Biblical Literacy

Marc Cortez reminds us of the problem of biblical illiteracy and the vital importance of being biblically literate. But, he wisely observes that “We Won’t Solve Biblical Literacy with Bible Trivia.” In an attempt to remedy this problem, teachers and pastors spend more time on “acts and facts” than the big picture of the Bible which gives right understanding of each of those “acts and facts.” So often it becomes a matter of remedying one problem or addressing one concern only to create another. It is not one or the other of these matters but both/and. One must address the problem. But one must also keep in context of the larger whole so that one does not make the one aspect of remedying the problem the whole remedy.

This is Cortez’ concern, and I agree. Cortez identifies the accompanying problems with focusing on Bible trivia. First, he notes that it often fosters spiritual pride. Christian maturity was marked by Bible knowledge of the minutia. This remains a problem for many pastors in that the temptation is for them to equate their knowledge with maturity, and, even worse, that their knowledge equates with their experience so that they become exempt from the exhortations from the Scriptures they preach to God’s people.

Second, knowing the details of the Bible or of a story does not mean that one necessarily knows the Story. The Story cannot be known apart from the stories, but knowing the stories does not necessarily mean that one knows God’s Story. Knowing Bible trivia is not the same as being biblically literate.

Finally, in the age of Google, Cortez concludes that for many it seems a waste of time to learn the stories of the Bible and where they fit in the Bible’s Story when they can search it on Google and get the answer in seconds. However, something essential is lost if Bible memorization is outsourced!

Cortez concludes with a challenge to us to move toward the goal of biblical literacy not Bible trivia:

And here’s my real concern. If we tell people that biblical literacy is a problem (which it is) and then equate biblical literacy with Bible trivia, many will conclude that it’s not really a problem because they can just get the trivia answers online. That may work for trivia, but not for real literacy. A Google search can’t immerse you in the story, helping you reflect on the bigger themes, gradually transforming you into the image of the Son, changing the way you view the entire world as a result. Google can do many things, but it can’t do that.

If you know the trivia, great. The devil isn’t in the details, it’s in the way that we sometimes use the details to neglect the story itself. Biblical literacy is far more than Bible trivia. And suggesting otherwise contributes to the problem, not the solution.

 What are you doing in your personal life, the life of your family and the corporate life of the church to foster biblical literacy, not Bible trivia?


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