What Exactly is Biblical Literacy?

Ezekiel eating the scroll (Eze. 3:1)

OK quick – what are the first three books of the Bible? Was Paul one of the twelve disciples? Did Abraham lead the Israelites out of Egypt?

If you can’t answer these questions (though I really hope you can) you shouldn’t be surprised. Research has shown that most Americans know very little about the Bible – presumably much less than what was known a generation ago.

“…A Famine in the Land”

Pastors, authors and pundits are saying that we are in a famine in terms of our biblical literacy. This famine is not due to lack of access though. According to the Barna Group, “Nearly nine out of 10 adults and teens report owning a Bible, a proportion that has held steady over six years.” The problem comes in that according to the same research only about 35% of those responding read the Bible once a week or more, and over 40% read it less than once a year if at all (not counting reading in church). Because the Bible isn’t read routinely by many in our society, we’ve lost that knowledge of it that was once considered a given. Continue reading

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Being an Anxious Christian

…pretty accurate

While at the library a few weeks ago I found this book peeking out at me from among the graphic novels called The Worrier’s Guide to Life. It’s hysterical, because it’s true. The page I included above made me laugh out loud because I’ve had all of these – sometimes several combinations of them – keep me up at night. I showed it to my wife but I don’t think she got it (she’s usually asleep before she hits the pillow anyway). There was so much in that book that worriers and the anxiety-prone people like me to find funny, which is great because it’s good therapy to hold a mirror up to your problems and laugh at them.

I’m a Christian that has struggled with anxiety for many years. It’s something I deal with more or less on a daily basis, but it’s not as debilitating for me as it is for many others. I’ve had a few panic attacks, been on and off medication, gone to counseling, and try to manage more or less on a day to day basis. Regardless of how many ups and downs I have, I know that what I go through is nothing compared to what others do though. Continue reading

Peter Rollins on Seminary Dropout

I just wanted to give a shoutout to one of my favorite podcasts, Seminary Dropout. The host, Shane Blackshear, interviews some real movers and shakers in the Christian literary and cultural worlds, as well as people you probably never heard of. I’ve been listening for years, and Shane is one of the best interviewers I’ve heard.

Peter Rollins, author of “The Divine Magician”

He recently interviewed author Peter Rollins and I thought it was so good I wanted to highlight and link to it. You can go to the show’s episode page here, subscribe in iTunes or your podgrabber of choice, or click the link below to listen right away. You can even enter contests for books here and there. And he’s not famous, so he will actually interact with you if you hit him up on Twitter!

listen to the episode

Is John Calvin’s God Capable of Love?

After sitting dusty on my shelf ever since I bought it, I decided several weeks ago to crack open Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. I’ve been questioning my Calvinist upbringing for some time, mostly because I didn’t feel like I ever owned it. I was trained Reformed: Presbyterian church (PCA of course), Presbyterian college (Reformed Presbyterian, which even the PCA thinks is too stodgy). Mom and dad had RC Sproul on the radio and Tabletalk on the bookshelf. So I was thoroughly baptized in Calvinism and had been taught it exhaustively, even though I never really studied it per se. I had read plenty of Calvinists, but never Calvin. I decided to change that.

I now believe that if more Calvinists read Calvin, and not just other Calvinists, there would be fewer Calvinists.

Before I go on I’ll say that this is not a book review, a scholarly article, or even all that well thought out. I’m only about a quarter of the way through the Institutes, so I would expect that many will read this and respond to my objections pointing out that I don’t know all the facts. You’re absolutely right – I don’t. This is more my reaction as I encounter Calvin and Calvinism directly in the moment. It’s part of the process. I’m not going to bash him as a person, but I do have serious questions about his theology and reasoning(which God foreordained me to have before the beginning of time for the purpose of manifesting His glory, hallelujah). I’ll have more of these I’m sure in the future.

Is Calvin’s God capable of love?

