Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Biblical Literacy or Is That Illiteracy?

Recently one of the candidates who is running for President of the US was asked what his favorite scripture was in the Bible since he said that he thinks the Bible is the greatest book ever written.  He first said that it was too private for him to discuss and then, when pressed further, said that his favorite verse was the proverb that said not to bend to envy.  Some Bible scholars have been discussing this interaction and many think that perhaps this candidate has rarely if ever actually read the Bible and perhaps is bringing it into the public forum so as to gather some votes and voters.  Who is to know if the man ever reads the Bible but his response is similar to many who say they value the Bible and think it is the greatest book ever written but they do not actually read the Bible?

When people defend certain societal views of theirs using the Bible as their defense, hardly ever does one hear them quote Book, chapter, and verse in their defense.  Usually they just say, "Well, the Bible says..." and they leave it at that.

I had a young woman in a Bible study group one time tell everyone, "Well, it is like it says in the Bible, 'Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day.  Teach him to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime."  As the words came out of her mouth, I could not believe that she actually thought the verse she quoted could be found in the Bible.  I raised my hand and said, "I don't believe that is actually from the Bible."  She was taken aback at what I said and tried to defend her views and I challenged her to find the verse in the Bible.  She could not, of course, because that proverb is taken from American culture, not from the Bible.  She admitted to me later that she was mistaken and we both laughed about it.

That example is not uncommon though.  Surveys have been done asking participants to say whether or not a proverb or verse can be found in the Bible.  Most of the time the participants are unable to successfully pass the test of the survey.

I enjoy watching game shows such as "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" or "Jeopardy".  When the subject is something found in the Bible, I usually become amused because the game show participant rarely knows the answer and I usually do.  One time a woman was in the last round on the Millionaire show and a Bible question came up.  She either had to answer or had to walk away and she did not know the answer (which I thought was pretty simple) and she had to walk away ending her time on the show.

I know that I have been to seminary and have two theological degrees and have almost 25 years experience as a pastor but much of the knowledge of the Bible that I possess was taught to me as a child in Sunday School.  I had the Bible drilled into me weekly with games such as "Sword Drill" where we had to open our Bibles and find specific verses.  We were given challenges to make us want to look into the Bible and learn what was there.  We had memory verses to learn again and again and were given prizes if we could say them.  I had a mother who pushed Biblical knowledge on me over and over as long as I lived in the same house as she did.  So, even though I have advanced studies in seminary, I can attribute much of my Bible knowledge to my early roots as a Christian.

It is sad that many people who are Christians and who say they believe in the Bible as God's Word hardly ever open the book or read its words.  They may hear it read aloud in worship services and hear a pastor preach from it but they have never personally taken the opportunity to read it for themselves and to learn what it truly says about the social issues of our day.  They instead listen to television preachers tell them what they should believe and give a world view that is more akin to the medieval world rather than the modern world as they sway them into thinking the way they promote.

Some may be surprised to find that the Bible does not say anything about many modern topics.  It is silent on those because the cultures of the ancient world did not contain many of the modern things we discuss today.  Some Bibles are translated specifically to promote their own theological bent and even the translation of the Bible one chooses to read will lead one to think in a certain way about our world and its peoples.

The Holy Spirit gives light to those who seek it.  Those who honestly open the Bible and ask God to direct them in understanding it will find light and truth.  Those who simply carry it around or hear what others may say about it without actually reading its words for themselves will be led in one direction or another and may find turmoil and confusion.  God will lead us where we should go in life and God's Spirit will never fail to be our guide in our lifelong search for truth.  Open the book and read its words and ask God to direct you as you honestly search for the truth contained in it.  You will find peace and joy in such a personal venture.  


  1. Thank you for this blog entry. It speak volumes. Dalinda

  2. I am glad you read it and found meaning in it.