any more, let alone the Bible.
My experience helping others grow comfortable in reading Scripture for themselves (and thus increasing their literacy) is that pastors and leaders do not regularly simply sit and read Scripture with those they shepherd. Can’t just tell others to read; you need to read with them.
I think it has less to do with teaching within the Church, although that’s certainly part of it, and more to do with general illiteracy and fervor for education as a whole concerning society.
Literacy comprehension as a whole isn’t all that great. Why should we expect one aspect of society to be improved over that baseline? I bet when the church culture values education in general, biblical literacy increases as well.
I don’t know, but theological illiteracy is usually even worse. I feel like the only thing I was taught in Sunday School as a child was Bible stories.
Lack of teachers who will teach them how to read the Bible for themselves instead of trying to interpret everything for them.
Because we’re afraid to admit it. Imagine trying to set up a Bible basics course for adults who have been in church for 20+ years. Imagine the humility, self-awareness and even repentance that would require from all parties.
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