Biblical Literacy

(Volume 23, Issue 2, March/April 2017) I concluded my article titled “Biblical Illiteracy” with these words: “Biblical illiteracy is well recognized today.  There are many reasons why not only the general population but also the evangelical church has little understanding and knowledge of Scripture, and I have tried to identify some of these in the body of this article. With all of the attacks on the trustworthiness of Scripture, coupled with general lack of biblical knowledge and apathy toward what it proclaims, it would be easy to despair for the future of the Scriptures.  But God’s Word always accomplishes that which it is sent forth by the Lord to accomplish (Isa 55:1) which is to teach, reprove, correct and train His people in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16).  We have the promise of Jesus that His Word will never pass away (Matt 24:35).  Rather than despair we should make every effort…

Biblical Illiteracy: Its Tragedy and Remedy

(Volume 23, Issue 1, January/February 2017) Both statistical research and anecdotal observation come to the same conclusion – America, a nation once steeped in Scripture if not always living in obedience to God, has joined the ranks of the biblically illiterate from around the globe.  Theologians and sociologists both speak of our “post-Christian” culture, while to some extent is still being fueled by the capital of Christianity, which is now all but coasting on empty. Albert Mohler, in a short article entitled “The Scandal of Biblical Illiteracy: It’s Our Problem,” quotes pollsters George Gallup and Jim Castelli as saying, “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.”[1] As a result Mohler documents that fewer than half of all adults can name the four Gospels, identify more than 3 disciples or name even five of…

A Renewed Confidence in the Word of God

(August/September 2009 – Volume 15, Issue 5) Emergent spokesman Brian McLaren calls for the evangelical community to get over its love affair with certainty.  He writes, “Drop any affair you may have with certainty, proof, argument – and replace it with dialogue, conversation, intrigue, and search.”[1]  Are we to take McLaren seriously?  If so, then the best way to get over our love affair with certainty, according to McLaren, would be to replace it with uncertainty, or more commonly, mystery.  It is definitely in vogue at this point in church history to make the rather “certain” claim that we cannot be certain about anything.  Of course, the irony of such certainty about uncertainty is obvious.  But much like impossible political promises, when statements are left unanalyzed and unchallenged they tend to be uncritically absorbed by the minds of some people, often resulting in great harm.  It is important then that…

Use and Misuse of Scripture

(September 2003 – Volume 9, Issue 9)  The truly blessed individual is described in Psalm 1: His delight is in the Law of the Lord, and in His Law he meditates day and night. Godly people delight in the Word of God. They love it; they cherish it; they can’t get enough of it. That is why they meditate on it day and night. It is their joy to contemplate God’s truth. Such lovers of truth take seriously Paul’s injunction to be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth (II Timothy 2:15). Those who desire God’s approval must handle accurately, or literally, “cut straight,” the word of truth. They diligently study the Bible in order to interpret it correctly and then apply it properly. Anything less results in workers who are ashamed – not…

The Sufficiency of Scripture – Part 2

(September 1995 – Volume 1, Issue 11) In our last paper, we attempted to demonstrate that through the influence of neo-Gnosticism, in the form of the Charismatic Movement, even many in the conservative/fundamental ranks are subtly adjusting their view of the Scriptures. These individuals would defend to the death their belief in the inerrancy and infallibility of the Word, but have softened, as we will see, in the area of sufficiency. When we speak of the sufficiency of the Bible, we mean that it alone is adequate to train us in godliness. Only the Word reveals God’s truth for living. On the negative side, this naturally implies that nothing needs to be added to the Scriptures for us to know truth. Therefore, when anything, whether it is man’s wisdom, personal experience, pragmatism, tradition, or direct revelation is touted as a means of knowing God’s truth, then Biblical sufficiency has been…

The Sufficiency of Scripture – Part 1

(August 1995 – Volume 1, Issue 10) Inerrancy is the belief that the Scriptures contain no errors in the original. Infallibility guarantees the accuracy of the recorded messages found in the Word. The Scriptures today are under attack. Of course, this is nothing new; we can trace such attacks to the Garden of Eden. What is new in evangelical circles is the package. Let’s back up for a look at recent church history. In the 1920’s and 30’s differences between conservative and liberal churches came to a head in America. Out of that controversy came new denominations, fellowships, schools, missions, etc., that separated from those who no longer believed in Biblical Christianity. These organizations were founded by believers who desired to hold fast and “Contend earnestly for the faith” (Jude 3). One of the big problems at that time (as it is today), is developing a consenses concerning the essentials…

The Bible Translation Debate – Part 2

(January 1997 – Volume 2, Issue 15) We now move from the subject of Greek and Hebrew manuscripts to the English translations available today. It must be understood that there is no such thing as a true literal translation. Instead, there is a spectrum, a graduation. Translation is not a pure mechanical process, and is never completely divorced from interpretation. The desired end product is a rendering that means what the original means, but is written in a way that we can understand. The translators of Scripture take three approaches: Literal translations: These are attempts to render the original languages as literal as possible, even at the expense of readability sometimes. The best examples are the KJV, The NKJV and the NASB. Paraphrases: Paraphrases represent the opposite approach, sacrificing accuracy for readability. Works such as the Living Bible, Phillips, and The Message, are all highly readable but represent more the…

