God placed us in one of the greatest areas of spiritual need in the entire world. Over 80 million Americans do not read the Bible or even own one.
Do you remember your first Bible? I remember mine. It was red—the color; it was also read—the verb. I had a little trouble reading my first Bible because in those days I wasn’t used to much more than “See Dick run. Run, Dick, run.” But with time and practice, I got better at it.
There’s no book like the Bible. Brides dressed in white lace often carry it on their wedding day. Soldiers carry it into battle in their shirt pockets. Presidents take the oath of office while placing their hand on it. Aging saints draw comfort from it during hours of lonely solitude. Members of the Gideons stand in pouring rain to distribute it on university campuses. Prisoners of war recite as much of it as they can from memory. None of this is true with any other book.
But the Book so many love is not the book so many read. In fact, Bible reading has declined sharply over the years. And so has Bible knowledge. What the assaults of liberal theologians couldn’t do, and what the attacks of atheists couldn’t do, now Satan may accomplish through a much more subtle strike.
Almost unwittingly we come to believe that the Bible is God’s sacred Word, but it’s simply not worth taking the time to read. What Satan could not accomplish through outside attacks, he now seeks to accomplish through simple neglect. Today, we face a real crisis: Bible illiteracy.
Our failure to understand the Bible is aiding and abetting our enemy to weaken our witness, rob us of answers to life’s key questions, and keep us from enjoying the relationship with God that he made possible by revealing himself through his Word.
Now if that’s not a problem to you, consider this: Bible illiteracy is stealing the next generation of Christians. We’re at genuine risk of losing biblical Christianity in just one generation.
Today, 86 percent of American teenagers claim to be Christians.1 Three out of five say they believe the Bible is totally accurate in all that it teaches.2 These are good kids. But they are confused. They don’t know the Bible for the same reason their parents don’t know the Bible—neglect. Our kids want to be spiritual, but they’re getting their information from all the wrong places.
Movies such as Underworld, The Sixth Sense, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, television programs like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Ghost Whisperer, characters such as Harry Potter, books like Goosebumps, and even video games like Doom or The Darkness have caused our kids to buy into a spirituality that’s clearly not biblical.3 Even worse, this interest in paranormal spirituality has brought the same kids who sit in the light on Sunday morning into the darkness throughout the week. More than two million teens say they have communicated with a dead person (10 percent). Nearly two million young people claim they have psychic powers.4
What our kids are getting from Christian parents and in evangelical churches is insufficient to keep them in the faith. Yes, they’re frequently involved in church events and activities, but when asked if they’ll continue to go to church once they’re living on their own, only one out of every three teens said they will.5 If they are the future of our churches, we’re facing a crisis of biblical proportions.
This book is about you, your family, and your Bible. It’s about the dust on your Bible. It’s about taking a reality check with regard to how deeply the plague of Bible illiteracy has wormed its way into the churches and the homes of America.
In the pages that follow we will trace the amazing impact the Bible had on the founding and formation of our country. And we’ll see how a new America was born in recent decades, an America that has become hostile toward the Bible. You won’t believe your eyes when you read about how close to home Bible illiteracy is. We’ll also focus on the debilitating effects Bible illiteracy has on us, and how Christians are robbing themselves through simple neglect of God’s Word.
Calling America back to the Bible isn’t about the “good ole days.” It isn’t about going back to a simpler time. In fact, it’s not about the past at all. It’s about returning to biblical living in the future, living that is both informed and impelled by genuine Bible literacy.
We are in crisis mode. If we do nothing it could easily mean the death of any biblical expression of Christianity in the twenty-first century. We are that close. But this book is also about solutions. It’s about what it will take to recover Bible literacy in America and who the key players are, including you and me. Although we’ve ambled a long way down the road toward Bible illiteracy, we haven’t yet passed the point of no return. There are solutions and you and I are a big part of them.
Many people claim to have a daily routine, of which reading the Bible is just not a part. However, many feel they can change their habits if they set their mind to it. —Yankelovich marketing and advocacy study, January 13, 2006
Thirty years ago Harold Lindsell wrote a book entitled The Battle for the Bible. In it he said, “A great battle rages today around biblical infallibility among evangelicals.”6 Today, the great battle isn’t over Bible infallibility; it’s over biblical illiteracy.
This book will both highlight the challenges presented in taking back the Book and provide a clear path to calling America back to the Bible.