Excellent Insights on Biblical Literacy
His set of buzzwords is a bit different from mine, but his insights are profoundly needed: David R. Nienhuis’ article in Modern Reformation on how to promote biblical literacy is a great read.
He points to our entertainment culture as one reason even evangelical kids don’t know the Bible well, coming up with a corker of a quote in the process. One of his students told him, “Reading a lot is not a part of my learning style”!
He also points to the proof-texting traditions we’ve built up in American evangelicalism, in which students fail to gain the skill of reading God’s words in their full depth and breadth, but only stock up on individual apologetic points. Here he also landed an insightful quote. One of his students “noted that all these years she had relied on someone else to tell her what snippets of the Bible were significant enough for her to know. But whenever she was alone with the text, she felt swamped.”
Nienhuis suggests three steps for changing the sad state of Bible knowledge in our own churches:
- schooling in the substance of the entire biblical story in all its literary diversity (not just an assortment of those verses deemed doctrinally relevant);
- training in the particular “orienteering” skills required to plot that narrative through the actual texts and canonical units of the Bible; and
- instruction in the complex theological task of interpreting Scripture in light of the tradition of the church and the experience of the saints.
I’d rather not put the third point that way, but I can affirm it if I get to define the terms. Reading in light of church history is at least suggested by Scripture (Heb. 13:7), and it’s certainly wise. You’re going to read in light of some history of interpretation; it might as well be a thorough and accurate one.
May I also suggest, as step zero, getting rid of all verse numbers and printing Bibles in paragraph format? That would go a long way.