An article in USA TODAY, Thursday, March 8, 2007, says “Americans get ‘F’ in religion.” According to Cathy Lynn Grossman, “Sixty percent of Americans can’t name five of the Ten Commandments, and 50% of high school seniors think Sodom and Gomorrah were married.”
Okay, let’s start there. We can’t name five of the Ten Commandments for obvious reasons. The nation founded on the moral laws of the Bible has rejected them and pushed them out of the courts and classrooms. We’ve become a nation of relative thinking rather than absolutes. When what Bubba says is just as valid as the Bible, we are in deep trouble.
What about Sodom and Gomorrah? Again, easy answer. With free love in the 1960s, we lowered our moral standards. Sex outside of marriage became acceptable instead of shameful. Sin never stops where it starts. Even a casual reading of Romans would lead to an understanding of the endpoint of immorality.
When you no longer learn from history, you are doomed to repeat the history you’ve ignored. When anyone speaks about homosexuality from a biblical viewpoint, they are regarded as homophobic and politically incorrect. We live in the land of the “free to do whatever ‘they’ want to do.”
According to the article, “Scholars and theologians…say Americans’ woeful level of religious illiteracy damages more than democracy.” A former general secretary of the National Council of Churches (not your most conservative group on the planet), blames Sunday Schools that “trivialized religious education.” He said, “If we want people to have serious knowledge, we have to get serious about teaching our own faith.”
Amen. I can remember a lot of Sunday School teachers when I was a teenager who spent more time wanting us to like them than teaching us to love God. I can remember a number of Sunday School workers I had to dismiss when I was in youth ministry because they didn’t want to teach; they wanted to “fellowship.” Fellowship is good, but doughnuts can’t take the place of making disciples.
Of course, most secular history books totally ignore or debunk any biblical references as unnecessary, ignorant or lacking in scholarship. I would bet the farm that you can’t find a high school or college textbook in a public school that even mentions the great revivals during the War Between the States. Both sides saw tens of thousands saved, but where’s that truth in our history books?
We never hear a word about the Great Awakenings of the 1700s and 1800s. Something that is at the core of our national history is totally ignored today. Why do we no longer value the Judeo-Christian ethic? Why are we biblically illiterate? One thought: blame it on the secularization of our educational system that has been trying to push God out since the Scopes trial. The monkeys now have Ph.D.s in many of our schools and are teaching a godless, man-centered history.
You can also blame watered down, topical preaching for some of this lack of knowledge. When I was growing up, I got three points and a poem. No scholarship. No meaning of the Greek words. No exegesis of a passage. I was in college majoring in Bible before I ever heard anyone say that Paul’s epistles begin with doctrine and lead to duty. It’s a simple statement, but basic to understanding the flow of a book.
The church is to blame as well. We have too much of the “five senses approach” to religion. We are so concerned about how we feel or having an experience that we have no depth in our soul. There is no hunger after God. We don’t need God; we need to feel good about ourselves. Today, I would estimate at least 98% of religious television is based on how you feel. You can rarely find a preacher or teacher focusing on doctrine and a knowledge of the Word of God that empowers you to think biblically.
We’re experiential, not exegetical. We’re into delighting in the Lord, but not digging into the Word. We want great music, but we ignore the Great Master. We’re awed by the latest technology, but yawn through the truth. We talk about church growth, but we also need church health. Jesus invested his life in the disciples so they could reproduce other disciples.
Hebrew children memorized the 119th Psalm. Most adults can’t quote ten verses from the entire Bible. We might say we want our kids to be godly and grow up loving Jesus, but we must lead by example. Knowing more baseball stats than Biblical truths is not the way to teach our kids to love God and His Word. What’s important to us will be important to them.
We have many who want the Bible returned to the classroom. My biggest concern is who will teach it? Will they be students of the Scripture themselves? Will they get it right on creation, Adam and Eve, the miracles, the blood atonement? I doubt it – not in a secular school system. They can’t by law. They won’t by design. It’s considered a violation of the separation of church and state.
If someone is going to teach my kids about the Bible, I want them to believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God and Jesus is the only way to God. He is not a way; He is the way. It is not one of many options. It’s not on the same level with the Book of Mormon, the Koran or other religious texts. A lost man or a confused man can read the Bible, I just wouldn’t want him to teach it to me or my children.
Pastors, Sunday School teachers, parents and leaders in the Christian community better start addressing this issue. Teach the Word. It’s profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction and training in righteousness. We can’t fix this problem by continuing to do what we’ve been doing the last fifty years. It’s time we opened our Bibles and taught the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help us God.
© Michael Catt, 2007
Michael served as the President of the Large Church Roundtable, the Southern Baptist Convention as an IMB Trustee, President of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s Preaching Conference, Vice President of the Georgia Baptist Convention, and President of the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference. He has spoken at conferences, colleges, seminaries, rallies, camps, NBA and college chapel services, well as The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. Michael is the recipient of The Martin Luther King Award, The MLK Unity Award, and a Georgia Senate Resolution in recognition of his work in the community and in racial reconciliation.
Michael and his wife, Terri, have two grown daughters, Erin and Hayley.