Why, in a culture where nearly everyone can read, has access to a Bible, and has a church on every corner, is there such biblical illiteracy? I believe the answer to this question is to be found springing from the society we are a part of:

First, there is a diminished stress on education. We see this in lowered national standards. Lowered expectations. Lowered requirements. We emphasize "feeling good" about yourself and therefore we accept mediocrity. Defining educational excellence and striving for it is old-fashioned and exclusionary.

Second, there is an emphasis on "rights" over "responsibility." The phrases are so common they are cliched: "I deserve it." "It's my right." Whether or not we've "earned" it is irrelevant - because I want it, it's my "right."

Third, there is a lack of balance in our use of time. The latest handheld techno-gadgets have become our Bibles, traveling with us wherever we go, providing structure and order to our days, advising us of what we can and can't do. The thing they don't provide is balance, rest, prioritization, and peace. We have become multi-tasking people instead of single-focused persons.

Fourth, there is a "quick-fix" mentality. We live in a culture of sound-bites, immediate access, convenience technology, and instant gratification. We are unwilling to sweat and wait and work for what we want.

Think for a minute of how this cultural worldview plays itself out within the Church:

With our diminished stress on education, we are content with teaching the bare basics of the faith in our churches. We are so concerned that people will become "overwhelmed" or "frightened" by the harder truths of Scripture, or by an in-depth study of doctrine, that we don't present it to them. We keep them on a milk diet, and then wonder why they can't digest meat.

The cultural emphasis on "rights" means that we look at the benefits of Christianity ... answered prayer, spiritual gifts, leadership, etc. ... as our "rights" as children of God. The thought that the fullness of these things comes only through a life of obedience and daily discipline is unpalatable.

Our schedules show our lack of balance in our lives. How often do you have in your daily plan: "Quiet time." "Prayer time." "Weekend spiritual retreat." "Time for a long, quiet, unhurried walk - may take all afternoon." We have planned God right out of our lives. Instead of providing us more time to spend on our spiritual development, we have less, because we schedule the time we have down to the wire.

Finally, our quick-fix mentality has lost to us our entire Christian history of devotion, dedication, spiritual formation, solitude, labor, and suffering. We have no time to wait for what is good, and we don't have patience with pain. We will not tarry for wisdom, nor work for fulfillment. If maturity cannot be gained in five-minute easy-to-understand devotional readings, then it won't be gained at all.

Why are we biblically illiterate as the Church? The above points can be summarized neatly:

  • We do not stress education.
  • We do not stress responsibility.
  • We do not stress balance.
  • We do not stress perseverance.

Without these, biblical knowledge - and spiritual maturity - cannot be achieved.

© 2008 Paula Marolewski

You have my permission to reprint and distribute this article as long as it is distributed in its entirety, including all links and copyright information. This article is not to be sold or included with anything that is sold.

Author's Bio: 

Paula J. Marolewski provides challenging and interactive adult Bible studies for individuals, Bible studies, small groups, and adult Sunday School classes at Sink Your Roots. Studies include such topics as Debunking the Myths about Knowing God's Will. The above article is an excerpt from Called to Teach.