The Bible is the bestselling book of all time. It is also the bestselling book every year. This is indeed remarkable. If you look at the distribution numbers, there should be Bible experts everywhere we turn. But research has shown us for some time now that the knowledge base just isn’t there. While the Bible is on every top sellers list, people aren’t sitting with the Bible and loving it as their own. There is a huge problem when it comes to Bible literacy and engagement. What could be the problem?
Bible scholars and publishers over the centuries have increasingly added help sections to the Bible. This includes chapter divisions, verses, subheads and notes. While they were only intended to be points of reference in an extremely large text, the process has led to people skimming the Bible and sampling Scripture rather than reading the Bible deeply. This is problematic. When this happens, the text separates from the Bible’s literary and historical context and leads to literary misrepresentation. Author Glenn R. Paauw explains that this creates a “narrow, individualistic and escapist view of salvation.” It doesn’t help that we live in a digital age that is completely harming Bible literacy. With incredible digital access to Scripture on our mobile devices and the ability to broadcast Scripture, many Christians have become disconnected with engaging whole-heartedly in Scripture. As a result, our society is doing a lot more sharing, and a lot less reading. Instead of being a force that shapes culture, the Bible has become a database of quick and easy answers to life’s troubling questions. So the question comes into play: Does the Bible need saving?
The Bible doesn’t need to be saved because of any defect in itself, but because we’ve distorted and misread it. We need a new paradigm for reading the Bible well. You can call it an intervention for a Bible in crisis. The Bible says, “Do not conform to the pattern of the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). Our minds are renewed with close and active reading of Scripture. We grow spiritually when we apply the concepts and themes we read in the Bible to our own lives. The Bible will always be transformative for those who deeply engage with it; however, it’s transformative power can only show up if change the way we interact with The Word. For those who are unsure what Scripture engagement is, it’s a way of hearing and reading the Bible with awareness that it is in the Scriptures that we primarily meet God. Yes, we connect with God through prayer but we get to know God better through Scripture. It is a time when we marinate, ponder, dwell and reflect on the Scriptures, which results in a transformative engagement with God. When we come to the Bible, we are able to meet and know God. It’s important as believers that we have a deep, meaningful and engaging relationship with God. That’s what we were created for.
We should seek to be more like the psalmist in Psalm 119:14:16 who says, “I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your Word”. There is no way to truly benefit from Scripture if we are not actively reading or applying those takeaways to our lives. We have to remove the chains Christians have applied to it over the centuries so that we can again be transformed by His mighty and powerful Word. Though the damage has been done, we have the power to undo it. The Bible is still here and continues to press forward. Its words still pulsate with power, despite centuries of being covered up, hidden, fenced in, over-controlled and carefully selected. God is still doing His work despite us and because of us. It’s imperative that we do better and no longer knowingly persist in error. For more steps on the path to deeply engaging with the Bible, read “Saving the Bible from Ourselves” by, Glenn R. Paauw.