Spring 2014

A Problem of Biblical Proportions

By Jason Newell

More and more people care less and less about the Bible.

That was one of the sad (but not surprising) findings researcher David Kinnaman (’96) presented at a recent national gathering of Christian university leaders in downtown Los Angeles. Especially among young people, skepticism and apathy toward the Bible are climbing at alarming rates, the Barna Group president and 2014 alumni award recipient told the crowd.

In fact, the number of Bible skeptics in America (those who believe that the Bible is “just another book of teachings written by men”) has climbed from 10 percent to 19 percent in just three years, according to Barna findings released in April. That’s now the same as the number of people who are “engaged,” those who read the Bible at least four times a week and believe it is the actual or inspired Word of God.

Coupled with this decline in readership and reverence for Scripture is a tragic overall lack of basic Bible knowledge, as studies continually remind us. Four in 10 American adults can’t name the first book of the Bible. More than half can’t name the first four books of the New Testament. About 80 percent think “God helps those who help themselves” is a Bible verse.

“Nearly two-thirds of Americans say they believe that the Bible holds the answer to all or most of life’s basic questions,” New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote in April. “Yet only one-third know that Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount, and 10 percent think that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife.”

Ouch. What’s especially concerning to many evangelicals is that the biblical literacy problem isn’t just “out there” in secular society. It’s “in here,” too: in our churches, in our classrooms and in our homes.

To Biola professor Ken Berding, we’ve reached a crisis point — and he’s seeking to help the church change. His latest book, Bible Revival: Recommitting Ourselves to One Book (from which this issue’s cover story is excerpted), is a stirring call to drop the distractions and get serious about Scripture. Later this year, he also plans to launch Bible Fluency, an innovative website with free curriculum, videos and songs aimed at helping people grow more fluent with Scripture. Berding is a tremendous scholar with a pastoral heart, and I trust you’ll find his words — and the other features and resources in this issue — both challenging and inspiring.

Here at Biola, the chief aim of education is to think biblically about everything so that we can impact the world for the Lord Jesus Christ. Ultimately, we know it’s not enough to merely grasp God’s Word. We want to be grasped by God’s Word and be disciples in his world. May this issue encourage us all to seek the living God in his inspired Word, and to live out that Word by the power of his Spirit.

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Issue Highlights

  • The Crisis of Biblical Illiteracy

    Christians used to memorize and meditate on the Bible. We don’t do that anymore, and in a sense we’re starving ourselves to death. A look at the problem, how we got here and what needs to change.

  • Open the Book

    Centuries ago, Christians risked their lives to bring us the English Bible. Today, we forsake life by ignoring it.

  • Five Tips for Better Bible Reading

  • Biblical Literacy Quiz

    Test your biblical literacy with this 20-question quiz. No Googling, Bible-opening or other cheating allowed!

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