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Why So Many Say "I Don't Understand the Bible!"

The Bible, the world's all-time best-seller, has been translated into more than 1,400 languages. Yet the Bible has been called "the book nobody knows." There is a very basic reason why!

   Here is an eye opening example of the appalling ignorance of the Bible among most professing Christians today, as related by a startled newspaper reporter:
   "Some months ago, a Protestant pastor administered a Bible quiz to his congregation. The questions were very simple. Anyone with a general knowledge of the Bible should have been able to answer all of them easily.
   "The results staggered the pastor. Only five percent of his flock made a commendable grade on the test. Fifteen percent failed to give a single correct answer. Sixty percent were unable to name the four gospels. Seventy-five percent could not identify Calvary (Golgotha) as the place where Jesus was crucified.
   "Some congregations might do better than that," continued the reporter, "but not many. The vast majority of Americans today are Bible illiterates. They simply have never read the book which they profess to regard as the 'Word of God.' "
   The newspaper reporter went on to explain why most professing Christians do not read or study the Bible.
   "A great many people have turned away from the Bible because, when they do try to read it, they find they cannot understand it.... To the modern reader, it has a remote and antiquarian flavor. It is likely to leave him with the impression the Bible is an ancient history book that has no real relevance to his life here and now."
   Have you had this impression? Have you tried to read the Bible, only to throw up your hands and say, "I can't understand it"?

Hallmark of our times

   Paradoxically, this biblical ignorance is considered respectable today.
   "It is one of the curious phenomena of modern times," comments J. B. Phillips in The Young Church in Action, "that it is considered perfectly respectable to be abysmally ignorant of the Christian faith. Men and women who would be deeply ashamed of having their ignorance exposed in matters of poetry, music or painting, for example, are not in the least perturbed to be found ignorant of the New Testament."
   And so the Bible has become little more than an obsolete book which millions claim to believe, but few actually read, study or understand.
   What are the underlying reasons for such widespread lack of understanding? Why aren't people ashamed of not knowing what's contained in their Bibles?

How some theologians view the Bible

   You might expect atheists and agnostics to deny the divine origin and purpose of the Bible. But would you expect that some of today's leading ministers and theologians are foremost among the critics of the Bible?
   One such minister of a large church denomination said: "No mainstream Christian church accepts the Bible as the literal interpretation of the Word of God. Some of it is folklore, some legend, some tribal history."
   How does he know? Answer: He doesn't! He has merely assumed as true the erroneous theories and hypotheses taught today in the seminaries and graduate schools of theology.
   Listen to these words from another well-known minister: "We know now that every idea in the Bible started from primitive and childlike origins." He said it is an "impossible attempt to harmonize the Bible with itself, to make it speak with unanimous voice, to resolve its conflicts and contradictions."
   What a paradox! This man was looked up to as a minister of God. Yet he attempted to discredit the very Book he was supposed to uphold and teach.
   In the introduction to a well known modern version of the Bible, the translator claims that many books of the Bible are "notes by disciples, worked up into literary papers which have been repeatedly edited, sometimes by pious collectors."
   This learned scholar thought that the earlier portions of the Bible stemmed from "the natural desire to gather up the primitive traditions of the people."
   Still another theologian summed up the modern trend this way: "We must take the Bible seriously, but not literally."
   Certainly statements such as these by well-known ministers, theologians and Bible scholars have directly ' discouraged many from trying to read and understand the Bible. What else could you expect the average person to think about the Bible when men looked up to as biblical specialists and experts declare it to be a pious fraud?
   Most people, including church laymen and many in the clergy, have not taken the time to really look into the Bible and study it for themselves. And so most people continue to carelessly assume the Bible teaches hundreds of conflicting ideas — that it is irrational and irrelevant in our advanced age — and that the Bible is responsible for the hundreds of differing sects and denominations we find in the world today.
   Nothing could be further from the truth!

What is the Bible?

   The Bible is God's revelation of knowledge that humans are unable to discover for themselves.
   For example: God did not directly reveal the laws of physics in the Bible. He equipped man with the powers and abilities to discover these laws for himself.
   But man has not been able to discover what he is, on the other hand, and why he was put here on earth — whether there is a real purpose for human life and what that purpose is. Man has not been able to discover the true way to peace, happiness, abundant well-being and real success. The Bible reveals this knowledge!
   The Bible is God's instruction manual to show His supreme physical creation how to live. The Bible is the foundation of knowledge! It gives the true approach to the acquisition of knowledge in the fields of history, education, psychology, sociology and health. It reveals basic principles concerning business, science, the arts, law, government, philosophy and religion. The Bible also explains the meaning of the chaotic times in which we live. And it shows us how peace, prosperity, success and happiness are coming to all the world — in our lifetime!
   People could begin to understand the Bible if they were really willing to let it teach them, and if they would accept it for what it says. The Bible is plain and simple. It means exactly what it says. If we take it as it is, letting it interpret itself, it makes real sense.

