Ron Dermer, current Israeli ambassador to the United States, recently said that a Christian’s identity comes from the teachings of the Old and New Testaments; and the deeper Christians are rooted in God’s Word, the more likely they will support Israel. Of course, without the right hermeneutic, even devout Christians go astray when it comes to Israel. But Ambassador Dermer’s statement has merit. When we read the Scriptures, we cannot escape the fact that, from Genesis to Revelation, God has a unique plan for the Jewish nation. After all, out of the bosom of Abraham, through the lineage of David, a Savior was born.
But what happens when Christians stop reading the Bible? What happens when we forget how David defeated Goliath or how Jesus fed 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fishes? Or worse, we never learn of these events or teach them to our children? According to LifeWay Research, this isn’t a hypothetical problem. The crisis of biblical illiteracy in America, including in the church, is real. A survey taken this year reveals that almost 87 percent of American households own a Bible and 81 percent believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God; but for 53 percent of these Americans, that’s not enough reason to pick it up and read it. To make matters worse, only 3 percent of teenagers read the Bible daily.
Years ago, researchers George Gallup and Jim Castelli concluded, “Americans revere the Bible – but, by and large, they don’t read it. And because they don’t read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates.” What happens when Christians don’t read the Bible? They lose God’s point of view and adopt a worldview of their own. Biblical illiteracy is profoundly affecting the church and the way it views the core tenets of the faith. The LifeWay Research survey discovered that one in five evangelical Christians believe there are multiple ways to get to heaven, even though Scripture clearly teaches the only way is through faith in Christ.
There has been controversy surrounding Joel Osteen’s “cotton candy” Christianity, and his tendency to avoid topics such as the wages of sin, God’s wrath, hellfire, or Christ returning at the Second Coming to judge the wicked. When asked if unbelievers can go to Heaven, Osteen told the Huffington Post, “I don’t claim to understand who’s all going to Heaven. I just believe and I teach in all my messages that when you have a relationship with Christ — that’s the reason why He came, to have a relationship with him, that is the guarantee from Heaven. People don’t all believe like me; they see it bigger. I believe God’s mercy is very big. I thank God I’m not the judge of who gets to come.” But here’s the thing: John 14:6 says, “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'” [Italics added.]
Major doctrinal issues concerning salvation in Christ alone, the Trinity, and God’s plan for Israel become less substantive when the Bible becomes less important in a Christian’s life. Another symptom of biblical illiteracy is the moral deterioration in both home and society. Of those surveyed, 81 percent believe America is in a steady moral decline. The Scriptures once anchored us to home and society. But as more and more people know less and less about God’s Word, the biblical worldview fades, supplanted by personal opinion. The result: the death of right and wrong.
It’s time to go back to square one. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, wrote, “Churches must recover the centrality and urgency of biblical teaching and preaching, and refuse to sideline the teaching ministry of the preacher. Pastors and churches too busy – or too distracted – to make biblical knowledge a central aim of ministry will produce believers who simply do not know enough to be faithful disciples.” Even more dire is that believers drift away from doctrinal truth and fall prey to false teachings.
At home, we need a resurgence of simple Bible reading. We need to introduce our children and grandchildren to the life-changing Scriptures and instill in them a love for and discipline in reading God’s Word. It’s never too late to start. In fact, today is a great day to begin. After dinner tonight, open the Bible and read a chapter to your family. Encourage your children or grandchildren to spend five minutes a day reading God’s Word and then pray with them. If we all take these small steps, perhaps we can ignite new generations whose Christian identities are found in the Scriptures and who have God’s point of view.