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THE TRUTH OF THE BOOK
John Ortberg states
"It’s a strange thing: the book has never been so accessible. According to Guinness Book of Records, L. Ron Hubbard’s writings of scientology have been translated into 65 languages; the Koran is supposed to be read in Arabic so it hasn’t been translated as much; the Book of Mormon is in about 100 languages. But 2,656 languages have all or some of the Bible. Some 65 million copies of the Bible are brought or distributed in the U.S. every year--nothing else is a close second. The average house has at least three. People cheer the Bible, buy the Bible, give the Bible, own the Bible-they just don’t actually read the Bible. According to George Gallup: One Third of those surveyed know who delivered the Sermon on the Mount. Fewer than half can name the first book of the Bible; 80 percent of born-again Christians believe the phrase Go helps those who help themselves is in the Bible (it’s Ben Franklin, if you’re curious). So I’m thinking a lot these days about how to help the people that God brings my way to know and love the book" (Article People of The Book, pages 37-40 from Leadership Edition Winter 2008).
GENERATIONS AND THE BIBLE
A new research report from the Barna Group examines recent nationwide studies on how different generations of American adults view and use the Bible. For the purposes of this research, the Mosaic generation refers to adults who are currently ages 18 to 25; Busters are those ages 26 to 44; Boomers are 45 to 63; and Elders are 64-plus.
There is often more that unites the various generations than divides them. The Barna research regarding the Bible confirms the central role this revered text has for most Americans. A majority of each of the four generations believes that the Bible is a sacred or holy book. Another commonality is that millions within each of the generations report reading the pages of Scripture in the last week.
There is also significant generational overlap regarding people’s views on the nature of the Bible. Similar proportions of the generations embrace the most conservative and most liberal views. For instance, the highest view of the Bible is that it is the actual word of God and should be taken literally, word for word, is embraced by one-quarter of Mosaics (27%), Busters (27%), and Boomers (23%), and one-third of Elders (34%). The extreme view on the other end is that the Bible is not inspired by God is embraced by proportions that are also statistically close to one another, including Mosaics (25%), Busters (19%), Boomers (22%), and Elders (22%).
However, despite these similarities, the Barna studies show that the youngest generations are charting a new, unique course related to the Bible. Here are the types of changes being forged by young adults:
Less Sacred: While most Americans of all ages identify the Bible as sacred, the drop-off among the youngest adults is striking: 9 out of 10 Boomers and Elders described the Bible as sacred, which compares to 8 out of 10 Busters (81%) and just 2 out of 3 Mosaics (67%).
¡öLess Accurate ¨C Young adults are significantly less likely than older adults to strongly agree that the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches. Just 30% of Mosaics and 39% of Busters firmly embraced this view, compared with 46% of Boomers and 58% of Elders.
More Universalism: Among Mosaics, a majority (56%) believes the Bible teaches the same spiritual truths as other sacred texts, which compares with 4 out of 10 Busters and Boomers, and one-third of Elders.
Skepticism of Origins: Another generational difference is that young adults are more likely to express skepticism about the original manuscripts of the Bible than is true of older adults.
Less Engagement: While many young adults are active users of the Bible, the pattern shows a clear generational drop-off, the younger the person, the less likely then are to read the Bible. In particular, Busters and Mosaics are less likely than average to have spent time alone in the last week praying and reading the Bible for at least 15 minutes. Interestingly, none of the four generations were particularly likely to say they aspired to read the Bible more as a means of improving their spiritual lives.
Bible Appetite: Despite the generational decline in many Bible metrics, one departure from the typical pattern is the fact that younger adults, especially Mosaics (19%), express a slightly above-average interest in gaining additional Bible knowledge. This compares with 12% of Boomers and 9% of Elders.
David Kinnaman, who directed the analysis of the research, explained that the central theme of young people’s approach to the Bible is skepticism. They question the Bible’s history as well as its relevance to their lives, leading many young people to reject the Bible as containing everything one needs to live a meaningful life. This mindset certainly has its challenges but it also raises the possibility of using their skepticism as an entry point to teaching and exploring the content of the Bible in new ways.
The president of the Barna Group pointed out that since many young people want to learn about the Bible it should be an opportunity for Christian leaders.Perhaps young people want to participate more in the process of learning, not simply attend Bible lectures or be trained in classrooms. Mosaics and Busters have come to expect experiences that appear unscripted and interactive, that allow them to be open and honest with their questions, that are technologically stimulating, that are done alongside peers and within trusted relationships, and that give them the chance to be creative and visual. Their expectations may or may not be entirely healthy, but without considering these issues, the Bible will continue to lose hold on the next generation.
A new believer was on a plane with an intellectual (a man educated beyond his intelligence). He sneered at her reading the Bible and asked if she believed it?
"Jonah and the whale story?" (A great fish)
"How did it happen?"
"Don't know, but I'll find out when I get to heaven."
"What if Jonah isn't there?"
"Then I guess you'll have to ask him for me."
