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Beware Bible McNuggets: When Reading the Bible Can Be Spiritually Unhealthy

I’ve mentioned before on BreakPoint the cruel game I sometimes play when I speak to Christian students. I’ll give a quiz on pop culture, with questions such as who sang this song, and who starred in this movie, and so on. As you might expect, the students get 100 percent on this quiz every time. But then, without breaking stride, I’ll throw in a Bible question like “Who was the lead character in II Samuel?” — and you can just hear the crickets chirping.

Look when Christians know far more about entertainment trivia than the Bible, we’ve got a problem. And it’s ironic, given we have more access to the Bible than any other time in history.

According to the American Bible Society, the average household has 4.3 copies of the Bible. This doesn’t even count the ones on our smart phones and iPads, or the pew pockets in every church. We’ve even personalized the Bible for every possible life situation: we’ve got the Teen Bible, the Women’s Bible, the Dad’s Bible, the Leadership Bible … you name it. And yet Gallup has dubbed the United States “a nation of biblical illiterates.”

Paul Caminiti of Biblica, a ministry that promotes Bible engagement, offers three reasons for scriptural illiteracy: 1) We fragment the Bible into little bits that we then yank out of the Scripture and personalize (Phillip Yancey refers to these bits as “moral McNuggets”); 2) We don’t understand the history or context of Scripture passages, so we miss or manipulate the full meaning that it communicates; and 3) we read it alone; we’ve stopped reading the Bible in community. Well, Biblica has decided to confront these problems.

Over the years, we’ve added a lot to the Bible: a new order for the books, two columns, study notes and lots of divisions – chapters, verses, and paragraphs. And this impacts how we read it. The two columns make it look long and different than other books; the chapters and verses, which were intended just to help us navigate the text, tempt us to break up the text. So we’re less likely to read large sections and more likely to disconnect small parts.

Biblica now offers the Scripture in a one-column format, without chapters and verses. It’s called “The Books of the Bible,” and it restores the original order of the Old Testament while grouping the New Testament books together theologically in a way that shows the relationship between them. Starting with Luke and Acts gives the history of the New Testament, and then connecting the other Gospels to the Epistles that match their intended audience reveals connections we often miss.

And did you know you could read the whole New Testament in 8 weeks if you read it like other books? Me neither; but as Gabe Lyons, founder of Q, says, with this new format and the reading plan, “It reads just like a book.”

And because these books were written for communities of believers, Biblica has developed the Community Bible Experience where entire churches read together through the Scriptures as a church family. The reports they’re hearing from churches who have done this are incredible.

On the latest BreakPoint This Week podcast on our website, I interview Paul Caminiti about the “Books of the Bible” and the Community Bible Experience. I also spoke with Steve Green, the president of Hobby Lobby about their new Green Collection project. The Green Collection has become one of the largest privately held collections of biblical artifacts in the world. Much of the collection is featured in a traveling exhibit called Passages, and will eventually be housed in a permanent Bible museum in Washington, D.C. Visit BreakPoint.org and click on the This Week tab to listen.

You know, Chuck Colson frequently noted that we in the West had morally starved ourselves by disconnecting from the truths of Scripture. And biblically illiterate Christians are in no condition to help if all we’ve feasted on is a diet of Bible McNuggets.

John Stonestreet, the host of The Point, a daily national radio program, provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.

BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.

Publication date: June 21, 2013

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