In the last issue, we began to explore the question of why it was that, in an America in which between one-fourth and one-fifth of the population reportedly profess to be Evangelicals, there is such a markedly low creation proportionally of quality art by Christians (whether dance, film, music, television, etc.). It was postulated that, though Evangelicals claim to know and love the All-Beautiful Creator-God, and to have His Written Word to direct them “in every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17), their failure as a community to provide quality art to the Church and the world is directly related to their lack of knowledge and understanding of the Bible. Two reasons were proffered to explain this lack of knowledge: laziness and bad theology. To the first of these reasons we now turn.
It is commonly held that Evangelicals know the Bible better than any other section of the global population. Scarily, this opinion is undoubtedly true. Why is this scary? For the simple reason that, just because Evangelicals know their Bibles better than the rest of humanity doesn’t mean they know it very well, at all.
It is true that there are many theologians, pastors, teachers, and so forth who do know their Bibles well (some exceedingly well). However, compared with the number of extant Evangelicals in America (or all the West, for that matter) the number of those well-versed in Scripture is exceedingly small, especially among the rank-and-file believers who aren’t leaders or officers in the Church.
How do I know this? Ask yourself (or ask them) how many of your Christian friends or fellow parishioners can explain (even very simply) the content of the 25 verses of the Epistle of Jude, or the 13 verses of John’s Second Epistle, or the 25 verses of the Book of Philemon. How many can simply outline (or even give the main thrust) of 2 Timothy (3 chapters) or 1 Timothy, Galatians, or Philippians (4 chapters apiece)? These are all very short Books. How many believers do you know who can tell you what was made on each of the 7 Days of Creation listed in Genesis 1? For that matter, how many can even list the Books of the Bible from memory? How can we even begin to say we know our Bibles when most of us don’t even know these basic things?
Many Christians would respond to this by saying, “That’s just too much to learn,” yet many of these same people can tell you things like the batting records of every baseball player on their favorite team, or the lyrics of hundreds of popular songs, or every character (and all the plot lines) of their favorite soap operas for years running, or highly detailed, nuanced information about their job. Many Evangelicals spend 8+ hours a day working, and much of their time outside of the work-place trying to figure out how to improve their performance on the job, yet would say that they had no time to study the Bible.
None of the things I listed above are bad in themselves, of course. However, we always find time to do the things that matter the most to us. It would appear that we simply don’t want to study the Perfect Word of God more than we want to watch T.V., or listen to music, or (and this is the heart of the matter) please ourselves. We have made idols of our pleasures and/or our quest for prosperity (and thus, of ourselves) and elevated these idols above our love of Christ and His Word.
We content ourselves with the little snippets we hear from teachings about basic doctrines, rather than using them as springboards to dive deeply into the Scriptures. We convince ourselves that, since we know these basic doctrines, we know our Bibles. Then we wonder why we can’t change the world when we don’t even know how to think Biblically about the vocations that God has called us to (including, vitally, the various artistic callings). It is our responsibility to learn about our callings Biblically so that we can do our callings effectively (things like, say, producing great art…). For most Evangelicals, though, our personal peace and affluence (e.g., our pleasure) are our true gods.
We Christians rightly disparage the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. As Jesus taught of them in Matthew 15:8: “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.” We Evangelicals profess love for Jesus, sing about Him, get emotional about Him, and so forth. Yet when it comes to actually doing His Will outside our worship services, even to doing the simple things like spending time studying His Word, we don’t do so well. We come more and more to resemble the Pharisees. Then we wonder why our culture is growing so pagan.
We must ask ourselves if our hearts are where our words say they are. We do the things that are most important to us. If we are not obediently studying and learning the Bible, we must ask ourselves why that is. What do you value most?