As the promising college freshmen of the class of 2016 attend their first classes in the coming weeks, Christians should be concerned. While these students are quite literate, biblical literacy is plummeting, even among adults. The Gospel Coalition’s Chris Castaldo warns:
As the school year starts up, particularly for those of us who enjoy regular contact with today’s students, that last item is worth pondering. Even if we work at evangelical redoubts such as Wheaton, Moody, Biola, or Taylor, the rising tide of biblical illiteracy ought to concern us. And it certainly isn’t just college freshmen who know so little about the Bible. Gallup has labeled the United States as “a nation of biblical illiterates.” Time notes, “Only half of U.S. adults know the title of even one Gospel. Most can’t name the Bible’s first book. The trend extends even to evangelicals.”
If our culture has become so biblically illiterate, as Castaldo points out, “terms such as ‘Forbidden Fruit,’ ‘The writing on the wall,’ ‘Good Samaritan,’ and ‘The Promised Land’ are unknown…” We have to find new images and new ways of explaining the faith, specifically to the cyber generation. Christians, more than ever, need to recognize the dual responsibilities of living “in but not of” this world. We must be “in” this world enough to know how to talk to others about what it means to be “of” another.
We who seek to be agents of gospel renewal have twin challenges. We must not only know God’s Word ourselves, but we must also know our audience. We must be able not just to exegete and interpret Scripture, but apply it to the hearts and minds of our hearers. And we should take nothing for granted.
Might I suggest Fr. Robert Barron as a model? Through his Catholicism DVD series and his weekly Word on Fire YouTube videos on everything from Paul Ryan to Batman and the Hunger Games (SPOILER alerts), the way that he addresses the Christian faith through popular culture is superb.