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Seattle Pacific University
Spring 2007 | Volume 30, Number 1 | Features

Does Biblical Literacy Matter?

Response posed this question to a variety of national figures. Here is the complete version of the excerpts to their replies. Submit your own answer, and you'll see it posted here, as well.

"Biblical literacy matters because without it you will never know God as he is, you will never know yourself as you are, you will never find and fulfill your reason for existence, you will never have authentic faith to sustain you or living hope to comfort you or unconditional love to compel you to follow Jesus. Without biblical literacy you are just guessing your way through life, and the chances are good that you are guessing wrong. So … read your Bible." — Anne Graham Lotz, author and evangelist

“Bible illiteracy robs us of growth toward spiritual maturity, of the ability to effectively share our salvation story or defend our faith, of knowing what stand to take on ethical and moral issues, of the answers to life’s great questions, and of much, much more. Until we see what we miss by not reading our Bibles and believe that the loss is greater than the effort, even the Bibles of God’s saints will lie largely unopened, unused, unread, unheeded.” — Woodrow Kroll, author

“Schools that offer every kind of contemporary literature hesitate to mention this classic tome. The losers are the students themselves, who are thus shielded from the single most important influence on Western art, music, and writing over the last 2,000 years. Their ability to appreciate the architecture of an ancient cathedral, or to ponder the meaning of a Bach chorale, or even to enjoy a movie version of Romeo and Juliet is thus truncated. Biblical literacy matters because it is the key to understanding every form of Western art.” — Frederica Matthewes-Green, author and journalist

 “Biblical literacy is a precarious undertaking. I recommend against it — unless you’re willing to live with this idea’s consequences. Meaning, unless you’re willing to die — to allow the words of this strange compiled history of a supposed god’s supposed obsession with humanity kill you a little every day. Because if you believe it, it will take your life, little by little. If you know and trust the words that the supposed god wrote supposedly for you, then you will doubt them, too — especially as you exegete passages that don’t make sense, like the one in which God asks Abraham to sacrifice his child. The belief will kill who you used to be, and the doubt will sometimes drive you insane. Everyday choices that had little import before you acquired literacy will become pregnant with death and life: Fair-trade coffee or the regular kind? Date this guy or that? Pray before a meal or not? Send a missionary $20 or not? Are manicures allowed? What does love mean in this and that situation? If you don’t know what you’re getting into, it can be a miserable existence, being biblically literate. Unless you’re willing to live — really live, minute by minute — with this idea’s consequences, don’t bother. But if you do get to live it, then in spite of dying little by little every day, you will be more alive than ever before.” —Agniezka Tennant, columnist for Christianity Today

“Of course Bible literacy matters. Period. The Bible ought to be studied because — in addition to the message of God’s grace and love AND wrath — there is in reading it a clear picture of mankind itself. There is no text that renders for us more succinctly man’s continued folly in believing himself righteous, and thereby self-saving. We live in a world that increasingly believes in itself as the savior of itself, when one need give only the merest cursory glance at the fact of history recorded in the Bible to see the dead-end of ourselves — and to see the Way offered freely away from ourselves and into peace. We are no better now than we were in the time of Huzziah or Peter or Abram or Titus. We are no smarter, no wiser (in fact, I would hold we are a whole lot more stupid). We merely have more sophisticated tools, more information, more leisure time. As a result, we have begun to look at those people in the Bible, be it Old Testament or New, with their ploughs and swords and chariots and donkeys as having nothing to say to us. Wrong. We couldn’t be more wrong if we tried, and we seem to be doing a really good job of trying.” —Bret Lott, author and editor of The Southern Review and The Best Christian Short Stories

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