Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Bible Illiteracy and the Next Great Awakening

David Gelernter—a senior fellow in Jewish Thought at the Shalem Center, Jerusalem, and a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard—recently wrote a fascinating column entitled Bible Illiteracy. This quote in particular stood out to me:

It’s impossible to find one global solution to the problem of Bible teaching in America. But it’s easy to find one global hope. America is fertile ground for Great Awakenings—mass movements in which large chunks of the population return to their religious roots. We haven’t had one for awhile; we are overdue. Great Awakenings are big, dramatic events that take off like rockets and burn out like rockets, after brief but spectacular careers. Even so, many people find in the aftermath that their life-trajectories have been changed forever.

The next Great Awakening will presumably be centered in the Protestant community—but will deal in friendship with America’s other religious communities. To have a Great Awakening, you need a great talker. (To change people’s ideas about religion and the Bible and God, you have to look them in the eye and speak to them from the heart.)

My guess is that our next Great Awakening will begin among college students. College students today are (spiritually speaking) the driest timber I have ever come across. Mostly they know little or nothing about religion; little or nothing about Americanism. Mostly no one ever speaks to them about truth and beauty, or nobility or honor or greatness. They are empty—spiritually bone dry—because no one has ever bothered to give them anything spiritual that is worth having. Platitudes about diversity and tolerance and multiculturalism are thin gruel for intellectually growing young people.

Let the right person speak to them, and they will turn back to the Bible with an excitement and exhilaration that will shake the country. In reading the Bible they will feel as if they are going home—which is just what they will be doing. Nothing would do America more good than a biblical homecoming.

Mr. Gelernter and I would obviously have our differences. I don’t desire a great awakening in general—my prayer is for a great awakening to the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. And Mr. Gelernter’s prose could suggest a formula: just get the right person to talk about the Bible and let the biblical homecoming begin! These caveats aside, isn’t this amazing?

In a day when many of our cultural consultants insist that we can only reach this generation by revising our concept of truth, I think that Mr. Gelernter’s challenge is more accurate. It’s simply that no one has taken the time to build a relationship with them and imparted to them a worldview of truth and beauty and and love. “They are empty—spiritually bone dry—because no one has ever bothered to give them anything spiritual that is worth having.” Wise words to ponder.

(HT: C.J. Mahaney)