Is The Bible Losing Steam?

In Christian RealTalk by Antwuan Malone42 Comments

Modern Reject, a fellow  blogger, opened her post about biblical literacy by saying “I would venture to say more Christians have the lyrics to Beyonce’s Single Ladies memorized than they do Bible verses.”

I think I agree.

In no other time in history has the Bible been more accessible than it is right now. We’ve got them on smartphones, tablets, laptops, and e-readers in dozens of translations with commentaries, maps and fun pictures. In fact the amount of material available to help us learn the Bible is staggering. This is the Information Age, and we literally have access to God’s Word at our fingertips.And yet the Bible is one of the most misunderstood, under-read books in our age. For all its notoriety and claims as the top selling book ever, not many people really know what it says — much less believing it and allowing it to change their worldview.

The Bible: Relevant or Relic

So why has this generation so rejected the practice of studying the Bible, or even memorizing scripture? I suppose one blog isn’t enough to cover it all, but let’s look at a few things.

The Slingshot Effect: Ever shot a slingshot? Me neither. But I get the point of it. Slip a rock into the sling, pull back and let go! The further you pull back, the further the rock goes. When I was a kid, every time the church doors were open, we were there. Sunday School, Baptist Training Union, Bible Studies throughout the week. The whole gamut. And frustrating as it was, we learned from every event. They all helped expose the Bible for its treasures. They helped us learn the Bible’s stories and they held us accountable to memorizing scripture.

Things have changed. Sunday School is dying. Mid-week church activities either have low attendance or are non-existent (apparently we have chosen to invest our children’s time in far more important things… like piano, ballet and football!), and the accountability churches used to hold its members to has faded.

Maybe this is because the previous generation felt overchurched. In essence, our parents put us in the church sling and pulled way back. Once they let go, we went flying the opposite direction. We may not have left church, but doing church is going to be way more comfortable and fun than it was for us. And sometimes, that means no accountability.  Sunday Morning has to be enough, and that had better be about 90 minutes, because anything more is just too long and uncomfortable; which leads me to my next point.

The Two L’s: Logic and Laziness : Two of the major negative side effects of the Information Age. Listen, I’m all for logic. Believe me. In fact, I’m probably way too analytical and logical about things. Logic  itself is not a bad thing.  But, like anything, if we don’t moderate even our logic or balance logic it with activity, faith, and passion, we’ll miss the taxi cab.

An avalanche of reason and logic has captured the minds of this generation, and we can’t stop it. Nor should we. But we can respond and adjust our teaching style the same way Jesus did.  To some he told stories, to others he used the law, and yet others healing and miracles. The challenges the Bible faces today have to do with logical arguments against its authenticity, infallibility, and relevance. No longer is the Bible taken for granted as the living Truth. This is not a generation of faith. This is a testing, challenging generation. And the Bible is under logical fire.

Second,when info is too accessible it produces  laziness. Let’s be honest. Most of the time, we don’t want to read the Bible (unless we are facing some trying period in our lives). We want the Bible and all its concepts gift-wrapped and handed to us. We don’t want to discover God’s Word as it relates to our lives. We want someone to discover it for us and make it available.

People don’t treasure what is freely given. We are far more likely to take care of what we worked for it. The work of discovering the riches of God’s Word – the depths and layers, the connections and consistency of its timeless truths – are worth owning. But we’re too busy and not willing to put in the time to find these truths. We suffocate the life His Word brings to our lives by never opening the book. It’s no wonder we can’t hear God’s voice.  We don’t know what it sounds like. It’s like we’ve called God, and now he’s calling back but He keeps getting our voicemail… a voicemail we never check!

So Now What?

So how do we address these?

Well I don’t have a 5 step plan, but I’d  start with more accountability from the church. And then I’d  urge you to get out of your comfy seat and attack the Bible “like a starvin’ man on a Christmas Ham” (betcha can’t say what movie that’s from).

