Your article ‘Turning our fast food Bible into a feast’ (July) makes some very valuable points about the biblical ignorance and illiteracy of too many Christians, but it omits several equally important causes:
1. ‘Worship’ means repeatedly singing many happy songs to which the sermon is a short attachment. It is totally insufficient and makes the exposition of the word a mere sideline which can be ignored.
2. Many Christians only look at the bits of the Bible they like and ignore all the rest, either because they are too ignorant of what the rest of the Bible is, or they disagree with it, or it is totally incomprehensible to them.
3. There are too many lazy Christians who are reluctant to struggle with the Bible, especially with the challenging passages. There is a reluctance to read more widely around any Bible passage – evidenced by the disappearance of Christian bookshops. It might also be considered that many of the Bible-reading notes available, though useful, do not go into sufficient depth. Lazy Christians see no need to attend Bible study meetings either.
4. It may also be that leaders are not putting in sufficient prayer, study, time and research before delivering the message, resulting in groups merely pooling their ignorance.
5. Pastors must realise that we have a generation or two of biblically ignorant people, for whom the context, wider situation, background knowledge and linguistic complexities need to be explained before a Bible passage can be considered. Why, for instance, did Paul insist on women covering their heads? Many Christian churchgoers don’t know. The subtlety of Jesus asking the Pharisees to look at a coin and its graven image escapes people’s attention. Without the background, not only do certain passages not make sense to us but much of the subtlety and relevance of the original teaching is lost.
Am I just having a rant? No; I want people to realise the dangers of inadequate biblical understanding, because it so severely weakens attempts at Christian living and Christian evangelism. While devout Muslims can memorise the entire Qur'an, Christians in general cannot quote more than a few verses.
More application please
Glenn Paauw’s article has its heart in the right place but doesn’t seem to have its feet anywhere near the ground.
I read the article hoping for some real-life examples of how the dream of biblically literate community has started to become a reality, or even how they existed in the past – but sadly there were none.
As a church leader I really need actual encouragements and strategies about how we get people to engage with the idea that the Bible is a key way that God can speak to them, to us as a community, and is therefore worth making time for in a hectic world. This is especially true in a context when members of my congregation already face struggles with surviving day-to-day life, with some not being able to read in their own language, never mind in English. Instead I came away from the article feeling rather disempowered, and confused about what Glenn thinks we should be aiming for.
Rev Naomi Hill
Back off The Shack
I have just finished Sam Hailes’ review of The Shack (May). I think his write-up was a little mean: “the God of the Bible apparently now speaks in clichés…pink and fluffy, sickly sweet American Santa Claus...” This was too harsh a portrayal. Rather, the film showed the feminine side of the character of God, which would be a revelation to many.
The author thinks outside the box. Who would have dreamed up a picture of God being a woman and black? This man truly has imagination. I found his concept quite amusing, in a good way, and it was also a deeper revelation of the character of God.
I agree the film does not have all the answers to suffering or evil; however, this was Mack’s experience, the raging anger buried since childhood and the complex murder of Missy. It was not an explanation of his theology, but a figuring out of a God he did not understand. For me, the tenderest moment was when God held Mack’s hand and Mack saw the nail marks and began to realise that God took the pain and suffering of the world upon himself.
What great articles your magazine has! I particularly liked Emma Scrivener’s ‘A God for messy Christians’ (June) – it was so helpful and incredibly well-written. Professor Tony Lane’s article on purgatory was thought-provoking too. I also loved Karen Murdarasi’s article on the Wesley brothers. It’s important to understand our heritage.
Your magazine is such a blessing to me. Thank you to everyone who contributes.
Rev roger gets a letter
Dear Rev Roger, Your contributions to the letters page of Premier Christianity magazine give me great enjoyment, and often much food for thought.
I know that you have been a faithful member of the Church of England for longer than most readers have been alive, but I fear that due to your advancing age you have become confused over some of its hierarchical administrative structure.
In your letter in the July issue, you state that you had told the Parish Council about your plans for the very commendable reading of the book of Numbers. No wonder that the date of the youth service had not been changed to accommodate your worthy endeavour. The Parish Council is a civil local authority; the first tier of local government. Ours busies itself with repairing the play equipment in the village rec and collecting the rents on the allotments. If you had informed the Parochial Church Council, however, you might have received a useful response, for that body is the executive committee of a Church of England parish.
This mistake of yours is not a one-off; you referred to the Parish Council in a similar incorrect way a year or so back, so I feel I need to offer you this loving correction for your own sake.
I trust you will receive it in a gracious manner.
Lesley, we have forwarded your letter to Rev Roger and he has been kind enough to reply below...
Dear Ms Strutt, The editor of this publication forwarded your letter onto me. I must admit it has been a while since I had personal post that wasn’t a bill, a pizza menu, or someone telling me about my road being fitted with ‘fibre-optic broadband’ (I don’t know what this is, and I don’t care to. I get plenty of fibre, thank you very much). While I am grateful for your pointing out of a potential error, please allow me to point out one of yours.
You are, of course, quite correct that the Parish Council is a first tier of local government. I am well aware of this, and there can be no more important job for a group of that nature than ensuring the public reading of the Old Testament; maybe even raising local taxes to fund such an endeavour. Perhaps some of the allotment rents could be spent on a similar endeavour in your local community?
When I presented my idea originally to my own Parish Council, with the additional thought of stopping a car in the middle of the high street, and reading the book of Numbers through a loudspeaker for those who couldn’t make it to the church, their faces certainly communicated some lively engagement. I had even prepared this presentation by hiring a large van and leaving it in the middle of the road to demonstrate the power of such a move. When I received a note from them labelled ‘Parking Fine’, I took that as permission granted.
My Parochial Parish Council also hear from me regularly, and I hope they will soon look carefully into my latest suggestion. I personally believe it would be an enormous blessing to so many who call the Church to have the entire 1662 Book of Common Prayer read out in place of their ‘on hold’ music.
Rev Roger D Votional