BY JOHNATHAN PRITCHETT, DRS
Back in 2013, I wrote an article entitled “ Biblical Illiteracy and the Death of the Church Library” Go read it here. With 0 “Likes” and a whopping three comments at a heavily trafficked site, it is easy to think that this isn’t a big thing. Maybe it isn’t. But, I think it is a big thing.
It should be a thing. (Num. 7:18) It isn’t like people aren’t reading. People in the modern West, thanks to technology, are probably “reading” more than they have in decades. This includes Christians. (2 Pe 1:16) Whether on laptops, smartphones, or tablets, people are staring at screens “reading” something. Some are even buying books or ebooks. What they are not doing, if the bestsellers lists are any indication, is reading much of anything that is meaningful or actually matters. Again, this includes Christians.
With respect to getting better books in the hands of our church folk, I asked this question in my previous article:
Are they somewhat pricey? Well, that depends – certainly not any more pricey than many people’s Blu-ray collections.
I remember being asked if the “bookstore model” was a viable alternative. Here is the thing. Just having book stores next to the coffee shops in the foyer of larger churches won’t do. Smaller churches, of which there are many, do not have such things. Also, not everyone has the cash for a Blu-ray collection or good books, let alone overpriced coffee before worship. (Is. 26:8)
So, has biblical literacy increased in the past three years since I wrote my first article on this? Hardly.
Some people are fooled by the theological discussions in their social media circles. If these conversations among the interested laypersons (often mixing it up with seminarians and scholars) is any indication, my “hardly” becomes a resounding “NO.” Neither this blog nor other blogs are good sources for increasing Biblical literacy. (1 Tim. 5:12) They may be good for flippant arguments and good polemics, but little else. Thankfully, normal churchgoers don’t even bother with those circles. That only would exacerbate the problem. There is nothing worse than smug people who know little believing they know a lot.
Yes, I am speaking generally. Yes there are always exceptions. (Prov. 23:7) But seriously, even if the case could be made that if blogs and other avenues were to elevate their game to higher levels of depth (and civility), do we really want to use the banner of accessibility of the media available through technology to replace reading books? My answer is no.
This is not to say blogs and social media circles dedicated to this sort of thing are bad. They can be quite good and often can be used as a force for good to inspire people to move on to deeper study, think about issues critically, etc. Blogs and social media circles have their place, but they are not to be the only place, or even the primary place for increasing biblical and theological literacy. Too often, they are on both counts.
In addition to the Church Library, we need to rebuild attention spans. (Amos 9:14) Christians need to be able to settle down with a thick book (Neh. 2:14), moving beyond the skimming nature of online “reading.” The “Church Library” emphasis and an emphasis on developing a culture of reading in the churches can do just that. (Ps. 126:5)
Christianity is a religion of resurrection. So again, I call for a resurrection of church libraries.
NOTE: When reading blogs, I wonder if anyone bothers to actually look up Bible verse references used to support points in articles. None of the verse references above have anything to do with what I am saying. Be honest. Did you read them or not? Did you assume they were used correctly?
This article has content similar to what is discussed in the course “Contemporary Christian Issues” at Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary. Begin your You can audit the course or talk to us about starting your own journey at Trinity today by filling out the evaluation form to the right of this article.