Americans are Biblically Illiterate

Category: Culture Wars/Popular Culture 84 0

The best-selling book in America is the Bible,[1] and most homes in the country have at least one if not more. Yet, Americans know very little about it. Considering the moral decline that we are on it shouldn’t surprise anyone (although it does surprise me that the Bible still manages to sell so well).

In a recent article titled “Why are so many Christians biblically illiterate?”, author and scholar Jeremiah Johnston discusses this very topic.[2] He notes that because of America’s illiteracy about the Good Book it “has become a moving target. One can strip it down, twist it, misread it, add to it, supplement it, and even overrule it, and, unfortunately, 95 percent of the congregation will not realize it.”

This is a sad and disheartening truth. Most Christians are completely unaware to how society treats and misinterprets the Bible. In fact, “most are oblivious to the Bible’s basic content, meaning, and message.” (Here Johnston adds that it is worse in Great Britain where “one-third of British parents thought Harry Potter was a thematic plotline derived from the Bible.” Now that is downright sad.)

How could any of this have happened? This nation used to have respect for the Bible. Now, there is an unwillingness for most Americans to study Scriptures, and one cannot say that it is because of a lack of availability. As I mentioned in the introduction, the Bible is the best-selling book. Even more, “[t]he Gideons give away a Bible every second. One publisher sells more than sixty different editions of the Bible.”

As Johnston says, “Clearly, the challenge of biblical illiteracy in America is not because of a shortage of Bibles, but rather knowledge and appreciation of the Bible’s message.”

Why are Americans so Illiterate concerning the Bible?

The answer is simple. Most Americans do not believe that the Bible has any kind of authority in their lives. It has no importance what-so-ever. Even those who say God inspired it tend not to read or even attempt to understand it.

Our society tends to look down upon the Bible as just a book of stories. Hollywood constantly portrays Scripture, and Christianity in general, as something that only stupid people believe. The education system is even worse. I remember back to my freshman year of college I had a professor who flat out said that the events in the Bible never happened.

If the Bible is nothing but a book of stories, then why should we seek to understand it and apply it to our lives. Whether in movies, documentaries or the classroom, another worldview, one based on a naturalistic-mechanical view of the world (hence no miracles or anything outside of nature can exist) is all that is allowed.

Then there is the hypocrisy and unbelief by those who call themselves Christians. How can anyone take the Bible seriously when those who claim to believe it do not show it any respect? Sadly, most churches in this country do not teach the Bible (or if they do it is only very small amount). They do not treat it like Jesus or the apostles did.

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[1] Daniel Radosh says, “The familiar observation that the Bible is the best-selling book of all time obscures a more startling fact: the Bible is the best-selling book of the year, every year. Calculating how many Bibles are sold in the United States is a virtually impossible task, but a conservative estimate is that in 2005 Americans purchased some twenty-five million Bibles—twice as many as the most recent Harry Potter book. The amount spent annually on Bibles has been put at more than half a billion dollars.” “The Good Book Business.”

[2] Jeremiah Johnston. “Why are so many Christians biblically illiterate?


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