Where has the Bible gone? Part 2
Let me follow from where I left off last time…
The following is viewed as evidence for the trend that I perceive, at least in the West, for the marginalisation of the Bible in the Church and individual believers:-
- Bibles are rarely taken by people to church. Instead, when the Bible is referred to, it is shown on power-point projectors and readings occur much less in the service;
- sermons are less expositional and more topical, less text-based and more story oriented, less exegetical and more broad based, less resulting from study and more superficial;
- there is less expectation to learn anything new from the sermon and more assumption that it will be simply a reiteration of truths already known by the majority, less intellectually stimulating, and more repetitive, even boring and at worst, a tragic undervaluing of the depth of the biblical text, its dynamic potential, vital energy and Spirit-endowed value;
- there is much less emphasis placed on the importance of the devotional reading of the Bible – a new term has become popular in describing Christians…“biblical illiteracy”;
- we read many Christian books, most of which were very useful, but less of the Bible, despite the huge range of translations and paraphrases; and Theological College students know their Bibles rather less now than they did twenty years ago.
In 1970, James Smart wrote The Strange Silence of the Bible in the Church in which he explored the phenomenon of living in a country where there was a free availability of many Bibles but an increasing absence of it being read, with the worrying consequence of it not influencing ideas and behaviour. Another book has been published – Devote Yourself to the Public Reading of Scripture (J. Arthurs, Kregel, 2012) which reflects the possibility that such an obvious aspiration a few decades ago is in need of being revisited today. In the most recent edition of Churchman is an article by Peter Adam, entitled “The Bible in Theological Education”, which calls for its prominence in all aspects of the College programme, in which he concludes, “If the Bible is silent, then God is silent”.
The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life surveyed ten countries in 2006 which Pentecostals were a prominent sector in the global Church. Pentecostals were once associated with the habit of Bible reading, Prof. Walter Hollenweger, a commentator on Pentecostalism, prefacing his work Pentecostalism, Origins and Developments Worldwide with the words, “To my friends and teachers in the Pentecostal Movement who taught me to love the Bible”; the situation is changing. Now, according to the survey above, only 34% of Pentecostals read their Bibles daily, ranging from South Korea (27%) to Brazil and Kenya (51%).
The Bible Society undertook some similar research of 2,000 church-attending participants. It revealed that only 21% read their Bible daily, 22% read it weekly, 57% read it occasionally or hardly ever. Similar studies recently conducted in the USA stated that only 12% said they read the Bible regularly. The Vatican surveyed Catholics asking how many had a Bible at home – USA (93%), Poland (85%), Italy (75%), Germany (74%), UK and Holland (67%), Russia (65%), Spain (61%), France (48%).
And so I am on a quest – to relocate a central place for the Bible in our churches today and in the lives of believers because:-
- it’s important…more important than many believers realise
- it’s fascinating and packed with messages for us
- people don’t know how to read it to gain its maximum potential
- believers don’t take advantage of the Holy Spirit to encounter them in it