A recent article for FoxNews.com recently asked, “Why are so many Christians biblically illiterate?” This question involves two key issues. First, are Christians (or at least American Christians) really biblically illiterate? Second, if so, what can be done to change the situation?
The article notes that 80 percent of Americans believe the Bible is “God’s word.” However, this attitude frequently does not change actions toward reading it. The Bible remains the world’s most published and translated book. The problem for Americans is not access, but engagement (The average American owns three Bibles).
Most people can now access their preferred version of the Bible from any smart phone in text and audio. Endless amounts of commentary can be searched on each verse through today’s online tools. So why does the latest LifeWay Research find:
- Only 45 percent of those who regularly attend church read the Bible more than once a week.
- Over 40 percent of the people attending read their Bible occasionally, maybe once or twice a month.
- Almost 1 in 5 churchgoers say they never read the Bible—essentially the same number who read it every day.
Not reading or listening to Scripture results in not knowing it. Combined with less frequent church attendance patterns among American Protestants, it is unsurprising Christians do not know basic Bible teachings.
If American Christians (and Americans in general) are biblically illiterate, what is the solution? Some suggest involvement in a Bible teaching church or small group that offers community and accountability. While helpful, a deeper issue is involved.
In general, we invest time in what we consider most important. This often includes our work or education. The average American works far more than 40 hours per week with no required vacation. Many American students juggle high school or college plus numerous social activities, sports, and/or jobs.
Yet in this mix, the priority of making God’s Word essential to daily life has often been forgotten. Removed from public schools as well as from many families, many in our culture rarely see another person regularly study and live out Scripture.
To help, it begins with you. As Paul noted, we should strive to say, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). No one is going to make you open the Bible and read it except you. The Bible is living and active (Hebrews 4:12) and changes lives. It is work, yet it is work that offers great reward.
In addition, we must not merely read the Word, but also apply it. James writes, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22). Just as our body improves through exercise, and not just reading about it, so also our spiritual life improves as we act upon what we learn in the Bible.
You may not be able to solve biblical illiteracy in our nation, but you can solve it for your own life. As you do, you’ll also influence others to both read and live the teachings of Scripture.