Ray Van Neste, professor of biblical studies and director of the Ryan Center for Biblical Studies, spoke on biblical illiteracy Feb. 10 as part of the first lecture in this semester’s Town and Gown series.
Van Neste lectured on ways to effectively teach the Bible so believers and non-believers can understand. He pointed out statistics about Bible reading among regular church attenders to illustrate the decline of biblical literacy, among them the fact that 25 percent of regular church attendees never read their Bibles.
“Our forbearers were much more aware of the Bible than we are,” Van Neste said.
VanNeste’s second point was about the dangers of increasing biblical illiteracy. He argued what you believe determines how you live, and illustrated this with a metaphor of a man who stepped on a water hose without paying attention and, thinking it was a snake, reacted badly. He explained if the man had only been paying attention, he would have reacted differently. Instead, Van Neste said, the man let his false assumption incorrectly dictate how he approached the situation.
Van Neste then referenced Colossians and said Christian growth happens as our thinking is shaped and transformed by Scripture. According to Van Neste, if Christians do not engage with Scripture, they will react poorly to the world around them.
“We simply cannot be a healthy church if we are not mirroring the word of God,” Van Neste said.
He mentioned seven points that were causes of the growing illiteracy, among them busyness, anti-intellectualism and laziness. All of these, Van Neste said, are valid reasons biblical illiteracy appears in our daily lives.
“We will pursue whatever we think will satisfy us,” Van Neste said. “Knowing God through his word will bring us life and satisfaction.”
The last part of his lecture addressed turning the tide and making changes. Van Neste said encouraging reading and helping people re-engage the Bible will slowly but surely help believers work towards a solution.
The lecture was well attended by Union faculty, staff and students.
“[Van Neste] points out some of the issues we aren’t doing as Christians to teach others about Christ,” said Tonya Mason, senior criminal justice major. “I liked the lecture because I like anything that brings us closer to God.”
The next lecture will be Feb. 17 in room 160 of Providence Hall. Melissa Moore, professor of library services, will speak about literature for young adults.