Is it possible to be an educated person without knowing about the Bible? That's the question that was posed to thirty-nine English professors at some of our leading universities. Their answers should not come as a surprise, although given our culture's "Christophobia" and the politically correct attitudes on campuses, they probably do.
The relationship between biblical literacy and education was the subject of a survey conducted by the Bible Literacy Project. The study, whose subtitle is "What University Professors Say Incoming Students Need to Know," found that every professor surveyed agreed with the following statement: "Regardless of a person's faith, an educated person needs to know about the Bible." Every professor!
By way of elaboration, Professor George P. Landow, from my alma mater, the very liberal Brown University, said, "[Without the Bible] it's like using a dictionary with one-third of the words removed." Professor Ulrich Knoepflmacher at Princeton said that the lack of "Bible knowledge is almost crippling in students' ability to be sophisticated readers."
Case in point: A preparation workbook for the Advanced Placement Literature exam lists sixty-seven biblical allusions among the 105 allusions that it recommends students know. Yet, only 8 percent of public high schools teach about the Bible even as literature.
Then there's the Bible's central role in Western civilization. As David Kastan of Columbia said, "The Bible is the foundational text, certainly of the West . . . We need to know more, and we need to know it better."
Given the Bible's status, it shouldn't be "too much to ask," as Gordon Braden of the University of Virginia put it, for students to read what he called a "core Bible." This would include "Genesis, Exodus, the Psalms, the four Gospels, and the Book of Revelation." In Braden's words, "If they have that, then we can get started."
If leading academics agree on the importance of the Bible, regardless of one's faith or lack thereof, why isn't it being taught more? Why are we raising the first generation to have lost the biblical narrative that was second nature to prior generations in America?
The answer certainly is not for lack of a suitable curriculum. The Bible Literacy Project recently released a textbook called The Bible and Its Influence. The textbook has been well received, not only by evangelical leaders, but by Catholic, Orthodox, and Jewish leaders as well.
The text enables students to learn about the role of the Bible in an accurate, scholarly, and constitutional way. It helps teachers and administrators feel more confident about their ability to do justice to our "foundational text."
The problem lies in getting past the "Christophobia" I mentioned earlier. Whether the problem lies in overt hostility or a misunderstanding of what the law actually says, many schools are reluctant to teach the Bible.
That's where you come in. There is overwhelming evidence of the need for biblical literacy in public education. You need to bring this evidence to the attention of those running your local school boards. You need to help them understand that the goal is not spreading a particular religion but preventing the spread of something far worse: a crippling kind of ignorance.
Copyright © 2006 Prison Fellowship
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