Biblical illiteracy has become an epidemic across America. People, sadly including many professing Christians, simply don’t know what the Bible teaches and often hold to unbiblical or even heretical beliefs. For example, a recent study found that a mere 10% of Americans have a biblical worldview (despite 70% of Americans claiming the label of Christian). And the biblical teachings that the study considered part of a “biblical worldview” were the most basic of biblical beliefs, such as the personhood of the Holy Spirit or the existence of Satan. This study is a sad testament to the state of the American church.
What can we do?
What can parents, pastors, and Sunday school teachers do to combat biblical illiteracy? Here are a few ideas for how to instill a biblical worldview in the young people under your influence.
- Don’t assume people know the gospel and other fundamentals. We tend to assume that young people who’ve grown up in the church understand the gospel and other biblical doctrines—but you can’t assume this! Research, such as that mentioned at the beginning of this article, has shown that many professing Christians don’t even understand the basics of the gospel message, let alone other doctrines. Weave the gospel into your sermons or teaching moments.
- Teach the whole gospel. Don’t just focus on one aspect of the gospel, such as the Cross or the Resurrection. Teach the whole gospel from beginning to end—including the bad news about our sin nature that begins in Genesis.
- Don’t teach just “Bible stories.” Teaching God’s Word as “stories” can unintentionally imply that God’s Word is nothing but a fairy tale or that it is less than authoritative. Teach the accounts in Scripture as real history, just as the Bible itself does. And help people to understand how these accounts teach us theology and doctrine. They don’t just teach us to be brave like David or forgiving like Joseph—they teach us things about God and his plan throughout history.
- Teach the whole Bible. On this side of the Cross, we often find the New Testament easier to understand that the Old Testament, because it is full of seemingly foreign concepts like sacrifice and Levitical law. But these are foundational concepts to the New Testament teachings about Christ and what he did for us. The Old Testament is part of our Bible for a very good reason, and we need to teach it.
- Encourage and answer questions. Christianity is a reasoned faith with answers to the skeptical questions of our day. Encourage your young people to ask questions. If you don’t know the answer, tell them that and promise to follow up—and then do! You’ll both learn something!