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FORWARD! Help Stamp Out Biblical Illiteracy!

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FORWARD! Help Stamp Out Biblical Illiteracy!

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Did you ever hear the old joke about the guy who, on his history quiz, identified Joan of Arc as “Noah’s wife”? Well, it’s not just a joke anymore—in surveys one out of 10 U.S. citizens actually thinks it’s true! That, my friends, is no laughing matter, nor is the mounting evidence that the United States is rapidly becoming a biblically illiterate nation. The cover story in the April 2, 2007, issue of Time magazine was “The Case for Teaching the Bible.” The content was absolutely sobering. The article focuses on several angles of the hot debate over whether God’s Word should be in the curriculum of modern public education. What is not debatable is the level of biblical illiteracy among U.S. citizens and Western culture in general. We Americans claim to be very religious, surveys show, but one can’t tell it from our poor level of knowledge about extremely basic issues of the Bible. When only one out of three U.S. citizens can even name the four Gospels, it doesn’t say much about our competence to actually discuss the content of the Scriptures! This topic deserves a lot of press, and one man recently putting it in the spotlight is Stephen Prothero, who chairs the Boston University religion department. His new book, Religious Literacy, is bound to stir controversy because he advocates bringing the Bible back into public education. One among many of Prothero’s arguments is, “Biblical illiteracy is not just a religious problem. It is a civic problem with political consequences. How can citizens participate in biblically inflected debates on abortion, capital punishment, or the environment without knowing something about the Bible? Because they lack biblical literacy, Americans are easily swayed by demagogues on the left or the right who claim—often incorrectly—that the Bible says this about war or that about homosexuality.” The civic arena of political debate is rather minor compared to the moral arena of human behavior, but the point is made that biblical illiteracy creates pervasive problems. No matter how important this issue is, the discussion has been a tempest in a teapot, fading out of the public consciousness when the next item of societal curiosity pushed it off the stage of faddish interest. We tend to quickly move on to whatever titillates our attention in the short term, rather than giving such issues the serious thought that could lead to actual beneficial change. Without true knowledge, we are easily swayed by philosophies pulling from many directions. But we want to see what God says, because we’re disturbed with the direction the world is being swayed! I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for the public education system to provide the information we need! Many nations have battled to stamp out illiteracy, knowing that a lack of education creates huge challenges for their people. It therefore makes it appalling that in the most educated nations of the world, we are increasingly blinded to the moral and spiritual challenges we’ve created, directly due in large part to our lack of biblical education! One of the great historical lessons in God’s Word sounds very familiar today. “Hear the word of the LORD, you children of Israel, for the LORD brings a charge against the inhabitants of the land,” we read in Hosea 4:1 Hosea 4:1Hear the word of the LORD, you children of Israel: for the LORD has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land.
American King James Version×
. What was that complaint? “There is no truth or mercy or knowledge of God in the land.” Talking about God is not the same as the knowledge of God! “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children” (verse 6). Through The Good News, Bible Study Course and many other publications, we are battling hard to stamp out biblical illiteracy! Let’s prepare ourselves through dedicated personal Bible study as we seek to preach the gospel ever more effectively. UN

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