Bible and the Schools

My college recently made some changes in its curriculum, and one of the changes was to remove one of the two Bible requirments for the core curriculum. Previously, students were required to take an intro to Bible course, as well as choose one of several upper-level Bible classes on a specific topic. The topics included varied from topical or book studies of the Bible. Now, only the intro course is required.

I found, and still find, this a bit troubling. The most specific reason, being the fact that the church is already biblically illiterate. Here are some examples of this illiteracy at its worst based upon a study conducted at Wheaton college, a leading Christian university. The study included incoming Freshmen:

One-third could not put the following in order: Abraham, the Old Testament prophets, the death of Christ, and Pentecost.
Half could not sequence the following: Moses in Egypt, Isaac’s birth, Saul’s death, and Judah’s exile.
One-third could not identify Matthew as an apostle from a list of New Testament names.
When asked to locate the biblical book supplying a given story, one-third could not find Paul’s travels in Acts, half did not know that the Christmas story was in Matthew, half did not know that the Passover story was in Exodus

(Gary M. Burge, as cited here )

Albert Mohler writes,

Fewer than half of all adults can name the four gospels. Many Christians cannot identify more than two or three of the disciples. According to data from the Barna Research Group, 60 percent of Americans can’t name even five of the Ten Commandments. “No wonder people break the Ten Commandments all the time. They don’t know what they are,” said George Barna, president of the firm. The bottom line? “Increasingly, America is biblically illiterate.” [see Barna Group’s web site]

Multiple surveys reveal the problem in stark terms. According to 82 percent of Americans, “God helps those who help themselves,” is a Bible verse. Those identified as born-again Christians did better–by one percent. A majority of adults think the Bible teaches that the most important purpose in life is taking care of one’s family.

Some of the statistics are enough to perplex even those aware of the problem. A Barna poll indicated that at least 12 percent of adults believe that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. Another survey of graduating high school seniors revealed that over 50 percent thought that Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife. A considerable number of respondents to one poll indicated that the Sermon on the Mount was preached by Billy Graham. We are in big trouble.

George Lindbeck, a theologian from Yale University observed, “When I first arrived at Yale, even those who came from nonreligious backgrounds knew the Bible better than most of those now who come from churchgoing families” (as cited here)

The dangers of this trend should be obvious. It should be specifically pointed out, and argued, that curbing Biblical illiteracy should be a key role of the Christian university. The word ‘disciple’ means a learner. The disciple of Christ is a learner, he is learning how to be an agent of God’s grace in this world. This is not merely a spiritual knowledge that is desired, but all sorts of knowledge. The Word of God is a source of absolute truths, and therefore is foundational to the way we should think about every other field of study. The teachings of the Bible should effect our every human endeavor. Noah Webster (yes, the dictionary man) said that the Bible is “the best book for regulating the temporal [secular] concerns of men.

Benjamin Rush, one of America’s founding fathers, wrote:


“We err, not only in human affairs but in religion likewise, only because we do not “know the Scriptures” and obey their instructions. Immense truths, I believe, are concealed in them. The time, I have no doubt, will come when posterity will view and pity our ignorance of these truths as much as we do the ignorance sometimes manifested by the disciples of our Saviour, who knew nothing of the meaning of those plain passages in the Old Testament which were daily fulfilling before their eyes.”

“But further, we err, not only in religion but in philosophy likewise, because we “do not know or believe the Scriptures.” The sciences have been compared to a circle, of which religion composes a part. To understand any one of them perfectly, it is necessary to have some knowledge of them all. Bacon, Boyle, and Newton included the Scriptures in the inquiries to which their universal geniuses disposed them, and their philosophy was aided by their knowledge in them. A striking agreement has been lately discovered between the history of certain events recorded in the Bible and some of the operations and productions of nature, particularly those which are related in Whitehurst’s observation on the deluge, in Smith’s account of the origin of the variety of color in the human species, and in Bruce’s travels. It remains yet to be shown how many other events related in the Bible accord with some late important discoveries in the principles of medicine. The events and the principles alluded to mutually establish the truth of each other.”

Many of the original American universities featured insignia that showed all bodies of knowledge united and founded in knowledge of God. “He who shall introduce into public affairs the principles of Christianity shall change the face of the world” -Benjamin Franklin

No information is neutral and information changes the way we live. If we are to live as Christ, all information, thoughts, and ideas should be tested against scripture and made “obedient to Christ”.  With scripture as our foundation as we approach the world, the Word of God guides us in knowing how to live in the world, to be an agent of truth (both in word and in deed) in the world, just as Christ came to be in the world. The Christian scholar should have a firm knowledge of the Bible, in order to discern truth in all his studies. When one does not have the Bible as the basis of his thinking, he can not discern between the ways and thoughts of the world, from the truth of God.  In that case, our very lives are living for and in consistency with a lie.

“The world cannot hate us, we are too much like its own. Oh that God would make us dangerous!” -Jim Elliot

“My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6)

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~ by thelastinkling on July 19, 2009.

One Response to “Bible and the Schools”

  1. I like.

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