If it’s any encouragement, those verses and lessons I’d learned as a kid came back when I was older.  As my dad might say, ‘They were in me.” God still speaks through those same verses with a fresh revelation —  something exciting and relevant to my life. Those are the moments the Bible comes most alive. Yes it’s work. But I look at it like I did playing basketball in high school. Sometimes, the practice sucked. Sometimes lifting weights was a drag. But sometimes a light went on in practice. And that felt great. And lifting those weights certainly helped in the games. Because of it, I ran faster, played longer, and felt stronger.

Besides, communication is the key to any good relationship, including the one we have with God.  So pray so he will hear you, and read so you can hear Him. And let’s get this biblical literacy thing back on the right foot.

What do you think are some of the causes for biblical illiteracy?

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Antwuan Malone is a Ministry Director at ELEVATE Young Adult Ministry (elevateministry.net) where empowers young adults toward Christian leadership. He is passionate about seeing young adults take their place in church history by drawing near enough to God to hear his call on their life, and courageously living in obedience to that call.
42 comments
Carl Rooker
Carl Rooker

One reason why the Bible is not read is the myths that are associated with it.


Myth 1.  The Bible is hard to understand.  This myth is usaually because of the heresy that say's the King James Bible is the only valid version of the Bible.  Yet, the KJV was written to bring the Bible ino the langauge of the masses.  There are actually many very good translations that are easy for Americans to read.


Myth 2.  The Bible is a book of rules and regulations that are are hard to follow.  On the contrary, the Bible HAS such lists that tell us that we are sinners, and need a Savior.  Following rules does not make us right before God.  They are a mirror that tells us our face is dirty, and the rest of the Bible tells us how HE can clean it.


Myth 3.  The Bible is not relevant.  However, almost every human situation that can exist is covered somewhere in the Bible.  People who think it is irrelevant simply do not like the Bible telling us we are less than we think we are.


One problem people have  when reading the Bible is that they bite off more than they can chew.  Starting with Leveticus or Numbers can be mind numbing.  It might be better to start with the Gospels first.


I do believe that we sometimes put too much emphasis on rote  verse memoriasation.  I have always been very poor at this exercise.  But, by simply reading the Bibe, I can utilize "conceptual memorisation".  THis makes the Bible far more alive and useful for me.  It is a  little more work though.  However, the Bible is facinating anyway.


I coud go on for hours, but I will spare everyone that.

@antwuanmalone
@antwuanmalone

Ahhh, Leviticus is such a bear sometimes. I shamefully admit I haven't read all of it...

@LazyChristian
@LazyChristian

I obviously can't deny my laziness when it comes to reading the Bible. I go through periods where I'm in the habit and reading every day, and then I have a day where my schedule is different and I get out of the groove. Doesn't help when I'm stuck in the middle of Leviticus...

Russ Pevoto
Russ Pevoto

Yes, there is real, true b iblical study and quality biblical scholarship out there, but unfortunately, it hasn't really made its way down into the masses. That's not to say that lives aren't being changed - you don't have to be a biblical scholar in order to be changed by the Bible. But the Protestant doctrine of "sola scriptura" unfortunately has the effect of turning the Bible into a kind of "paper Pope" (pardon the expression). It's open to misinterpretation and abuse just like any other book. But as one of my seminary professors always said, "We have to treat the Bible like any other book to show that it's not like any other book."

James
James

The Bible seems to be "losing steam" among both Christian lay people and the ministry, according to CNN. I had something to say about it yesterday.

Antoine RJ Wright
Antoine RJ Wright

From my readings of history and access to Scriptures, our present day has been the *only* time where the expectations of reading the Bible have gone further than the ability for people to read it. A few stats, 60% of the world is or chooses to be illiterate (that 60% of 6.9ish billion folks). 40% of the world aren't Christians even by the best metrics - and at least according to those in various mission agencies, the biggest barrier to getting new/seasoned believers into a consistent reading of the Bible is that most of them don't have the Bible in a native (heart) or native (conversational and reading) language. With just that alone, the expectations that more than 2 out of 10 do read their Bible everyday is probably a bit unrealistic. But, let's get to those literate Christians who might have had some form of discipleship that conveyed the wealth of spiritual, social, inltellecutal, and physical gain from reading the Scriptures everyday - why wouldn't they read unless compelled by a meeting, service, or negative situation? Has the Bible, not the words within it or the relationship forged by it, been too elevated to them? Or, do they just not know how to read it unless those situations warrant? Willful ignorance probably sits with those of us who are pastor-teacher in respect to not reading the text more than we want to admit rather than laypersons.

