(Part 1 is here)
There are three things exacerbating the problem:
1st) Growing Biblical illiteracy within the church
Statistic after statistic and survey after survey all affirm the burgeoning problem of biblical illiteracy in the church today. David Nienhuis, associate professor of New Testament Studies at Seattle Pacific University, penned an excellent article at Modern Reformation several years ago entitled "The Problem of Evangelical Biblical Illiteracy". If anything, his observations are more pertinent today as Biblical literacy continues its downward slide in the American evangelical church.
" I often begin my survey of the Christian Scriptures course by asking students to take a short biblical literacy quiz, including questions of the sort mentioned above. The vast majority of my students--around 95 percent of them--are Christians, and half of them typically report that they currently attend nondenominational evangelical churches. Yet the class as a whole consistently averages a score of just over 50 percent, a failing grade. In the most recent survey, only half were able to identify which biblical book begins with the line, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Barely more than half knew where to turn in the Bible to read about the first Passover. Most revealing in my mind is the fact that my students are generally unable to sequence major stories and events from the biblical metanarrative. Only 23 percent were able to order four key events from Israel's history (Israelites enter the promised land; David is made king; Israel is divided in two; and the people of Judah go into exile), and only 32 percent were able to sequence four similarly important events from the New Testament (Jesus was baptized; Peter denies Jesus; the Spirit descends at Pentecost; and John has a vision on the island of Patmos). These students may know isolated Bible trivia (84 percent knew, for instance, that Jesus was born in Bethlehem), but their struggle to locate key stories, and their general inability to place those stories in the Bible's larger plotline, betrays a serious lack of intimacy with the text--even though a full 86 percent of them identified the Bible as their primary source for knowledge about God and faith."
He relates the conversation with one student who told him, "Reading a lot is not a part of my learning style." She went on to inform me that students today learned more by "watching videos, listening to music, and talking to one another." She spoke of the great growth she experienced in youth group (where she no doubt spent a lot of time watching videos, listening to music, and talking with people), but her ignorance of the Bible clearly betrayed the fact that the Christian formation she experienced in her faith community afforded her little to no training in the actual reading of Scripture.
Dr. Woodrow Kroll, President Back to the Bible International recently observed,
"I don't believe Bible illiteracy is a problem in the church; I believe it is the problem in the church. Failure to read God's Word is impacting our view of the world around us. This year saw increases in the proportions of people who believe that cohabitation (60%), adultery (42%), sexual relations between homosexuals (30%), abortion (45%), pornography (38%), the use of profanity (36%) and gambling (61%) are morally acceptable behaviors."
Several years ago professor Gary Burge from Wheaton College reported the results of a Bible literacy test his Christian college gave to incoming freshmen. The results were shocking because most of these students grew up in "strong" evangelical churches.
- One-third of those students didn’t know that Paul’s missionary journeys were recorded in the book of Acts.
- They didn’t know where in Scripture the birth of Christ is found.
- He asked 45 seniors who were in an advanced class to paraphrase, from memory, the Ten Commandments. Only one student could do it.
Young American born-again believers are moving away from a biblically-centered worldview, with only one in three affirming that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven, according to Steve Cable, senior vice president of Probe Ministries. "We need to admit that there's a problem," Cable says. "Don't go around with your blinders thinking that everything is fine. We have a lot of people that aren't born again, so there's a lot of work to do. But then you look at the born-agains and see that we have even more work to do."
2nd) Growing isolationism within the church from a culture that is becoming more secular and hostile to Christianity
Much of the church is hunkering down in a fortress mentality, slowly abandoning the culture. Megachurches are tragically sometimes an example, offering all manner of facilities and daily activities that tend to lead to members greatly lessening their contact with the culture. Christians at such churches can easily spend the vast majority of their time safely cocooned in the church away from the culture.
The same can be true for youth groups which sometimes offer numerous activities, all isolated from the culture. A young teen can spend most of his/her time with church activities and rarely interface with outside secular activities.
3rd) The increasingly complex relationship between decreasing parental authority & increasing responsibility on the part of the child, as the child matures
Their is a complex interdependency between parental authority and child responsibility. At infancy, the child has no responsibility and the parent has 100% authority. That should start to change - very gradually at first - as the child begins to slowly assume responsibility and parental authority begins to lessen. The goal by the time the child leaves the nest should be 100% responsibility on their part. But, the interdependency is becoming increasingly difficult to navigate as the culture rapidly changes (i.e., how to handle a cell phone that permits easy “sexting” and unfiltered internet access for a teenager?)
(Part 4 is here ... preparing young people for times of doubt)