You can understand it

   For three full decades now, the Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course has been helping hundreds of thousands to become biblical literates. This unique course has led more than one-and-one-half million students in almost every nation on earth to a greater knowledge and understanding of the most-misunderstood book in the world.
   This course is a totally different method of Bible study. It makes the Bible easy to understand. It is dynamic, down to earth. It pulls no punches. It tells the truth straight from the Bible.
   The Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course is designed to guide you through a systematic study of your own Bible, which is the only textbook you will need. It is not a study of men's ideas about the Bible, but a study of the Bible itself.
   Many of the informative articles you read in the Good News magazine can only deal briefly with certain aspects of various subjects because of limited space. But each 16-page, beautifully illustrated, monthly lesson of this course provides ample space to present an in-depth study of each topic.
   Many subjects of vital interest to you today are thoroughly explored and made clear with these lessons. They direct you step by step to the plain, simple answers in your own Bible! (The "Ministudy" on pages 19 and 20 is a sample of the method of study employed by the course.)
   This course helps you find the answers to the really big questions of life you have always wondered about.
   Students from all walks of life are enrolled in the course, including ministers of religion, and are enthusiastically discovering new truth in their Bibles with the guidance of each lesson. They are learning that there is hope for the future — that there are solutions to the seemingly unsolvable problems of today. They are learning to understand Bible prophecy and the principles that lead to success, financial security and a happy, abundant life.
   But perhaps you might think that a college correspondence course would be too difficult for you — that you wouldn't understand it, or that you're too old to study. If you think so, you couldn't be more wrong. This course is designed for people of all ages — for you! And it makes studying the Bible enjoyable and rewarding — the experience of a lifetime.

What our students say

   Thousands of our students have written expressing their sincere appreciation for the lessons. We'd like to share with you some of those letters that show how our students are actually understanding the Bible for the first time. They are finding that the Bible is relevant to their own lives here and now. Notice the following letter:
   I wish to express my thanks to you for the Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course. It is truly amazing how alive and exciting the Holy Bible is. I have never known how up-to-date the Bible is, nor how relevant the prophetic events are to our 20th-century world. Thank you so much for enlightening me about God's inspired Word; I needed this understanding so very much.

   Read what these two students discovered with the aid of the Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course:
   Your Bible correspondence course is the most rewarding and remarkable course that has ever been put together. I am learning more about my Bible and how to understand it, since I started, than I have ever learned from reading the Bible myself, or from any minister I have ever heard or talked to.
   I am up to Lesson 3 of your correspondence course, and am amazed at what I have discovered in the Bible. Your method of study makes it easy to learn. I, like most people, thought the Bible would be hard to understand, but it really isn't. I would highly recommend this course to anyone.

   Even with a doctor's degree in divinity, this student learned more from the Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course:
   I graduated from three Bible schools and have a doctor's degree in divinity, but I have learned more from your correspondence course than anywhere else. You make it so plain to understand with the scripture verses to back up what you have written. It is just beautiful and I'm so thankful for it.
North Carolina

   A well-pleased Canadian wrote the following letter:
   Before hearing the World Tomorrow broadcast I had many unanswered questions that were so big that a psychiatrist was unwilling to answer them. The only answer I received from him was that I should take a trip to Europe, go hunting, roam the countryside to get close to nature, take up sailboating, get married, etc. This didn't answer any of my questions. Through the Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course I have received direct and workable answers to all my questions.
   I am now learning the real purpose in life and receiving blessings beyond my wildest dreams.

   A well educated person wrote this letter:
   Since I had the advantage of a good deal of this world's education, I feel qualified to make this next statement. Although the correspondence course is written so that anyone who can read can easily do the work in quality and thoroughness of instruction, it is easily the equivalent of courses given for college credit by the better colleges and universities. It is really superior.

   Many are surprised to find that limited schooling is no barrier to studying the Bible with these lessons, as this student discovered:
   Please tell people they don't have to have a high education to take the Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course. I didn't finish high school and that kept me from writing for it for a long time. Now there isn't enough money to buy the lessons from me that I have received.
   You, too, can begin to understand the knowledge that really counts. The only qualification necessary for taking this course is the ability to read. As the last student said, no college or other advanced education is necessary.
   These monthly lessons are plainly and interestingly written. And there are no assignments to send in — just a test after every fourth lesson so that you can check your own progress.
   Remember, there is no tuition cost. The course is absolutely free.
   Will you let the Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course make the Bible 100 percent relevant to your life today? Just write to us at our address nearest you and ask to be enrolled. A list of our addresses is on the inside front cover.
   Do it right now lest you forget. You'll be glad you took advantage of what so many have called "the opportunity of a lifetime"!

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Good News MagazineOctober-November 1984VOL. XXXI, NO. 9