TAB News
TAB News

Yes, this is what I wondered too! How can so many Christians know more about the world then about the Bible. Ahh, unfortunately I fell inti this category at a young age, I think in the church Christians can tend to be sucked into the sub culture of Christianity and never fully read or study the Bible. Really,in this culture how you have to do is be around other Christians and hear sermon messages and you start to get the Christian jargon down. However, your not doing yourself not filling yourself spiritually with the truth, but rather with a nice alternative message of the world. The word of God is and must be revered. Thanks for sharing this blog.

mike
mike

Remember that for the first 1500 years of Christianity most Christians didn't even have access to the scriptures, and yet they still found a way to follow Christ. While the Bible and scriptures are incredible important, and almost paramountly so, we shouldn't make them into an idol or use them to replace a relationship with Christ. I think most people don't bother to read or memorize the bible because most churches, especially the so called "Bible Based" churches preach and teach their theological view of the bible (Calvinist, Reformed, Wesleyan, etc) instead of teaching the actual scripture itself. I have yet to come across a theological system that covers all the layers, beauty, and issues within the Bible. What theological systems are good at is giving the illusion that there is an answer for everything. The answers are only found through a day by day relationship with the living God. Without that all you have is a slogan. Maybe if we taught the Bible as a spiritual journey that everyone needs to go on, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, then they would be more apt to dig in to the Bible themselves. Instead we teach that we have all the questions already figured out, now you just need to go home and memorize it. That was exactly what the law attempted to do and it didn't work out too well did it? Additionally, unless we are reading our bible in both Hebrew and Greek we really shouldn't be calling someone "lazy" for not reading theirs in the English version. Reading it in English is enough to save your own soul, and maybe your families, but you don't get nearly the nuance unless your reading it in the original languages. Until we do that maybe we should lay off criticizing others for drawing the line at a different place.

Gloria
Gloria

It enrages me that people go out of their way to learn the latest lyrics and claim a few Bible verses are too hard to remember. I also love the argument that the Bible is too difficult to understand. Funny, everyone alive is likely the most educated people who have ever lived in this country. Funny how "grandma" with a 6th grade education could understand the King James, but people with masters degrees cannot understand the Bible. That doesn't make sense, until you factor in the fact that we have an enemy. If the evil one can distract Christians families with sports, and other "good" things, church will remain a destination and the Bible something you carry to church on Sunday as a prop, he wins. I fell in love with the Bible and Jesus when I decided to see for myself what Jesus said about himself. I agree that some families were "over churched." But at the same time, others were under-churched. Their parents took them to church to "check the box" of "religion," making God and what the Bible teaches irrelevant. Nothing about their church experience was meaningful or life changing. And, like their parents before them, going to church is a "to do." Throughout the ages, big revivals have taken place when there is nowhere else to turn. Individually, people come to rely on scripture when all else has failed.

Robin Matteri
Robin Matteri

I need to read the Bible, thanks for the gentle reminder. I know all the words to every Beyonce song and hardly one scripture. Great stuff Antwuan.

Michael Prestonise
Michael Prestonise

it is arrogant to say that you, without evidence, know the answer and further, that the rest of the world is under demonic oppression. and your analogy of taking a trip to maine does not compare, at all, to this 'answer' of yours. you know that maine exists, that right there disqualifies your analogy. unless you know where (in the metaphysical sense) God actually is located. if you know that, then i would urge you to share it. but retreating to the lame analogies of the bible being a 'road-map' to God is not an argument that any rational person can make.

Michael Prestonise
Michael Prestonise

it is arrogant to say that you, without evidence, know the answer and further, that the rest of the world is under demonic oppression. and your analogy of taking a trip to maine does not compare, at all, to this 'answer' of yours. you know that maine exists, that right there disqualifies your analogy. unless you know where (in the metaphysical sense) God actually is located. if you know that, then i would urge you to share it. but retreating to the lame analogies of the bible being a 'road-map' to God is not an argument that any rational person can make.