The Bible Translation Debate – Part 1

(December 1996 – Volume 2, Issue 14) There are many Christians who are confused over the plethora of Bible translations that are available today, especially to the English reader. A visit to any well-stocked Christian bookstore would result in discovery of translations such as: the King James Version, the New King James Version, the Revised Version, the Revised Standard Version, the Jerusalem Bible, the American Standard Bible, the New American Standard Bible, the Geneva Bible, the New International Version. In addition one would run across several paraphrases such as the Living Bible, the Phillips translation, and recently released, the Message. If all of this is not overwhelming enough, we find that these translations come packaged in wide variety of “reference Bibles.” Reference (or study Bibles) are not translations as such, but rather Bibles that incorporate certain footnotes and study aids along with whatever translations chosen. Some of the more popular…

The Bible Code

(January 1998 – Volume 4, Issue 1) The ad reads, “The Signature of God: Astonishing Biblical Discoveries has swept the minds of Christians and skeptics alike. His explosive teaching documents mysterious Hebrew codes in the Old Testament that reveal Hitler, Rabin, Jesus, and much more. You’ll be startled by archaeological evidence confirming Christ’s death, the fall of Jericho, and the tower of Babel. Ideal for building your faith, and a dynamic evangelism tool!” This book and video, which is directly targeted for the Christian community, is based in part on the work of Michael Drosnin as popularized in The Bible Code. The Bible Code, which was written by an unbeliever and is purely secular in scope, claims that someone (he speculates that it was extraterrestrials) placed a secret code in the Old Testament over three thousand years ago. This code apparently predicts all of the major events in history. In…

The Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture

(August 2005 – Volume 11, Issue 8) Perhaps the most important issue facing the church today is the matter of authority. Who or what has the right, the authority, to determine what we believe and how we are to live? The answer to that question, not so very long ago, was quite uncomplicated—at least to evangelical Christians. The Word of God was the final authority over all areas of faith and practice. One of the battle cries of the Reformation was sola Scriptura—Scripture alone. This simply meant that the ultimate basis of authority and truth was Scripture. Scripture had the final say over all we believed and how we lived those beliefs. More than that, the Bible was seen as sufficient. That is, what the Word had to say was adequate to equip us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17). No one claimed that Scripture exhausted every subject—or even…

Redemptive-Movement Hermeneutics – Part 2

(November 2006 – Volume 12, Issue 10)  In our last issue we began a study of William Webb’s disturbing new interpretative approach to Scripture, what he calls “Redemptive — Movement Hermeneutics.” We were in the midst of discussing detailed problems with this view as we concluded that article. In this issue we will pick up where we left off and draw our study to a close. An Impossible System Still there remains the problem of how to know what was cultural and what is directly applicable today. In response to this problem Webb offers his eighteen criteria, along with the following warning and admission: Assessing redemptive-movement has its complications. Without going into an elaborate explanation, I will simply suggest a number of guidelines: 1) the ANE/GR [Ancient Near East/Greco-Roman] real world must be examined along with its legal world, (2) the biblical subject on the whole must be examined along…

Redemptive-Movement Hermeneutics – Part 1

(October 2006 – Volume 12, Issue 9)  Since the beginning of the New Testament era students of Scripture have wrestled with the influences of culture on biblical interpretation. William Webb in his book, Slaves, Women and Homosexuals, defines this “cultural component” as “those aspects of the biblical text that ‘we leave behind’ as opposed to ‘take with us’ due to cultural differences between the text’s world and the interpreter’s world as we apply the text to subsequent generations.”[1] Said more simply, which mandates, commands and instructions found in Scripture are to be directly applied today and which are to be seen as cultural and thus of no real consequence to the modern believer, except perhaps in principle? Specifically, issues such as the following have to be addressed by the exegete: Are we still mandated to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28), even though the world is…

Confidence in the Word

(December 2006 – Volume 12, Issue 11) Communication, in this modern age of communication, can be frustrating on many levels. Consider the common cell phone. Many nimbly leap from phone call to text message to taking a picture of a friend, all with the efficiency of a technological Jedi. Others, mortally fearful of missing a call, trot around with a “Bluetooth” attached to their ear (my regular jest to such people, that “you have a little something in your ear,” has so far failed to elicit a chuckle). Such people have mastered the art of modern communication, at least of this variety. Then there are the technologically-challenged. Our one-year-old grandson has a better chance of activating the television through use of the remote than many middle-aged adults have. When it comes to the cell phone it gets worse. Everyone seems to have a cell phone these days but legions are…