As I read the Institutes I encountered a discussion of God based primarily in terms of will. It is God’s will that maintains the universe, that seeks his own glory, that creates and destroys, that is providentially manifest in every action and reaction from the cosmic to the subatomic. The answer to why God governs all these things has to do with manifesting God’s own glory and purpose according to Calvin. There is, at least so far in my reading, no mention of God’s love for what he has created, though. Continue reading

Inerrancy, Nature and Scripture

While flipping through the radio stations the other day I came across a message by R. C. Sproul. He was speaking about philosophy, science and scripture and told an interesting story. In his seminary classes, whenever he asks who thinks the bible is inerrant every hand goes up. However when he asks if nature, as another revelation of God, is inerrant, there is a lot more hesitation. He raised an interesting question: why are some Christians so suspicious of nature as a means of God’s revealing Himself?

“Well because nature is fallen, dummy.”

“But even in it’s fallen nature, does it tell us something incorrect about God? Does nature lie?” Continue reading

Thoughts on calling, obedience and “Radical” by David Platt

I’ve been reading Radical by David Platt with some guys in my church small group. I’m about half way through it, and while there are good points to be made I have some major issues with others. Not to go too far into it, but I think he has a gift for overstatement.

Anyway, one point he makes is that all Christians are called to global evangelism. He equates calling with command in this case:

We take Jesus’ command in Matthew 28 to make disciples of all nations, and we say , “That means other people.” But we look at  Jesus’ command in Matthew in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” and we say, “Now that means me.” (p73)

It is true that we often pick-and-choose what we find most appealing in Jesus’ teaching and apply what we like the most to us while putting aside what we don’t. However this argument made me think about the notion of “calling” in general. Continue reading

Humble orthodoxy and the narrow well

I recently listened to a message by Joshua Harris put out by The Gospel Coalition on the subject of “Humble Orthodoxy”. I have to say that he hit the mark generally, although I slightly question his exegesis of some of the scriptures he used to defend his position. That’s neither here nor there – I don’t want to debate pins and angels. He made a good point in that, in defending doctrine many Christians come off sounding conceited or arrogant. At worst, we have Fred Phelps. Harris proposed rightfully that supporting orthodox doctrine is not about asserting our own rightness but about pointing to God and His rightness. Though some may say “the gospel offends”, we don’t need to add to the offense.

However I don’t think he went quite far enough. I think we need to be not only humble in regard to our presentation of our faith, we need to be humble about what we believe our faith is. That is to say, not only do we need to be humble but our orthodoxy needs to be humble. We need to acknowledge that our wisdom is limited and our knowledge is finite. We are still, along with Paul, looking through the glass darkly.  Continue reading

Thinking about discrepancies in Scripture

I highly recommend Relevant Magazine, both online and in print. This article is a bit shallow but raises interesting questions important for anyone studying the Bible. How you answer the question of “is the Bible inerrant?” – which leads to the question “well what do we mean by inerrant?” – will completely shape how you read and interpret Scripture.

While in seminary this was a challenge to me. I had never even heard of the idea that there were discrepancies in the Bible, and honestly believed that there simply couldn’t be. However when confronted with the idea that Jericho may have not had the enormous walls attributed to it, or that there were differences in some other historical accounts, I was a bit flummoxed. And if you haven’t thought about it, read the Gospels and consider what day Jesus was crucified on. Anyway, this article makes a good point regarding what we can and should mean by “inerrant”.

I think the sad thing that is brought out in this article is how, in many Christian circles, asking these kinds of questions is not permitted. Questioning details is tantamount to questioning Scripture. The argument goes that if Scripture isn’t fundamentally and literally perfect in every detail then there’s no reason to believe any of it (which is a huge jump). If we can’t have a Christian culture where asking questions about a fundamental resource for our faith is OK, then our faith is built on a shaky foundation.

article after the jump >>

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On Donald Miller and Christ outside the church

image: Amy Corron Power

Donald Miller recently wrote in his blog, “I don’t connect with God by singing to Him.” Well Don, I don’t either.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t sing to God. But I find that the only time I do is in church on Sunday for about 20 minutes. At times I find myself being drawn closer to God by music, including Christian music, but those songs somehow never make their way into the worship center.

Plus I don’t sing well. While I knew this all along, it became glaringly obvious to me when I attended a Reformed Presbyterian church in college. At RP services no hymns are sung, and there is no musical accompaniment. The congregants sing the Psalms a-capella, often breaking into multiple lush harmonies as the verses change. I just stood and listened. It was beautiful, but I was a spectator, not a participant.

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