Antwuan Malone
Antwuan Malone

:( Disqus didn't import the comments from my facebook page (the personal one) very nice (see below). So sad... and such a good discussion. But ready for the next comment... tell me what you think!

Antwuan Malone
Antwuan Malone

And that is the way this conversation usually goes... that I (or the Christian stance) is self-important, or indulgent (solisistic as you put it). that is not the case. It is not egotistical, arrogant or self serving to believe that there is one answer to a question. As I said before, it is irresponsible to take the other stance (that any and all religions can lead to God). I believe in the authority of the Bible, and thus by that confession must believe that Jesus is the only "way, truth and life. No man comes to the Father except through me." or I'd be hypocritical. Let us say that you believe, as I do, that God sent Jesus to atone for our sins, and that through Him and only him we can have eternal life. What then would you make of the other religions? While I will stop short of saying ALL other religions are demonic in its fundamental nature, I will throw open the possibility that they are. If there is an Adversary, then he is content to bring doubt... to cause hesitation for going the right way. He is content with forks in the road. Whatever keeps us from going forward in the right direction. If what God wants is North, he is content with us going any degree to the left or right of north... as long as we don't get where God wants us. So yes, I do believe that some religions are quite demonic in nature, as demonic, for me, would be serving the Devil, whom is the ANTI-christ. There, of course, is room for general human error as well, but you must consider them both. The postmodern idea of one choosing his own road to get to God is akin to me trying to get to Maine without a map and being mad that I didn't end up there after days of traveling. There is a way to Maine. Any road of my choosing will not take me there. It is a ridiculous notion to think we can do whatever and end up with God... and frankly, I don't really understand how anyone can logically be at peace with it. At best, it is toleration. At worst, it is arrogance. But it is nowhere near true.

Michael Prestonise
Michael Prestonise

no, actually, you are blatantly wrong. the probability of 4 being the sum of 2 and 2 is 1.00, that is, it isn't a question of probability at all, it follows from mathematics. so you would say that every religion in the world is the work of the devil? well, you did say that. what i am flabbergasted by is that it seems entirely solipsistic to assert that your position is correct and that everyone else is under the influence of demonic persuasion. is that really what you honestly believe?

Antwuan Malone
Antwuan Malone

Hiding... no. Keeping us out. Yes. Heaven as it turns out is something worth protecting. Sin is devasting (as is revealed to us in the Garden, and well, outside our windows). So yes, there is an exclusivity to heaven. As well there should be. A just God could not allow any and everything to go on it his heaven... or it be just what we have now. "Wide is the road..." says the bible. And I don't say that phrase with the air of superiority often associated with it I say it to mean that simply that there are always astronomically more wrong answers than there are right ones. 2+2=4 There is only one right answer... infinite wrong answer which take the same form of the correct one in the sense that it is a number (and all that a number represents). Or, God sets up one religion, and the Devil (who will be like the most high) sets up others that are enough like it to create doubt. The Adversary is not so slick as to put all his eggs in the "don't believe that" basket (though some eggs are there), but he is also willing to say, "believe this instead"... or "believe none of it, it's too hard to tell the different". He has the easier task because he has an tons of wrong answers to choose from and sell to us. You are correct. We could be wrong from a mathematical standpoint, but so could 4 be wrong to the answer of 2+2. The probability of 4 being correct is 1:infinity. (that's pretty small).

Michael Prestonise
Michael Prestonise

'perception is reality' could be used to justify any number of crimes, and in the case of Christianity, that is all too obvious. as for your continued insistence that 'atheism' is a religion, you are wrong. i don't even need to use the word 'atheist' just as you don't need to use the word 'a-zeus-ist' or 'a-ra-ist.' it is not a statement of belief, but rather a statement of the lack of belief. there is no faith needed because i am not making a claim. i'm simply stating that i am unimpressed by your assertions and remain unpersuaded. (if you do not understand this point then please prove to me why you need to prove to me that Zeus does not exist and is therefore not to be worshiped) i bring up the other religions simply because if you claim that one is right, then you have to allow for the possibility that any of them may be right and you may be in the wrong. in fact, as a matter of probability, as bertrand russell pointed out, you should expect damnation. now obviously you argue from within the shell of your religion and therefore believe that dichotomy you stated, that we either need Jesus or we do not. that it is Christianity against the world, but every other religion makes similar claims to exclusive access. your final analogy of locking your door makes it seem as if God is afraid of His creation. hiding on the other side of his eternal gap.

