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Letter to the Editor: Response to the Last Editorial

Letter to the Editor Response to Last Edition’s Editorial Dear Editor, Thank you very much for your Christian charity and spirited editorial, Friday 8th October 2021, ( E.C. No.8090).  Also thanks are due to you for reprinting so much excellent reformed evangelical...

Letter to the Editor: The Murder of Sir David Amess

Murder of Sir David Amess Dear Editor, I grieve at the loss of a friend and former Party colleague Sir David Amess, MP who was murdered in an increasingly dangerous world. In the 70s I worked with David in the Young Conservatives before he became an MP and he was...

Reformation Sunday Advert

LETTER TO THE EDITOR:                        15 October 2021. My ‘Advert’ titled “Reformation Sunday 31 October” said, “The Church of England should still celebrate this 500th year since Martin Luther declared at the ‘Diet of Worms’ in 1521, “Here I stand. God help...

Leicester Diocese Illogical

Letter to the Editor Leicester Diocese Illogical   Sir, Leicester Diocese’s decision on 9 October to replace its traditional Parishes with ‘Minsters' is both spiritually and financially illogical.  The Church of England’s own growth report ‘From Anecdote to...

Barnabas Fund Reports: Turkey Escalates Airstrikes Against Christians in Syria & Iraq

Barnabas Fund Reports Turkey Escalating Airstrikes Against Christians and other Minorities in Syria and Iraq Turkey has escalated a supposedly anti-terrorist military campaign in Syria and Iraq which appears to be targeting Christians and other minorities. A spate of...

Should I Stay or Should I Go? Gospel-Driven Anglicanism Part 4

Should I Stay or Should I Go? By the Revd Dr Mark Pickles Part 4 Gedaliah is appointed governor and we read that Jeremiah purposely chooses to live amongst “those of the poorest of the land who had not been taken into exile in Babylon” (40:7). Things have taken a turn...

466th Anniversary of the Martyrdoms of Latimer & Ridley

466th Anniversary of the Martyrdoms of Latimer & Ridley Saturday, 16 October marked the 466th anniversary of the martyrdoms of Bishops Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley.   They were burned at the stake after being found guilty of heresy due to their refusal to...

Clive West Memorial Trust Lecture: John Yates III to Speak

Clive West Memorial Trust Lecture  Revd Dr John Yates III to Speak The annual Clive West Memorial Lecture will be held on Thursday, 11 November at 19:30 at St Nicholas’ Church, Lisburn Road in Belfast.  This year’s speaker is the Revd Dr John Yates III, Rector of Holy...

Book Review: Bleeding for Jesus

Bleeding for Jesus John Smyth and the cult of the Iwerne Camps Andrew Graystone Darton, Longman and Todd, 2021 (ISBN: 9781913657123, 250pp, £12.99) This book is the latest instalment of a long-running tragedy. It comes six years after the author was first made aware...

School Pupils Across the Country Memorise Passages from BCP for £1,000 Prize

School Pupils Across the Country  Memorise Book of Common Prayer Passages  £1,000 Prize for Winner By Tim Stanley Hundreds of school pupils across the country are busy this term studying prayers and readings from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer in a bid to win a prize...

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

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