The mailman just delivered a catalog full of interesting educational curriculum for our congregation to try out this fall. One series was titled, “The Holy-Moly Bible” and the books which each student receives are proudly labeled “Anti-Workbook.”
As shocked as I was at this attempt to educate Christians through non-education, it should be no surprise. Anymore, people are not interested in reading the Bible much less learning about the God Who speaks to us in the Bible. Statistics reveal that Bible ownership remains strong, but Bible readership remains weak: 88% of households own a Bible, each household owns an average of 4.7 Bibles, yet only 37% of Americans read the Bible once a week or more. The number of American adults who have never read the Bible at all is 26%. When we look to the future, we see that 39% of the rising generation of leaders –the Millenials—have never read the Bible.
As Christians, we feel the effects of this every day of the week. We see that advertising is focused less on reason, logic, and actual dollars-and-cents savings. Rather, we should buy this car because it is the right color, will play our music right where we left off at home on our smartphones, and, after all, this car makes us look and feel good. All that is only the Monday morning drive to work. The rest of the week we are bombarded with anti-intellectual, anti-educational, anti-brain exercise messages, conversations, and newsfeeds on our social media. So by the time the sun rises on the Lord’s Day, how do we expect to be trained? How should we grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord?
In comes the “Anti-workbook.” The “Holy-Moly Bible” will surely get our attention at Sunday School. The kids will certainly enjoy doing no preparation through their “Anti-workbook.” The pastor will surely feed us what we want and expect in the sermon, and not the food that we need—Our Daily Bread.
Well, what are we to do as Reformed Christians? Reciting our catechism seems so boring and old-fashioned compared to the exciting Sunday school videos of dancing vegetables and colored popsicle sticks. I would argue that the anti-education approach of our society is itself an educational approach. As good presuppositional apologists, I think every leader in the RCUS would certainly agree. In other words, the idea behind the anti-workbook is not so innocent; it is not free of motivations or theories, as it claims to be. The idea ‘presupposes’ that people cannot learn the normal, old-fashioned way. People will only learn when they are shocked, surprised, and fascinated by stories and visual effects. And, the theory goes, if you say it in a funny way that will get people to show up, what can be wrong with that?
What is wrong with that is that God has told us how to teach His Word. We are not to cast doubt on its truthfulness, or use irreverence and “shock and awe” to keep the congregation’s interest alive. We are to use His name, not misuse His name/take it in vain. God is not a God of chaos, but a God of order. Two articles in this issue speak of God’s orderly Providence and wisdom in How He works out His goodness and severity in human lives today. Check them out to see how we should think about the God Who speaks in His Holy Bible.
However, there is an element of truth in the twisted presuppositions of the “anti-workbook” mentality. The truth is that the God Who acts in history and speaks in the Bible does surprise us. He cannot be shut up inside our little theological box. Theology is man’s reflection upon God’s self-revelation, not a way for us to chain God up so we can feel secure that we have it all figured out. However, the “anti-workbook” approach will never succeed, since it cuts itself loose from the God of the Bible and centers on the human feelings, experience, and cultural expectations of sinners.
What the Reformed Church can learn from the existence of the “Holy-Moly Bible” and such resources is that our pastors and Sunday School teachers, our parents and grandparents—we all need to be sure to talk about the God Who is, and not the God Who we have grown used to thinking about and talking about. The God-Who-is displays Himself in great glory, majesty, and wonder. If our children and congregation members are bored with the Bible, perhaps it is not just their fault. If our people are not reading the Bible, perhaps it is because we have grown accustomed to teaching the Bible in boring, abstract, hard-to-pronounce and impossible-to-spell ways. One article in this issue reminds us that the RCUS has resolved that the Bible requires us to practice Christian education, every day of the week in every subject of life (“Here We Stand”). Another article reminds us of our calling to feed and be fed “through Covenantal Instruction.”
As we feed the sheep, let us never be ashamed that the food we have is what has been given us in the treasure house of God’s Word. May we also stop creating stumblingblocks for our kids and congregation members because we failed to shepherd the sheep, to know their vocabluary, to help them grow in knowing how to read their Bibles, and to modeling a humble wonder at the God Who walks on water, speaks in a still small voice, and also thunders from heaven above that “This is My Beloved Son, Hear Him!” With such Biblical content and education, there is no need for a “Holy-Moly Bible.”
Rev. Kyle A. Sorensen, Manitowoc, Wisconsin