As Dr. Dave Nienhuis continues to provide readings on the book of Matthew for this quarter’s Lectio, the question of biblical literacy remains relevant. Is our society biblically illiterate? What does it mean to know the Bible? Is it enough to understand the basic stories or should Christians comprehend underlying theological implications of the text? Is the plain sense of the text all that is necessary? What about when Christians disagree on the plain sense of the text? Should Christians understand the lenses through which they view the Bible?
Before such questions find answers, we need to assess our current state. What do Christians actually know? First-year SOT graduate students Sophia Agtarap and Aaron Willett used the Practica component of their coursework to begin to answer this question. Utilizing social media, the team polled a wide variety of people asking basic questions about Scripture.
The duo’s project offers important first steps in the pursuit of biblical literacy: identifying current levels of biblical understanding.
Read more about the team’s work.
Sometimes, I find it difficult to deal with people who claim they know something when it is clearly evident that they are clueless. Whether to save face or to gain access to the “in” crowd, these people attempt to knowledgeably dialogue on this hypothetical subject. Inevitably, his or her dearth of understanding betrays him or her. Similarly, the latest survey from Pew Forum on Religion exposes the ever greater scarcity of religious knowledge in American Christianity.
The results of the survey released by Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life are staggering: Atheists, Agnostics, Mormons, and Jews score best on the religious knowledge survey. Protestants as a whole could only correctly answer an average of 16 questions out of 32. In fact, 53% of Protestants were unable to correctly identify Martin Luther as the defining figure in the Protestant Reformation. It is clear that many self-proclaiming Christians act similarly to those clueless hypothetical friends in the preceding paragraph.
While Americans scored slightly above average on questions pertaining to the Bible, the general lack of knowledge concerning rudimentary elements in the Christian faith is alarming. If Christian’s have insufficient knowledge of Christian principles, how can they act within the guidelines of Christian teaching and doctrine?
Seeking to find a remedy for these harrowing statistics, the Center for Biblical and Theological Education debuts Lectio: Guided Bible Readings this fall quarter. A freely available weekly reading program, Lectio provides the public with useful tools in which to dive deeply into Scripture. Led by School of Theology faculty, Lectio seeks not only to educate individuals but also to unite them with a community studying the same biblical subjects. Join us as we read through the bible together.
– Donovan Richards