The State of the Bible in 2013 (infographic)

state of the bible 2013

The Barna Group has produced its annual study of what Americans think about the Bible. Here’s an interesting infographic summarizing their results.

Three of the more interesting results:

  • Young people (18-28) are more likely to see the Bible as an important source of “wisdom” in many life areas.
  • They often see the Bible as an important source of wisdom for addressing family conflict and parenting, but not divorce.
  • The percentage of Americans who are openly “antagonistic” toward the Bible has increased sharply in the last two years.

 

Browsing the Bible’s Self-Help Aisle

self help

People like Proverbs. When I ask my high school students what they’d like to study, Proverbs always appears toward the top of the list (right behind Genesis and Revelation). And, when pastors preach through Proverbs, they often get more comments from people expressing how much they appreciated the sermon.

proverbs, wisdom, godly living, self improvementAnd I’m sure it’s because Proverbs has so much practical advice for daily living: disciplining unruly children (13:24), controlling your temper (14:17), managing your money (21:5), finding the perfect wife (31:10-31), just being wise (6:20-23), and much more. This is good stuff! Unlike those boring laws in Leviticus, these are things you can apply every day. (Before you start defending Leviticus, I don’t really think this. But admit it, most people think that Leviticus is boring and irrelevant while Proverbs is fascinating and practical.)

I recently sat through a sermon series on Proverbs that was just like this: every sermon packed with wise tidbits. I felt like I was hearing Benjamin Franklin reincarnated: be more disciplined, wake up earlier, control your temper, choose your friends carefully, spend wisely, and so on.  This is good advice that everyone should follow: the Bible’s own self-help aisle.

But is this really what Proverbs is about? Should we read Proverbs as a book of wise advice that anyone can and should follow?

This is the beginning of my latest monthly article over at Christianity.com. So head over there to read the rest and let me know what you think.

Understanding Biblical Theology

understanding biblical theology

Biblical Theology is all the rage these days. A quick Amazon search will turn up all kinds of books on biblical theology, many of them written in just the last few years. But if you skim through those books, you’ll quickly notice something rather interesting: no one really seems to know what “biblical theology” means.

Biblical theology is one of those phrases with an obvious surface meaning (who wouldn’t want their theology to be biblical?) that grows hazy the minute you begin to ask some of the difficult questions:

  • What is “theology”?
  • What does it mean to be “biblical”?
  • Whose theology are we after (e.g. the Bible, the biblical authors, the religious communities of the biblical authors)?
  • Given the different perspectives in the Bible, can we really talk about just one biblical theology or are there many biblical theologies?

And we could keep going. With just a few questions, we begin to see why it can be so frustrating to figure out what people mean when they talk about biblical theology. It’s because biblical theology is a label that covers a multitude of differences.

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9 Reasons We Need the Gospels

reading the gospels wisely

Some Christians downplay the Gospels. We don’t do it on purpose, of course. After all, those are the books about Jesus, so they must be important. But we still have a tendency to prefer the letters to the Gospels. Stories are interesting, but they’re also a bit messy and complicated. So it seems easier, faster, and clearer to skip past the stories and just hear Paul tell us what we’re supposed to believe.

In Reading the Gospels Wisely, Jonathan Pennington offers nine excellent reasons that we should not do this. Beyond some nifty stories and fascinating parables, the Gospels have a lot to offer. And we’re missing out on a lot as Christians when we don’t allow us ourselves to soak in these life-changing narratives.

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