Returning to my topic from last month, I notice that Albert Mohler’s Blog for 24 January 2007 highlights the serious decline in reading among the young in the USA. The UK and Ireland are not far behind, I suspect. As he says, “Christians must look at this reality with an even greater concern.”
The reason? “Reading is an important Christian discipline.” But sadly a much neglected one among many Christians. Our Muslim friends and neighbours know us as the people of the book, but for many of us, it is unread and therefore unheeded.
If the Bible were merely a book like any other, this state of affairs would be sad, but of no more concern than the fact that the majority of people haven’t read any or many of the great literary classics.
I well remember the pride of my English teacher when she discovered I was reading War and Peace—not the set book for our class—the whole staff room heard about it. Sadly, even in the enthusiasm of youth the great work wore me down, and I’ve never completed it. Maybe one day…. Virgil’s Aeneid is a serious contender for defeating me now—I started last summer, but have only completed half. Still, there’s always next summer.
While no Indian, I am told by my Indian friends, considers himself truly educated without reading The Bible, I suspect that many modern Christians would hesitate to agree. Perhaps we might not be as educated as we thought we were! And yet, as Albert Mohler pointed out, “growth as a Christian disciple is closely tied to the reading of the Bible, as well as worthy Christian books.”
That’s why the decline in Bible reading is sad, because Christians who don’t read don’t grow. But don’t take Albert Mohler’s word for it. The Apostle Peter exhorts us, “like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation.” (1 Peter 2:2) This milk is “the milk of the Word”, as older English translations rendered it, as is abundantly clear from Peter’s preceding remarks about “the living and abiding Word of God”.
The importance of the Word of God—The Bible—is borne out by the witness of church history, where many have committed their lives—all too literally in some cases—to bringing the Word of God to their people in their own language. And that literal commitment of life continues in our own day, though seldom in western lands. Such a recognition of the importance of The Bible is also evidenced by the Jewish care and carefulness in transmitting the sacred text, for which all God’s people must surely be thankful.
So why should we be neglectful of The Bible? I am sure each of us could list many different reasons. Perhaps there is little or no time to read. Yet there is lots of time devoted to watching television and engaging in entertainment. We can certainly find time for the trivial (you can see I’ve just started reading Neil Postman’s book Amusing Ourselves to Death).
The reasons for lack of Bible reading must be deeper. We do not read because we do not see the need. And I suspect this is reinforced by the cultural pressure against reading (as Mohler has pointed out), and an increasing de-emphasis on The Bible in many modern churches. If the pastor reads less from The Bible in the services, so will the flock in their homes. Thank God for pastors and preachers who unashamedly read and faithfully preach from the Scriptures week by week.
Why then should we read? Specifically, why should we read The Bible? Look no further than what Peter wrote:
- It is the Word of God. It is that important. No other book is like it, or deserves our attention more. The Bible is the Word of God.
- It will aid our Christian growth. No other book, secular or Christian, can come close, simply because this book is God’s book. They may stimulate. They may motivate. They may even convict. But this book will transform because the Word of God is applied to the heart and mind by the Spirit of God himself.