I just read something that my dear friend, Dr. Charles Wood, wrote in his daily musings and thought it worthy of sharing….
“ For three semesters I attended Faith Seminary in a suburb of Philadelphia. On the first day of classes, we were given a one hundred question test of “general Biblical knowledge.” Having spent my entire life in a Bible-preaching and teaching church and having done all of my college work in fundamentalist settings, I assumed I was being handed a “piece of cake.” How wrong I was! I only managed to get 49 out of the 100 questions correct (made a little easier to bear by the fact that only two others of my twenty classmates had better scores – both in the low 50′s). I honestly think the test was designed far more to show us what we didn’t know than it was to find out what we actually did understand. Whatever, it got my attention.
Were that same test (and I can’t find my copy) to be given today in the average local church, I doubt if there would be many, if any, scores higher than the low teens. I am often utterly appalled by the lack of basic factual knowledge when it comes to the Word (I recently heard of a “church leader” who didn’t even know that a Pastor and an Elder were one and the same). There are likely many reasons for this ignorance: too busy lives, too many demands on time and energy, lack of personal Bible study, shallow preaching, a steady pulpit diet of John 3:16, a reduced number of weekly services, and such.
Whatever the reasons, it seems to me that there is absolutely no excuse. We have more Bible study helps readily available to Joe Average Christian than ever before. There are enough translations and versions to cover every aspect of American dialect, study Bibles proliferate, study guides are available in abundance, computer programs(many of them free) make the most infant Christian actually able to check Greek and Hebrew meanings, and seminars and “satellite conferences” abound. In addition, we have the excellent Bible teaching on radio and T. V. that is provided by men such as Charles Stanley, John Piper, Josh McDowell, Dave Jeremiah, Chuck Swindoll and a multitude of others, most of whom are solid exegetes, doing expository preaching in one form or another.
It isn’t really clear to me how the reasons and the lack of excuse correlate, but what is clear to me is that a great many professed Christians know little or nothing about Biblical teaching. Ignorance is bliss? Absolutely no way! Ignorance is an open door to the enshrinement of human reason, the acceptance of false teaching and recruitment to the latest slickster seeking to lead God’s people in any given situation.
But, there is a step beyond Biblical ignorance, and that is the dismissive attitude toward Biblical teaching so often evident in our churches. This phenomenon appears to take the form of, “I don’t really know what the Bible says about that, and I guess I really don’t care. I let the Preacher or some loud-mouthed layman do the work (or, more often, the talking), and I just assume they must be right.” The work of Bible study and interpretation is deemed not worth the effort when there is a sense that the individual won’t agree with what the Bible says when all is said and done. Although this is an old note that I have often sounded, I think some preaching in our churches contributes to this situation. We recently heard an otherwise excellent sermon on the need to move from Christian 1.0 to Christian 2.0 (with just enough computerese involved to make it “catchy”), but the sermon simply ended with the call for us all to download the newer version. Not one word was said about how to do so. It was like a Nike commercial, “Just Do It!”
When the Word of God is preached without application or specific instruction concerning how it applies to life, it seems to me that it leads to the kind of indifference against which I am speaking. We are once again listening to others preach, and a couple of sermons we have heard recently have left me wanting to yell out, “So what?” Ignorance may not be excusable, but it does tend to be explainable. Indifference? It seems to me to be more of a choice than an accident.
How I wish it would all stop there (if you’ve read this far, you likely do also), but it moves on one more step to deliberate defiance of the Word. There are more than a few in our churches who would gladly eliminate any part of Scripture with which they disagree. This deliberate defiance can be annoying or frustrating. It can also be the source of intense conflict in a local church.
She sat across from me about fifty years ago. She was a fine person with good background and greatly involved in the church. She was talking with me about her impending wedding when I asked the “fatal” question, “Is he a believer?” Her answer was rather convoluted, but it boiled down to a simple “No.” I asked how she could be considering such when she knew the Bible taught otherwise. She said that she knew what the Bible taught, but that God had told her that she was right in pursuing this relationship. It took a while, but I finally got her to articulate the fact that she really didn’t care what the Bible taught; she was simply going to do what she had decided to do (without any participation on my part). This is the annoying, frustrating part.
Unfortunately, however, there is more. There is an attitude that says that the Bible cannot possibly mean what it appears to mean because it doesn’t make sense, doesn’t fit in with current trends in society, doesn’t take into account changing cultural customs and mores, etc. This is embodied in The Jesus Project and the New Perspectives on Paul. If you don’t like it, say it wasn’t so or create an imaginary division between Jesus and Paul or write The DaVinci Code. Whatever!
The conflict part of this attitude often shows up in the church when there are those who know better (or have been informed of the correct Biblical position on an issue) press forward in a wrongful course of action with an attitude that essentially says, “I know (or have been informed of) what the Bible says about this, but I really don’t care because the Bible disagrees with me or with what I am planning to do.” Pretty harsh words? I could readily make them seem tame simply by revealing what I know about a couple of situations.
It would be extremely easy for me to cite any number of cases (by church name and location) where ministries have been destroyed or seriously damaged by this attitude of defiant refusal to obey God’s Word. The “new kids on the block” are very likely to run into something of this nature before they are far into their ministries because of the anti-authority attitude so prevalent in our society (and which has been allowed to seep into our churches while we have been jousting with windmills over matters that really don’t qualify as genuine worldliness). The old catechism said that the Bible is the only infallible rule of faith and practice. Instead, it has been turned into something resembling a guide book or even a series of chapters provided for us to select those with which we agree or those which support our desires, plans and programs.
Young graduate, “it will be worth it all when we see Jesus,” but there will be times when you will wonder. You will help yourself a great deal, however, if you will decide from the very beginning what you will and will not tolerate regarding the Word of God. I find myself, at least temporarily, without a church home, ministry opportunity, etc., on the basis of a decision I made more than fifty years ago. It is not pleasant, particularly at this time of life, but I will stand before the judgment seat confident in my stance on the Word while those who violated it will be seeking to explain why they decided that they were exempt from Biblical obedience.
The Bible is the Word of God, and that means exactly what it says. God has spoken. It is mine to determine – as exactly as I am able – what it is that He has said. Beyond that, I have no right to ignore, change, disregard, etc., anything that He has said, and if I do so, I do so at my own risk of eternal loss. How tragic would it be if what the gates of hell could not accomplish was complicitly done by those supposedly in the army!”