Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Biblically Illiterate

I don't normally look to Hollywood for guidance on anything. Frankly, most celebs tend to soundstupid, manipulative, or downright crude. (Yes, I'm aware there are examples from the right, but frankly, in Hollywood, conservatives are much harder to find and I'm relatively time constrained.) However, at times, entertainment can be instructive about our society. One example of this was a Jay Leno segment of Jaywalking a few years back.

For those not familiar with the concept, Jay Leno walks around town with a camera crew in tow, with the intention of capturing "everyday" citizens in the full exhibition of ignorance. If you can watch video on your computer, this example will give you an idea of (a) what the segment is all about, and (b) to the point of this post, an indication of how much we work is required to bring Biblical literacy back to our society.

Now of course, Leno et al may have just shown the .01% of people who didn't answer these questions correctly. I doubt it. I mean Jay himself showed Biblical illiteracy when he asked how many wise men were in the Christmas narratives (hint: we know how many gifts there are, but what does the Bible say about the number of the magi themselves?) More evidence of our nation's level of Biblical illiteracy abounds. George Barna found that 75% of people believe that "the Bible teaches that God helps those who help themselves." Albert Mohleroffers even more evidence. And indications are that the younger generations are less likely to be Biblically literate than their elders. This is a fairly unsurprising conclusion considering the aforementioned Barna poll shows that younger people read their Bibles less regularly than do older people.

So what, one may ask, is the big problem? Well, there are a couple of significant ones. For the Christian, Biblical illiteracy leaves you defenseless to a sweet-sounding falsehood leveled at the faith. And really, if you're not sure of what you believe, or don't know the foundation of your faith, how important or real is it?

For the non-Christian, Biblical illiteracy leaves one open to, well, let's just say you end up sounding silly when debating an educated Christian (much like the Biblically illiterate Christian sounds foolish when debating an atheist.) In addition, Biblical speech, phrases, concepts and stories have played a huge part in our country's history. Being Biblically illiterate leaves one with less appreciation for what makes up our culture, or leaves one completely ignorant of the nuances of daily conversation. See here and here for more on the importance scripture plays in our culture, even if only as context and source material.

Knowing the Bible is important. For the Christian, it is obviously beneficial as a way to get to know God better, to strengthen one's faith, and to prepare one's self for encounters with those of a different mind. For non-Christians it's a way to learn what Christians believe, and to learn part of the canon of American culture. (Plus, really, it's the truth!)

So how Biblically literate are you? Thisquiz can help you find out. No matter your score, though, keep reading the Bible. (Note: The quiz has the answers right under the questions - so if you want to take it for real, be careful not to read ahead!)

1 comment:

Derek said...

Good post, Ron. I guest hosted an hour on a local radio station in St. Louis on this very topic, inspired by God's lament to the prophet Hosea, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." (If you're interested, I have a telescoped mp3 of the hour at my web site.)