Antwuan Malone
Antwuan Malone

Indeed, christianity is ridiculous, unreasonable, even foolish by a certain standard (1 Corinthians 1:20-28). And this I freely accept to some degree. After all, perception is reality. But your unclicking of the faith chain for the atheists misses the point of explanation. An atheist does not put forth "There is a God, but your explanation of him is faulty." It puts forth that there is no God period. And that assertion requires a leap of faith in the idea that all things can by reasoned through and proven. In essense, logic and rationality is their 'religion'. Fatih is absolutely necessary in this case. As for my assurance, I can say that I have experienced God in the way the Bible described I would. But I hesitate to answer how I "know" because it will not be something you will consider as proof at all. But that is precisely the point. God has not given us the opportunity to pin him down in the way I suspect you are looking for. As for "other religions being false" that is a whole other topic altogether. But I will say that it is no strange thing to have exclusive access. Further, when you look at the account as the Bible explains it (should you accept its concepts and theories of sin and salvation) then you will find that our physical credits will not pay for our spiritual separation. We need a spiritual solution, of which Jesus alone is. It comes to this. We either needed Jesus to die on the cross for us, or we didn't. If we needed Him, then He is the only way. If we didn't, then we can turn our backs on Jesus and pursue the resolution of our problems ourselves. Jesus is unique to other religions in that he presents us an answer to a problem we cannot solve on our own. Other religions are busy trying to tells how to pay back the real life Bank loan with monopoly money. Further, there are always more wrongs answer than there is right. And while the prevailing thought is that Christians are "arrogant" to think they have exclusive answer, I say it is equally arrogant to assume you can present anything you choose as a consolation or bridge back to God. I am not arrogant for locking my front door. And you would be silly to think that you could find any key to unlock it, and illogical. Because if any key could get in, then why lock it in the first place? To bring it back, if my own thoughts of goodness and worth is acceptable, then again, we don't need Jesus. But they are not, and so we do.

James Worsham
James Worsham

Well for what you're doing, I'd probably recommend a dynamic mic over a condenser. Condensers pick up everything in the room, which includes lots of background noise. Dynamic basically picks up what is being put into it, so there's not as much noise and less pops. I'd look up a cheap Shure mic or just a dynamic USB mic.

Michael Prestonise
Michael Prestonise

and there you've erected a straw man for me that is all too easy to expose to the ridicule it deserves. we can conclude logically that He does not exist, and no, it does not require any sort of 'leap' which you admit to have taken from the cliff of sanity. to say that one is an atheist is to simply state a position that none of the claims made by theists meet their burden of proof and can, therefore, be dismissed. for that which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence. (surely you don't believe in zeus.. why not?) i thank you, though, for stating it clearly that it is not a matter of rationality to you, but that you believe because of a subjective experience. if your faith is unreasonable, then by all means, i agree with you. and since you chose earlier to substitute 'unreasonable' with 'ridiculous,' then i will, again, agree wholeheartedly. one question remains, though. how is it that you know you've experienced the God of Christianity? and does this mean that all other religions are false?

Antwuan Malone
Antwuan Malone

(wonders why are having the discussion on fb instead of my site)... you said bible is man-made (people) and that Jonah (and other such stories) were unreasonable (which if it is a straw to usurp unreasonable with ridiculous, then I am guilty.) Further, you said anything ideological becomes a matter of subjective aesthetics. (or simple the ideas of individuals). But ok. I cannot, nor will I even attempt, to explain Jonah in the belly of a big fish. But neither will I attempt to explain any other miraculous event settled within the Bible (i.e. and army of bones, the sun standing still, a talking donkey, a carpenter raised from the dead, feeding 5000 with 2 fish and five loaves, turning water into wine, etc...) I have no valid or reasonable reason to believe any of it to be true except this one thing. I have experienced God for myself, and he is what the Bible says He is. And because of that, I can trust the Bible for the ridiculous and unreasonable. I can't quantify it no more than I can qualify the ideas I mentioned earlier (which is why I mentioned them). And that is why Faith (and I mean it in the most Christian biblical sense possible) is so important. "Oh taste and see..." the Bible says. This is why Christianity, and the Bible, is basically a call to relationship with God, so that our faith will not be grounded in what is provable so much, as it is grounded in our experience with Him. Lots of churchy talk there... but I guess I'm saying this. If you are looking to find God without a shadow of doubt and "superstition", then if he exists, he has not left us that option. But neither can we logically conclude (without a shadow of doubt) that he does not exist. Both require a leap...

