3 Ways To Improve Bible Literacy
In a day and age where we look down at those who lived in the past with what C.S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery” it may be offensive for Christians to hear that we are generally less Biblically literate than those who have gone before us. Much less.
What is Bible literacy? The Northwest Baptist Seminary defines Bible Literacy as, “the ability and motivation of people to read the Bible with sufficient understanding so that they can explain its basic meaning, having sufficient knowledge and skill to use resources that enable them to discern the basic meaning of a biblical text.”
I’ll use a simpler definition: it’s knowing what the Bible says and knowing what it means.
A few years ago I spoke with the president of a Canadian Bible School who told me that over the past 25 years or so he has noticed a steady decline in basic Bible literacy amongst young people entering Bible school. These are motivated Christian young people who are going for a one-year Bible school certificate. And they don’t know their Bibles as well as their peers from years gone by.
Rather than try and analyze the various reasons for this decline, I want to share three things I have found helpful in increasing my Biblical literacy.
- Read – I know…it’s sort of obvious isn’t it? Biblical literacy begins with reading the Bible. You’d think that it would be so obvious, Christians would start here. Unfortunately that’s not the case. Most Christians simply aren’t reading their Bibles. The recent Canadian Bible Engagement Study found that only 1 in 7 (14%) Canadian Christians read their Bibles at least once per week. If they are reading their Bibles, many are reading selectively, only reading the parts they like. I started reading my Bible through cover-to-cover four years ago. Why did I wait until I was 38 years old before I started reading God’s Word regularly from beginning to end? Um…laziness, sheer stupidity, pride…. And since I’ve started reading all of it consistently, I’ve begun to see the grand narrative of God’s redemption through history in both its bigger picture and the minute details. There are many different Bible reading plans that are helpful in keeping me organized. One of my favourites is a chronological Bible reading plan.
- Reflect – We need to study God’s Word too. If reading the Bible helps you comprehend what it says, reflecting helps you understand what it means. It moves you beyond simple comprehension to a deeper level of understanding and application. We have more Bible study tools at our disposal than at any other time in history. Websites like biblegateway.com and biblehub.com and studylight.org are three that I use regularly as I study God’s Word. On my macbook, I use Accordance Bible software to help me delve deeper into the meaning of the original languages. And let’s not forget the real help to studying God’s Word…his Holy Spirit! Pray for His leading and help before you even start to study a passage of Scripture.
- Retain – We should also memorize the Bible; it helps in so many ways. “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:11) Bible memorization is something we tend to challenge our children and youth with, but not so much the adults. This summer we challenged all of our staff at Camp ABK to memorize five key gospel-focussed passages from the New Testament. I joined the challenge as well and hope to continue memorizing verses regularly from my Bible reading.
So how Biblically literate are you? Try taking Kevin DeYoung’s 100 Bible knowledge questions quiz. You can find it here: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2014/05/15/100-bible-knowledge-questions/
Don’t be discouraged if you didn’t do that well. Don’t be arrogant if you aced it. Recognize that we can always learn more from God’s Word. We will never fully plumb the depths of Scripture; we we can always go deeper. Reading the Bible, reflecting on it, and retaining it are three ways I’ve found that have helped me improve my biblical literacy.
One final comment…biblical literacy is not about knowledge for knowledge sake. The ultimate goal is that we know God, and his love for us, as demonstrated most clearly through the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
For the record…
-Bible reading plans can be downloaded here: http://about.esvbible.org/resources/reading/
-You can read about the Canadian Bible Engagement study here: