Recent research estimates that just over half of the American population considers itself Protestant Christian, with just over a quarter being Evangelical Protestant. Comparatively, that’s a far cry from the markedly larger percentage of the faithful present when the first Baptist church on American soil opened its doors in Providence, Rhode Island in 1638. To what may we attribute such decline? Undoubtedly, at least one reason is a decline in knowing God, significantly influenced by biblical illiteracy. If a person is to be known by what he or she determines to reveal about him or herself, then the correlation between biblical illiteracy and a diminished knowledge of God is evident. If the invisible God has chosen to reveal himself by means of Scripture, need we even ask the question “How does one come to know God?”
When being interrogated before King Agrippa, the apostle Paul responded, “I am convinced that none of these things escapes his notice, since this was not done in a corner” (Acts 26.26). That is, the events surrounding God’s consummate self-disclosure in Jesus Christ are no secret. To wit, the commemoration of Easter just celebrated around the world is ardent testimony to this fact.
The Scriptures Are the Revelation of Jesus Christ
True, the God who created everything out of nothing has graciously and abundantly made Himself not only known but also knowable to anyone who will inquire honestly. He has done so in the person and work of Jesus Christ—the divine Son who “has explained” God to a world willfully estranged from Him (John 1.18). The Holy Scriptures are the written testimony of Jesus Christ (John 5.39; Rev 1.1). They are the means God has provided for us to know Him, and through them He bids us to come to Him.
Just as God freely gave every good and perfect gift to our original parents, Adam and Eve, and bid them to enjoy freely the abundant life He daily lavished upon them, so also God continues to offer the same abundant life to us too through the same resource Adam and Eve had available to them—every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matt 4.4; Deut 8.3). It’s no wonder, then, that the Transformational Discipleship Assessment conducted by Lifeway Research discovered that Bible engagement impacts spiritual maturity more than seven other discipleship attributes combined. If God’s image bearers are designed and created to feast and live upon every word given from their Creator, why would anyone imagine otherwise statistically? Clearly, communities studying the Word of Christ together are quantifiably more spiritually mature.
This maturity is part and parcel of Christ’s desire for His bride; so says the inspired apostle (Eph 4.10-21; 5.25-27; Phil 3.12-17). Notably, the means of Christ’s preparation of His own matured, holy, and spotless bride is “the washing of water by the word.” Who, then, can disavow earnest and systematic study of the Bible by which that the Word of Christ is made to dwell richly among us (Col 3.16)? More to the point, what follower of Jesus Christ does not want to be characterized as a faithful and sensible servant whose master finds him working when he comes (Matt 24.45-46)?
However we answer these questions, the statistics of biblical illiteracy among those who profess to follow Jesus Christ betrays an air of faithlessness in this regard. What means can we employ, in biblical faith, to reverse this illiteracy in the knowledge and love of God? Stay tuned for part 2.