Today’s Bible illiteracy issue is a growing topic of discussion and debate. Recent statistics point out that most Americans, even Evangelicals who love and quote Scripture have little knowledge about or understanding of the Bible. According to a report by Barna Group and American Bible Society, majority of U.S. adults said they considered themselves “highly, moderately or somewhat knowledgeable of the Bible” but less than half of that group were able to name the first five books of the Bible, and in previous reports fewer knew that John the Baptist was not one of the 12. We can’t deny there’s a major Biblical literacy problem, with some saying it has reached a crisis point. But is technology to blame?
While some experts believe that the decline in biblical literacy is because of the way Americans view the Bible, technology is a factor that can’t be excluded. Since the emergence of Bible Gateway in 1993, a website committed to making Bible searching and reading freely available online, hundreds of Bible search and study websites have popped up all over the internet and more than 1,000 Bible-related apps that encourage the nearly two billion smartphone users around the world to search and share Scripture with just a tap of the screen. And much good has grown from this digitization –including mass distribution of God’s Word in the blink of the eye. A 2015 American Bible Society ‘State of the Bible’ study found that 50 percent of Americans read the Bible online, and Scripture is being shared in mass numbers more than ever on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. While these statistics sound encouraging, there is something that is now missing through the mass digitization and distribution of Scripture through likes and shares online: Bible engagement, which is crucial to Bible literacy AND our relationship with God.
Unfortunately, Bible engagement isn’t happening the way many would expect in our digital age, and it’s doing major harm than good to Bible literacy. With incredible digital access to Scripture on our mobile devices and the ability to broadcast Scripture, people have become disconnected from engaging whole-heartedly in Scripture. Today’s Christians are doing a lot more sharing and a lot less reading. The digital space has not helped us. People have shorter attention spans, and want to read less. Many people of faith would much rather have a relationship with God’s Word by consuming a line or two of shared Scripture than they would engaging in what now seems like never-ending chapters in today’s society.
Before the technological boom, many Christians were more Bible literate because they took the time to pick up the Bible and read through it, chapter by chapter, page by page. Today, people want Scripture soundbites that re-translate God’s Word into 140 characters or less. Unfortunately, we don’t gain a comprehensive understanding of God’s Word from snipped down text. But there is hope for our age.
Technology gives people access to the Bible in unimaginable ways. Just because we have this level of access, doesn’t mean we have to be lazy about it. The good news? We can actually use this technology for good. According to John, the Word is God, and because of this we worship him when we share and engage in it. If you’re on your desktop, smartphone or tablet, don’t just study and share Bible verses. Also share the context and the history of those words. Open people up to a knowledge they may not know. If we begin to start doing this in our own lives, it will not only strengthen our knowledge of the Bible, but expand someone else’s.
If we as Christians truly want a relationship with God, we have to read through the Bible. Bible literacy means that we not only read the Bible but have a sufficient understanding of it so that we can move towards scriptural truth and grow in our faith lives. The beautiful part? Our literacy is in our own hands.