Bible Literacy Experts Address the Problem of Bible-Less Christianity

Bible Literacy

Glenn Paauw has worked in Bible ministry for 28 years publishing, researching, speaking and writing on the topic of reading and living the Bible well. He led the development of the revolutionary The Books of the Bible format that uncovers the natural literary form of the Scriptures, which served as the foundational piece of the Community Bible Experience church program. Glenn is the author of Saving the Bible from Ourselves (2016) and currently lives in Colorado Springs, CO.

Paul Caminiti has been a cultural innovator for the Bible for over two decades. As the Bible Publisher at Zondervan and Vice President of Bible Engagement at Biblica, he helped launch The Bible in 90 Days, The Story, and Community Bible Experience. His interviews have appeared in Newsweek, The New Yorker, USA Today, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and NBC News. Paul currently lives in Hudsonville, MI.

Key Questions:

Why are we experiencing Biblical illiteracy on this scale today?

How did the events of the Reformation influence our current Bible literacy problem?

What is something practical ministry leaders can do to address the problem of Bible illiteracy in their congregations?

Key Quotes (Glenn):

“I think it is an increasingly recognized fact that the Bible is failing in the churches—not just in the culture, but in our churches.”

“People are trying to live a Bible-less Christianity.”

“The attitude toward the Bible is changing. Younger people in particular—35 and younger…have been hearing a narrative about the problem with the Bible—not just that it’s old, but that it’s anti-women, that it’s in favor with violence.”

“There’s a lot of work in the church to correct not just Bible literacy, but Bible attitudes and expectations for what kind of book is this. If we’re going to change the story of the Bible in the church and in the culture, we’ve got to do more than just pretend like we can give people Bible facts. We’ve got to give them all the tools to have a great experience and good understanding with the Bible—and then they can have a chance to say ‘how does it speak to our life today?’”

“I think there’s a chance to re-introduce the Bible to people in a way that surprises them and that deals with these actual objections to the Bible.”

“We have normally pointed the finger outside the church and said ‘It’s the culture. It’s against us.’…But actually, the more we’ve looked into it, we think that some of the problem is within the church itself, and specifically, historically, what the church has done with the Bible in the modern period.”

“A new kind of Bible was born in the modern period. We changed what the Bible was, and as a result of that, the Bible has changed in terms of what people do with it.”

“Right at the moment that Bibles became available to the masses—during the period of Reformation, printing press had been invented just 100 years before, so now people are printing books and can buy more books for themselves—there’s this translation revolution….It also happens to be exactly historically when chapters and verses were put into the Bible together for the very first time….So the very first Bible that was available to the masses…is a chapter and verse Bible totally fragmented with every single verse being set apart as a separate paragraph.”

“Read first and study second.”

“Be reading the Bible. Be reading whole books. Feasting on the Bible rather than snacking on verses.”

Key Quotes (Paul):

“We in essence lose about 700 Bible-readers every single day…By the year 2040, unless those numbers move in a different direction, two-thirds of North Americans will have absolutely no meaningful engagement with the Bible.”

When given the option of about 12 different things people need from their church, “87 percent said ‘Help me understand the Bible in depth’…One of the follow-up questions was ‘Is your church helping you do that?’ and 19 percent said yes.”

“The problem was not birthed in post-modernity, but it probably has its origins and roots in the early modern era.”

“When you are reading a verse or two, you have no sense of what the sweeping story is. So we have a generation that never took a romp through the big, majestic forest, but they’ve gotten focused on leaves and branches and individual trees, and that, to them, is the Bible.”

“There really is no sense that this book, by its very nature, was a communal book. It was written to communities of faith—not to individuals.”

Mentioned in the Show:

Institute for Bible Reading

Immerse: A Church Experience

Reveal Study

Saving the Bible from Ourselves

Outreach Magazine

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Jason Daye
As Director of Ministry Development for Outreach, Inc., Jason dedicates his time to encouraging and equipping churches, denominations and ministry organizations to develop their Kingdom effectiveness by creating a culture that is both incarnational and invitational. Jason lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with his beautiful wife and six children, where he enjoys hiking with his family, fighting rainbow trout, summiting 14ers and swapping stories with good friends. Connect with him on Twitter @jasondaye