Experts vary in their opinion slightly, but to be considered literate in the English language, a person should be able to functionally read and write on somewhere between the fifth and eighth grade levels. Anything below that may allow people to do some minor things, but to function well in society, one needs basically a middle school level of proficiency in English.
What about Bible literacy? What would God say is necessary to be considered literate in His commands and principles? Obviously, a knowledge of Jesus, your need for forgiveness and how to become a Christian (and obtain that forgiveness) would be the very basic level of Biblical literacy.
What about everything else in the Bible? Do our kids really need to know about all of those people and their lives? What about all of that “boring stuff” in the prophets? Should they read the Psalms, which just looks like a lot of poems or the letters in the New Testament, which are just someone’s mail?
I firmly believe we and our children need to be very familiar with everything in the Bible. For whatever reason, God has blessed us to live in a time and place where we have easy access to everything God wanted us to know at our fingertips. I believe Luke 12:48 just might apply to our generation. Is it unreasonable to think if God thought it was important enough to write down and make sure we still had access to it thousands of years later, there may just be some critical information in the Bible?
One of the classes I took in college was for education majors. It was an entire semester on how to teach someone to read. Almost seems silly, since obviously all of us knew how to read well. Yet, there is an art and a science to teaching anyone anything so they learn it well and comprehend it. It is even more important to teach them how to translate what they learned and use it in all sorts of circumstances in real life. For example, I can teach a child to read a book, but if I did my job well, he can also read a magazine and a newspaper.
Biblical literacy is similar. You don’t have to have a degree, but there are some parts of becoming biblically literate you want to make sure you teach your child. Today, I want to give you a few main ones to work on with your child:
- Basic Bible information. Your child needs to understand why you think the Bible is an accurate account of God’s Words. Lee Strobel has some great fact based books, but I also want you to share your heart. How have you seen the truth in what your kids will read in the Bible? How has it made a difference in your life? In the lives of others? Beyond that, you can also share some basic facts about how it has been divided in modern times. Make sure they know the difference between the Old and New Testament and which books are in each. Help them understand that although the books were written by real people, these people wrote down what God inspired them to write. Show them how to find things in the Bible including basics like chapters and verses.
- Basic Bible facts. There are often two camps on this issue and I think both may be missing a key element. Some will say the facts don’t matter. They feel it is a waste of time to know the facts, because it is the principles that really matter. Others will focus on memorizing the facts with competitions and almost miss teaching the principles in the process. The reality is both have some valid points. I believe facts are important partially because knowing the facts can help you see the big picture of the Bible. If I realize the Feast of Weeks is the same as Pentecost, I can catch the completeness of God instituting the Church/New Covenant on a Jewish holiday celebrating dedication to God and the Old Covenant. I can understand God knows all by knowing Alexander the Great was predicted by God in the Bible hundreds of years before his birth. Facts also help us teach others about God. When people ask questions, they usually want facts. Our children need to either know them or know how to find them easily in the Bible.
- God’s commands and principles (and how to find them). Every story has a reason God placed it in the Bible. Scriptures that are not stories also have a purpose. Almost always we can find a specific principle or command to each story and passage. Sometimes, God states them clearly like in the ten commandments or the sermons of Jesus. Other times the meaning may be slightly hidden, but then explained like in the parables of Jesus. Sometimes, we have to think about the lessons learned from passages like the story of Noah. In many of those stories, there may be multiple lessons to be learned. Your children will need practice not only finding the meaning, but just knowing that they need to search for what God wants them to learn in every scripture.
- Application of Scripture. Knowing something and knowing how to use it in your life are two different skills. I can read a book on crocheting, but unless I actually take a needle and yarn and try to crochet, I will never produce a crocheted item. Your children may understand from reading the Bible that they are not supposed to lie, but do they know all of the ways they might be lying? Just because they haven’t been taught a half-truth is a lie, does not mean God wants them to go around continuing to lie by telling half-truths. What does being gentle or patient “look like” in their world? This is one of the most important parts of Bible study and yet it is often the part that gets the least attention. This should be a positive part of the lesson as much as possible. How can we be more godly? How can we reflect God’s image more accurately? What have we seen people do that really demonstrated a good example of living out this principle or command? What are the benefits of obeying God? If obedience causes some worldly problems, what are some ways to cope and still do what God wants us to do?
Bible literacy is a lifetime effort. It begins with that first step. I urge you to pick up a Bible right now and begin giving your children the gift of Bible literacy. It is one of the most precious gifts you will ever give them.