Guess what? This is National Bible Week, the one time each year when US Christians unite to give three cheers for the Good Book. I’m all for that. There’s only one problem. It doesn’t seem to be making much of a difference.

The most recent evidence came this fall when The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released the results of a major survey on religious knowledge in the United States. Among many questions about religion, participants were asked about their basic Bible knowledge. When all the data was tabulated, the findings were surprising:

  • A higher percentage of Mormons could name all four Gospels than Evangelicals
  • A majority of Protestants couldn’t identify who Job was
  • Atheists and agnostics scored higher than Christians in overall Bible knowledge

That’s not good. The question is, how should Christians respond? Should we all get copies of The Bible for Dummies so we can pull ahead in the next survey? Maybe. But I think a better response would be to begin planning now for a different kind of National Bible Week next year. Here’s what I’d suggest.

First, let’s start with a press conference to confess that the church has lost touch with its own Book. Second, let’s all take a vow, that’s right, an old fashioned vow (Psalm 116:14), not to buy another Bible until we’ve read through one we already have. Finally, let’s announce a 10-year effort to get more church-goers reading the Bible. If we really want to ignite a Bible reading revival, that’s what it’ll take.

But does that mean we should forget about sharing God’s Word with a needy world? Not at all! I’m convinced the best way to get non-believers into the Bible is not to post the 10 Commandments in the courthouse, or to fight for Bible reading in the public schools, or even to give out Bibles on the street corner. Rather, it’s for believers to become passionate about reading and living God’s Word themselves. When that happens, the church will have the spiritual credibility and power to say “come and join us.” I can’t wait for that kind of National Bible Week in 2011. How about you?

A New Vision for “National Bible Week”

2 thoughts on “A New Vision for “National Bible Week”

  • November 29, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    Your comment “the church has lost touch with its own Book” is not correct, if not misleading. If you read the study, it is a study of general religious knowledge NOT the Bible and the single greatest factor was level of education.

    For instance: one of the questions on the survey that Christians did so poorly on was “In which religion are Vishnu and Shiva central figures? Hinduism, Islam or Taoism?”

    Also the questions are agnostic in orientation. For instance, when asking about Biblical people, the question would say “Which figure…” When asking about people outside the Bible, the question would ask, “Was Joseph Smith..” Or “Is the Dali Lama…” This implies that Joseph Smith and the Dali Lama are real while Bible people are only “figures” (not real).

    It is also important to know that they also suggest; “The survey shows that religious knowledge is most closely linked with years of schooling.”

    So before we humiliate ourselves before the public, we need to understand exactly what the survey is saying rather than reduce it to a generalized one liner.

    And give kudos to the Pew Forum for once again giving us the information to mislead ourselves… again.

  • November 30, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    You are correct that the Pew study was about general religious knowledge. And I too don't accept some of the assumptions behind the survey questions. However, there is a section of the study that deals specifically with Bible knowledge; that's what I was referring to. As I said in my article, “Among many questions about religion, participants were asked about their basic Bible knowledge.” My point is that the best way for Christians to have a biblical influence in society is for the church to become more committed to reading and living applying God's Word, and sadly, many denominations have lost focus on that priority. While the Pew Study comes from a secular perspective, it nonetheless gives us some hints that we have some room for improvement in the area of Bible engagement.


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