Antwuan Malone
Antwuan Malone

Yeah, So I don't know why it's coming up as James when there were other people commenting (troubleshooting Disqus...)

Michael Prestonise
Michael Prestonise

nice straw man, but i did not condemn the bible as being a 'collection of people telling ridiculous stories.' i made no statement about the existence of the supernatural, though i do not believe it exists, and i said nothing to the effect of 'anything else' being simply 'our own conjuring up of ideas...' now, i am sure you disagree. i'm also quite sure that it IS for very superstitious reasons, but just to get back to the original content of this posting, please do tell me why the bible Should be an authority. and if you dare, please explain how you believe the story of Jonah played out, i.e. his survival, underwater and inside the stomach of what is usually considered to be either a whale or whale shark.

Antwuan Malone
Antwuan Malone

so in short... the bible is a collection of people telling ridiculous stories. There is no supernatural as there are no ways to explain them materially or scientifically, thus any reference to it is "superstitious."' And life is about living and continuing the species. Anything else is our own conjuring up of ideas... If that properly sums up the worldview you are leaning toward... then I cannot agree. And probably for very superstitious reasons.

Michael Prestonise
Michael Prestonise

i'll take your questions in reverse order.. the ideas of love, courage and forgiveness do not carry with them the necessarily superstitious belief in the supernatural. they exist within the human mind, regardless of one's religious affiliation. and they are not superstitious, however transcendent they may be. the bible is a man-made work of literature, it is not that it is now irrelevant, but that it is clearly not inspired by a divine being. and yes, i do completely believe it to be un-inspired. that does not mean i must disagree with every preachment it makes, i.e. do not murder, do not lie, etc. first of all, to this question of authority, i would object to the grammar of your question. i do not need to look elsewhere for commands or guidance. i am not a slave, even though the bible does advocate slavery, and, indeed, commands it. the purpose of existence? another category mistake. i could be smug and simply say 'to exist' or some such nonsense, but the only universally applicable purposes of existence are the biological processes of procreation and the perpetuation of life. anything ideological becomes a matter of subjective aesthetics.

Antwuan Malone
Antwuan Malone

So what then is the authority (or is there a supreme moral authority)? Experience? Survival? Society... And further, what then, would you say is the purpose of that existence (supposing we have a purpose)? Have you taken the position that the Bible is irrelevant to real, not so "superstitious" life? And if so, then you must do so completely. And besides, there are a great many ideas that are superstitious by that definition, not the least of which is Love, courage, and forgiveness.

Michael Prestonise
Michael Prestonise

yes, it is has lost that place of 'authority' which many seem all too ready to give it. as for superstitions, well, a superstition is a credulous belief or notion, not based on reason or knowledge. i think that's self-explanatory. but if an example is necessary, take yours.. jonah, living for three days inside the belly of a 'great fish.'

Antwuan Malone
Antwuan Malone

So for you, the Bible has lost its place as an authority? What do you mean by "superstitions?

Michael Prestonise
Michael Prestonise

well, it is about 1600 years old and contains some pretty extraordinary claims and contradictions. not sure it is a question of whether or not the bible is losing steam and instead a question of whether or not people are beginning to see through some of the superstitions.

James Worsham
James Worsham

If you're using a condenser mic to record, I'd get a pop-filter to avoid all the pops and clicks. Good blog.

Antwuan Malone
Antwuan Malone

Yeah. I'm working on that. I actually have a better mic that I forgot I had, but it was already recorded. Do you have any ideas of a good USB mic?