Source: Galaxie Software. (2002; 2002). 10,000 Sermon Illustrations. Biblical Studies Press.
God does prefer one way of living over another. And that which He prefers is based on a bedrock commitment to His word and His ways. And the results are always supernatural.
A TV camera crew was on assignment in Southern Florida filming the widespread destruction of Hurricane Andrew. In one scene, amid the devastation and debris stood one house on its foundation. The owner was cleaning up the yard when the reporter approached.
“Sir, why is your house the only one standing?” asked the reporter. “How did you manage to escape the severe damage of the hurricane?”
“I built the house myself,” the man replied. ̶...
Maybe you’ve heard about the gorilla in a zoo holding a Bible in one hand & a book about evolution in the other. He was looking confused, so someone asked, “What are you doing?” The gorilla answered, “Well, I’m trying to decide if I’m my brother’s keeper or my keeper’s brother.”
There’s a story I heard once, about an man who was trying to cut costs, so he began to gradually substitute sawdust in the oats of his mule. Everything was fine for a period, and the animal was satisfied with sawdust. Then he died. We see the same in spiritual life. We exchange truth with error in our believer’s lives and it’s great for awhile.... but before you know it they are dead.
Once the Devil was walking along with one of his cohorts. They saw a man ahead of them pick up something shiny. "What did he find?" asked the cohort. "A piece of the truth," the Devil replied.
"Doesn’t it bother you that he found a piece of the truth?" asked the cohort. "No," said the Devil, "I will see to it that he makes a religion out of it."
--Klyne Snodgrass, Between Two Truths - Living with Biblical Tensions, 1990, Zondervan Publishing House, p. 35.
There is a tale told of that great English actor Macready. An eminent preacher once said to him: "I wish you would explain to me something." "Well, what is it? I don’t know that I can explain anything to a preacher."
"What is the reason for the difference between you and me? You are appearing before crowds night after night with fiction, and the crowds come wherever you go. I am preaching the essential and unchangeable truth, and I am not getting any crowd at all."
Macready’s answer was this: "This is quite simple. I can tell ...
Theologians tell a story to illustrate how Christ?s triumph presently benefits our lives:
Imagine a city under siege. The enemy that surrounds the city will not let anyone or anything leave. Supplies are running low, and the citizens are fearful. But in the dark of the night, a spy sneaks through the enemy lines. He has rushed to the city to tell the people that in another place the main enemy force has been defeated; the leaders have already surrendered. The people do not need to be afraid. It is only a matter of time until the besieging troops receive the news and lay down their weapons.
Similarly, we may seem now to be surrounded by the forces of evil?disease, injustice, oppression, death. But the enemy has actually been defeated at Calvary. Things are not the way they seem to be. It is only a matter of time until it becomes clear to all that the battle is really over.
Richard J. Mouw, Uncommon Decency, pp. 149-150.
Evangelish Robert Sumner told the story:
When George Gibson Polley was a boy in Richmond, he hit a baseball onto the roof of a six-story building. Since with most sandlot games, it was the only ball the boys had, George promptly climbed up the outside of the building and retrieved it. This was the start of scaling buildings that eventually earned for Polley the title “Human Fly.” Before his career came to a screeching halt at the age of 29 — not from a fall, but a fatal brain tumor — George scaled the outside of more than 2,000 buildings.
He climbed the Custom House in Boston, three buildings in a single day at Hartford, and one time he made it to the thirtieth floor of the Woolworth Building in NYC (at the time the world’s tallest) before being apprehended and arrested by a policeman. It seems that he did not have a permit. Most of the time, however, everything was legal and on the up and up, with store owners hiring him for grand openings and an assortment of sales. He could earn $200 a climb — more than many men were earning in over a month during those depression days.
While I cannot say for certain now, I think it was Polley who came to my hometown on two different occasions when I was just a boy. One time it was to scale the outside of the largest department store building in the city, located at the main intersection, the Chapman-Turner Department Store. the other time was to climb a new hotel located a block away. On both occasions, I recall standing on the sidewalk across the street, open-mouthed, heart in throat, gripping tightly my father’s hand, as Polley slowly, yet confidently, climbed to the top. Since it was standard fare in his act, I assume he pretended to slip and start to fall at least a time or two during each climb, hanging by his fingertips from a ledge.
Polley’s financial success launched a number of other “human fly” careers in those bitter depression days. One of the exciting dare-devils had been announced to climb a large department store building in downtown Los Angeles. A great throng assembled to watch and the man, slowly and carefully, climbed floor after floor up the outside of the building.
When he reached a point very near the top, the crowd watched him feel above his head, both to the right and to the left, for something he could use to raise himself higher. Eventually he spotted what seemed to be a jutting brick or a piece of stone. Since it was inches beyond his reach, he ventured everything on a cat-like spring, wrapping his fingers around the object.
While the crowd below watched in horror, the human fly fell with a scream to the sidewalk and was smashed into pieces. When medical attendants pried back his fingers to see what he had clutched, they found a spider’s web! he had risked everything on what proved to be dried froth! —Robert Sumner.