Friday, October 14, 2005

What Are We Making Of Ourselves?

This weblog from the prolific Al Mohler is definitely worth the read. It deals with and details the growing biblical illiteracy among American Christians. Some quotes from the weblog and from the Barna research it cites:

Researchers George Gallup and Jim Castelli put the problem squarely: "Americans revere the Bible--but, by and large, they don't read it. And because they don't read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates."

Some details not surprising to those who have run across these kinds of studies before:

Fewer than half of all adults can name the four gospels. Many Christians cannot identify more than two or three of the disciples. According to data from the Barna Research Group, 60 percent of Americans can't name even five of the Ten Commandments….
Some of the statistics are enough to perplex even those aware of the problem. A Barna poll indicated that at least 12 percent of adults believe that Joan of Arc was Noah's wife. Another survey of graduating high school seniors revealed that over 50 percent thought that Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife. A considerable number of respondents to one poll indicated that the Sermon on the Mount was preached by Billy Graham.

This, I think, is indicative of a deep and profound problem within American church circles today. As the culture goes, so goes the church. We have become so enamored with relevance and the latest and greatest in cultural movements, that we have become their slaves. Mohler continues:

Christians who lack biblical knowledge are the products of churches that marginalize biblical knowledge. Bible teaching now often accounts for only a diminishing fraction of the local congregation's time and attention. The move to small group ministry has certainly increased opportunities for fellowship, but many of these groups never get beyond superficial Bible study.

Youth ministries are asked to fix problems, provide entertainment, and keep kids busy. How many local-church youth programs actually produce substantial Bible knowledge in young people?

For various reasons, we have decided that being a church in America today means being relevant to the culture. And while we are to reach out to the lost, relevance is neither a biblical nor a sound theological notion. Relevance entails capitulation and requires a protean soul. The Gospel is neither.

This will upset some of my readers and interlocutors, but this is the core disease with the Emergent church movement. Its reform does not begin where the great and lasting reforms of history have begun-a theological corrective. It begins with cultural corrective and then moves to its theology. That particular flow of influence is equivalent to making the same mistake the worst portions of the seeker sensitive movement made-making the masses sovereign instead of the message. Ironic, if you ask me.

A couple of books that are absolutely terrific on this particular issue:

Os Guinness, No God But God.
Dorothy Sayers, Letters To A Diminished Church: Passionate Arguments For The Relevance Of Christian Doctrine.

3 comments:

Joshua_Duncan said...

Great stuff, Phil. You and I are on the same page with this issue. The following statement especially resonates with me:

"For various reasons, we have decided that being a church in America today means being relevant to the culture. And while we are to reach out to the lost, relevance is neither a biblical nor a sound theological notion. Relevance entails capitulation and requires a protean soul. The Gospel is neither."

We were talking about relevance and the cost of discipleship in Church yesterday. I wish I had seen this post sooner.

Phil Steiger said...

Joshua-Thanks for your thoughts and kind words. Relevance is one of those "assumed goods" in the church today, and thus generally escapes scrutiny.

Keep on fighting the good fight!

the_militant_pacifist said...

Great post. You might enjoy the posting on my BLOG, http://themilitantpacifist.blogspot.com/, called "The Loss of Simple Bible Reading" (see October 6). Actually, it's a link to another BLOG posting, but its a good one.