Are Christians Still a People of the Book?

Within the last week, our local newspaper ran a story about the decline of reading in America.  Just a few years ago, it was thought that Harry Potter would be the savior for many school children (not just the wizarding world, or the publishing industry!).  Many kids who had not previously been readers were fascinated with Potter and his world and were reading.  Yet, what reaserch has found is that while Potter gained many fans, he didn’t make many readers.  Unfortunately, many of those kids only read the Harry Potter books and nothing much, if anything in between. 

What’s made this problem of lack of reading children so bad?  Parents who do not read.  The same article went on to talk about how homes are no longer being built with bookcases, or designed for small, in-home libraries.  One real estate agent even said that putting in ‘built-in’ books cases would devalue the home! 

None of this bodes well for Christians.  In fact, it seems that we are not much different from the world in this way.   The truth is, Christians have historically been known as ‘peeople of the Book,’ that is, the Bible.  But we seem to not be all that interested in reading it, or anything else anymore.

Bible translations are becoming easier and easier to read.   And more and more Bible Study curriculum are dvd based.  (To be fair, I use dvd curriculum at my church.  But those that I show usually either mix short clips with Bible reading/study, or require some reading study to have been before watching the dvd.)  Based on some people’s reactions, I almost feel apologetic sometimes asking people to read the Bible during the week!  As a culture, we are losing our ability to be ‘good readers’ and with that, a commitment to read the Bible.  That cannot be good!

So, what are we to do?  Perhaps some suggestions are in order?

Make reading a priority in your life.  If you want to get good at something, you have to practice it.  Reading is no different.  I hear people all the time say to me, ‘but I am not a strong reader!”  Well, you can correct that by reading more often.  In many cases, practice does make perfect.  Read the newspaper, read magazines, read books (sacred and secular), and above all – read the Bible.

Understand the priority the Bible gives to the Bible – especially reading it.  The Kings of Israel were required to read the Law closely enough to make their own hand-written copy (Deut 17:18-20).  This makes sense, after all how can one lead a people by something he has never read?   Paul also writes to Timothy and tells him to think over what he writes (2 Tim 2:7).  This implies he has read Paul’s words and should do so over and over again.  If the Bible is God’s Word, then we should we make our life’s goal to know it inside and out.  We should knows its every nook and cranny, the famous passages and the obscure ones.  For to know well God’s Word is to know well the Author of the Word. 

Parents, read with your kids and to your kids.   Study after study has shown that the biggest influence on making children readers is having parents who encourage them to read.  Read lots of things with them – everything from Dr. Seuss to the Bible.  Read with them as well as to them.  Here, I mean, sit down with your kids and let them read some books, while you read a book.  Just sit together and read.  Kids learn by example and if they see you making time for reading, they will likely do so as well.

Hopefully, we are not close to experiencing something of what God told Amos – “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God, “when I will send a famine on the land—    not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11, ESV).  

For our good, and the glory of Christ, let us pray and commit ourselves to remaining a people of the Book.

 

9 thoughts on “Are Christians Still a People of the Book?

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  3. Wonders for Oyarsa says:

    Definitely an important word for all of us. Reading the Bible can be difficult, but in my experience it is always rewarding. For the last year or so I have been steadily blogging through the entire Bible – grasping hold of each passage until it blesses me.

    However, I do take issue of referring to us as “the people of the Book.” This is a Muslim term for Christians and Jews. While the Bible is crucial, the book is not what defines us ultimately. What defines us is Jesus Christ – hence the term “little Christ”. It is his cross that is the controlling symbol for our beliefs and praxis, it is his resurrection that gives us hope that our task is not in vain, it is his gift of the Spirit that empowers us to move forward. We read the Bible, first and foremost, because it is the inspired witness of him.

  4. johnbotkin says:

    “blogging through the entire Bible”? wow – i am impressed! kudos to you, my brother. i understand what you are saying. although, i would not say it is simply the cross that is the controlling symbol for us. the cross was not an important image for several centuries after Christ. i would say though that the entire Christ event – birth, life, death, resurrection (or, really, the gospel) – is the controlling factor.

    but how do we know about this event? how do we have the testimony of those who lived with him, saw his death and resurrection firsthand? God’s book – the holy Scriptures. do we worship them? no! but all of them point us to Christ. i think it was calvin who said, in the old testament Christ is prophesied, in the gospels he is revealed, in acts he is preached, in the epistles he is explained, and in revelation he is expected. i love that. Jesus Christ is the focus of the Bible, because he is the focus of God’s redemptive plan for the entire created order, including his people.

    thus in a very real sense, we are (i believe) accurately called “a people of the book.” all of our lives are shaped and guided by the Bible, which is itself God’s revelation of himself to the world. by the power of his Spirit, God speaks to us through his word – reminding us of the gospel, encouraging us by the gospel, cultivating within us the Spirit of Christ by the gospel.

    anyway, that’s my thoughts. 😉

  5. Wonders for Oyarsa says:

    I think the cross was a key symbol throughout – look at the way Paul talks of “the cross of Christ”. But overall I very much agree with what you say.

    The key is to keep in mind what the Bible is for. Because there is a very real danger that people see the Bible as essentially the incarnation of God’s Word, rather than Christ. Hence books like “the Prayer of Jabez” that draws a whole spiritual practice from a small segment of the Old Testament without being filtered through Jesus. The term “people of the book” can reinforce this notion. Rather, we are the church of Christ.

    This is a prayer we use in the Anglican church:

    Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

    We read the Bible to see Jesus. We are his people, and read the book for this purpose above all.

    I must sound really fussy here – again, I totally dig your post. I just wanted to explain why I don’t like the term “people of the book”.

  6. johnbotkin says:

    i understand your concern. and sometimes ‘fussiness’ results in theological precision. so, no harm done! thanks for your comments, brother.

    john

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