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Biblical literacy

April 2015 | by Judith Webster

stack of booksEaster is an important time for Christians to commemorate Christ’s death and resurrection. Indeed, the Bible tells us God ‘forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross’ (Colossians 2:13-14).

Yet despite this incredible truth, the number of people in the UK with knowledge of Jesus and the Bible is worryingly decreasing.
Recently, I presented five young Christians, aged between 16 and 18, with a Bible trivia quiz. The average score attained was 88 per cent. The same quiz was given to five young non-Christians of a similar age range, but, this time, the average score was only 36 per cent.

In 2009, the National Biblical Literacy Survey discovered that only 1 in 20 of 900 people could name all Ten Commandments. In addition, the younger people surveyed said the Bible was ‘old-fashioned’.

This biblical illiteracy could be seen as surprising. Commonly used idioms, such as ‘scapegoat’ and ‘by the skin of your teeth’, originate from the Bible (Leviticus 16:22 and Job 19:20, respectively).

Accessible but unread

What’s more, there are multiple ways to access the Bible. The Guinness world records estimate that around 5 billion copies of the Bible have been sold worldwide. For the younger generation, there are currently 13 Bible apps listed as most popular in the reference section of Apple’s App Store.

The investigative journal Christian courier claims there are six causes for the declining search for God. These include a lack of awareness of the need for God, a refusal to change — ‘a person must be willing to deny himself, take up the cross daily, and follow his Lord (Luke 9:23)’ — and being discouraged by others’ poor examples as Christians.

The Gospel Coalition has a collection of online articles to educate and encourage current and future generation Christian leaders. One of their contributors, Trevin Wax, discusses techniques to encourage people to read the Bible.

He writes: ‘The Bible is a tough book. Our tendency is to make the Bible seem more accessible than it is, with the hope that more people will read it. I think this is the wrong way to go about it. It’s just not going to happen.

‘When we stress the Bible’s “easiness”, we lead our people into two wrong directions. Some will throw up their hands and say, “I must be really stupid, because this seems very dense”. Or, even worse, we train people to only look for the easy parts’.

He concludes by advising Christians to talk confidently to others about the Bible, admitting that some sections are difficult, but encouraging them to rise to this challenge.

Judith Webster