First things first! I am convinced that one of the very best things we can do in Christian education is to have students memorize Scripture. I cannot tell you how often I have had various words of Scripture come into my mind as I have gone through various life situations. Helping kids learn to “eat right” as suggested by Eugene Peterson in the title of his latest book – “Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading” will help to provide a tool for the Holy Spirit to use throughout their lifetime to encourage and convict. (Heb. 4:12, Psalm 119:105)
There is growing evidence that youth today are growing in their Biblical illiteracy levels. The release of the 2005 national report entitled Bible Literacy Report, commissioned by the Bible Literacy Project, Inc. under a grant from the John Templeton Foundation lists the following findings:
- Teachers estimated that less than a fourth of their current students are Biblically literate.
- Born again and evangelical teens were often only slightly more likely than other teens to display Bible literacy. (and yes- this survey sampled Christian schools also!)
- Fewer than half of Americans teens know what happened at the wedding at Cana. One out of four refused to guess.
- Given a choice of four quotations from the Bible, almost two-thirds of teens could not correctly identify a quotation from the Sermon on the Mount (“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God”).
- One quarter believed that the statement “David was the king of the Jews” was false.
More information on this project which seeks to increase Biblical literacy can be found at http://www.bibleliteracy.org
Los Angeles Times columnist, Stephen Prothero, in his column entitled “Religious nation, religious illiterates” states that while Americans today are far more religious than Europeans, they know far less about religion. He remarks that when Americans debated slavery almost exclusively on the basis of the Bible, everyone could follow the debate. Could we have the same level of discussion presently on the issues of the day? He holds churches responsible – too much time spent on things other than the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. He lays most of the blame at the feet of public schools who have misunderstood the First Amendment.
Similarly, Smith and Denton in Soul Searching (see previous post of October 11) lay much of the blame for youth’s current theology (or lack thereof) on an inadequate grounding in Scripture. Because they didn’t have a grounding in Scripture they were not able to talk concretely about their faith. Not surprising then that the study showed that kids were not sure that there were moral absolutes.
Biblical literacy begins at home, but is nurtured and developed as well by church and school. I think it would be helpful to share the kinds of programs and strategies we have in place. I would like to compile a listing and then place it in the Member Community Center for reference. Would you be willing to share what you are doing?