Many people were writing about biblical illiteracy in 2014.
But I want to focus on two of them.
- Kenneth Berding (Biola University)
- Ed Stetzer (LifeWay Research)
The Crisis of Biblical Illiteracy
In the spring of 2014, Kenneth Berding wrote:
“These days many of us don’t even know basic facts about the Bible.”Biola Magazine: “The Crisis of Biblical Illiteracy”
He goes on to tell the story of a student who asked whether the Saul mentioned in Acts 9 was the same Saul who was king of Israel. Another student wrote a brief biography of Joshua saying he “was the son of a nun,” apparently not realizing Joshua’s father was named Nun.
Berding said he couldn’t imagine something like this happening to “our believing great-grandparents in the United States.”
Why would he say that?
Because there is a feeling that biblical illiteracy is a recent problem, something that would not have been an issue in the 1950s or earlier.
Spoilers: When we get to that generation in this series of articles, some of the stats will be shocking.
Biblical Illiteracy by the Numbers
Ed Stetzer wrote a 3-part series about biblical literacy in October 2014. He made some great points, backed by research, about the importance of Bible engagement.
Regarding the time-frame of biblical illiteracy, however, Stetzer wrote this:
Study after study in the last quarter-century has revealed that American Christians increasingly don’t read their Bibles, don’t engage their Bibles, and don’t know their Bibles. It’s obvious: We are living in a post-biblically literate culture.”Christianity Today: “Biblical Illiteracy by the Numbers”
Stetzer emphasized two things that are worth noting.
That word increasingly is often used to describe the state of biblical illiteracy.
Or the opposite word decreasingly when referring to the decline of biblical literacy.
Whether or not there is a trend line in biblical illiteracy or literacy is debatable. In fact, understanding how long people have talked about biblical illiteracy will help us understand whether or not there is a trend.
Stetzer said that “study after study in the last quarter-century…”
That gets us back to the point of this article — the time frame.
The timing is off.
As an example, Stetzer’s quarter-century comment is very similar to another researcher’s comment four years earlier.
In the previously mentioned Biola Magazine article, Kenneth Berding cited David R. Nienhuis who wrote this:
“For well over twenty years now, Christian leaders have been lamenting the loss of general biblical literacy in America.”“Recovering Scripture” — Modern Reformation — JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2010 EDITION
So, as far as the time frame of biblical illiteracy is concerned, we’ll need to travel farther back in time to see how people have expressed their concern over other people’s knowledge of the Bible.
A Serious Look at Biblical Literacy
1. The problem with the problem of biblical illiteracy
2. Biblical illiteracy in 2019
3. Biblical illiteracy in 2014
4. Biblical illiteracy in the 1990s and 2000s
5. Biblical illiteracy in the 1980s
6. Biblical illiteracy in the 1960s
7. Biblical illiteracy in the 1950s?
8. Biblical illiteracy in the 1940s and 1930s
9. Biblical illiteracy in 1915
10. Biblical illiteracy and the Second Great Awakening