NEW

HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen has announced the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. His Royal Highness passed away peacefully at Windsor Castle. Please join us in prayer: O MERCIFUL God, the Father...

He Will Burn Up the Chaff with Unquenchable Fire

Bishop JC RyleHe Will Burn Up the Chaff with Unquenchable Fire In 1878, two years before he was made the first Bishop of Liverpool, The Revd JC Ryle delivered a sermon on the biblical teaching regarding the doctrine of hell. His words are as pertinent today as they...

Pilgrim’s Process

By The Revd Dr Peter Sanlon In our journey to heaven we are to be thankful for the world we pass through. One of the great prayers of the Book of Common Prayer (there are many!) is the General Thanksgiving. In it we pray, 'We bless thee for our creation, preservation...

Original Sin is the fundamental systematic cause of abuse

Original Sin is the Fundamental Systematic Cause of Abuse The Christian world has recently been shaken by revelations that two high-profile Evangelical leaders—the late Ravi Zacharias, founder of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries; and, closer to home, the Revd...

Letters To The Editor – Graham

Dear Sir, The organisers of an evangelistic event in which Franklin Graham preached have won a legal dispute with Blackpool Council. The Lancashire Festival of Hope took place over three days at Blackpool's Winter Gardens in September 2018, which saw hundreds make...

Letter To the Editor – Government

Dear Editor, Readers may appreciate the relevance of the following comments by Bishop Ryle in his Expository Thoughts on John 18:36 (Volume 3 page 274): “No government can expect to prosper which refuses to recognise religion, which deals with its subjects as if they...

Lancashire Judge Rules in Favour of Franklin Graham

In a strong and clear rebuke of the cancel culture sweeping the UK, a court ruled that the 2018 Lancashire Festival of Hope with Franklin Graham was discriminated against by the Blackpool Borough Council and Blackpool Transport Services Limited by taking down bus ads...

Spectator Cover Shows Empty Tomb for Easter Edition

Many of the readers of the English Churchman are also readers of The Spectator but the 3 April edition was a rather nice surprise. If you missed it, the cover featured an artist’s rendering of Jesus’ empty tomb. Bright morning sunlight showed the inside of a tomb,...

BCP Worship

The Second Sunday after Easter 11 April 2021 Psalm 81:1-4Ezekiel 37:1-101 John 5:4-12John 20:19-23 BCP Collect “Almighty Father, who hast given thine only Son to die for our sins, and to rise again for our justification: Grant us so to put away the leaven of malice...

St George’s Church Crowhurst Promotes Wider Use of the BCP

A parish church in East Sussex – located next to the ruins of King Harold’s Saxon Manor, mentioned in the Domesday Book – has joined the Prayer Book Society in a bid to strengthen its campaign promoting wider use of the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) by young people as...

Disorientation and the Inevitable Crisis of Biblical Illiteracy

In Yuval Levin’s much-praised recent book, The Fractured Republic, the political analyst comments on how one of the defining marks of American public life thus far in the twenty-first century is undoubtedly disorientation. He writes:“It’s as if we cannot quite figure where we stand, and therefore where we’re headed…we live in a period of profound transformation.

For Christians, this disorientation feels even more pronounced. We feel the force not just of societal change, but of our faith’s rapidly changing place within that society. Like the early remnants of a sandcastle after the first tide has come and gone, we see the clumped heaps of a tower that remains and so find ourselves at once both wistfully looking back to supposed ‘glory-days’, and anxiously looking forward, apprehensive of the change that’s still to come.

And perhaps the most marked of these signs of disorientation is what pollster George Barna has called the ‘crisis of biblical illiteracy’. Indeed the very phrase is enough to draw out knowing shakes of the head and deep, long, sighs from the faithful.

Sadly it’s a crisis that makes for fairly dramatic statistics. One poll revealed 12% of American adults believe Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. 

Here in the UK the Bible Society surveyed children aged 8-15 and found that a third couldn’t identify the Nativity as a biblical story. That percentage doubled for Jonah. Can you take more? One in three children thought Harry Potter was in the Bible, and over half thought The Hunger Games might have been too. For a second it’s ditzy funny, and then you realise it’s just plain desperate. DeYoung & Gilbert have described how the Bible’s increasingly peripheral place in the West has “spawned a rising generation of postmodern biblical illiterates”.

Moving from Familiar Stories to Finding Our Place in The Story

But how do we tend to respond to these statistics? Well, there’s probably two typical quick-fire reactions. 

The first is blame. Biblical illiteracy? Yep, that’ll be the fault of our consumer culture’s carte-du-jour of endless options. And, of course, throw into the mix the distracting banality of social media, and if together those aren’t enough of a ’cause,’ then we can always assign fault to liberal Christianity’s gentle erosion of a high view of Scripture. Blame.

And the second reaction? 

Well, it’s obvious: more Bible, right? We need to fight for the Bible back in our schools, lobby the Bible back in the town hall, and of course press for a new reformation and put confident Bible teaching back in the pulpit. Unless we get more Bible then we may as well give up any hope of people being able to distinguish their King David from their Dumbledore, or their Peter from their Peeta. Biblical Illiteracy + more Bible = biblical literacy, right?! But whoever came up with that ‘not seeing the wood for the trees’ idiom was onto something. Because when it comes to knowing the Bible, being able to identify a few trees is a very different thing to standing in awe of the whole forest. Maybe in our fervour to reverse this outbreak of biblical illiteracy, we’ve forgotten that facts and stories are not what we’re after.

The real challenge of biblical illiteracy is moving beyond familiarity with Bible stories to introducing people to the Bible’s big story.

Revd Robin Ham is a church planter in Barrow, South Cumbria and blogs at www.thathappycertainty.com

Previous

Next