If you had to admit to friends that you knew absolutely nothing about politics, nothing about the economy, nothing about health or diet, nothing about world affairs or anything else that people are apt to discuss, it would probably prove somewhat embarrassing to you. But it isn't a bit embarrassing for most people to openly confess their complete ignorance of the Bible.
In fact, it's almost a badge of respectability to say, "Me? I'm no Bible scholar" or "I've never really looked into the Bible."
Have you ever noticed, as I have, that when you stay in a motel or hotel while traveling, there is invariably a copy of the Bible in the upper drawer of a dresser or bedside stand? If you will experiment by paging through that book you will, in nine cases out of ten, find absolutely no signs of use at all. It will be one of the most carefully preserved items in the room. The bed, the couch, the chair, the dresser, everything else may be beat up. The towels may have holes in them, the plumbing may be in disrepair — but that Gideon Bible looks absolutely brand-spanking new, with the possible exception of rings on its cover from coffee cups or beer cans.
This is not to say, of course, that people don't occasionally sit around and talk about the Bible. But so often their conversation revolves around what they've heard about the Bible, what they've read about the Bible, or what others have said about the Bible, rather than about what they have found from reading the Bible themselves.
Moreover, many have totally rejected the Bible on the basis of what they think it says, never having looked into it for themselves to ascertain whether, in fact, it really says what they've been told it says. Many scientists, for example, have rejected the Bible because they have heard that it claims the earth is only 6,000 years old. (It makes no such claim. Read our free booklet Answers From Genesis for details.)
Others, seeing the sad state of the world today, have rejected the Bible — or belief in God altogether — because they think the Scriptures claim God is trying desperately to save the world now, and obviously is failing miserably in the process. The Bible, however, reveals a totally different master plan for humankind. (Read our free article "Is This the Only Day of Salvation?")
Still others find it hard to reconcile the concept of a loving, compassionate, merciful God with the specter of the eternal torment of millions in an ever burning hell. But one can search the Bible from cover to cover without turning up any mention of such a place. (Read our free booklet Is There A Real Hell Fire?)
A major part of this problem of biblical illiteracy is that people think they must leave the Bible's understanding or interpretation to the religious professionals, meaning those people who wear the frocks and collars that identify them as members of the priesthood or the clergy. In other words, if you want to sell a house, you go to a realtor. If you want to buy stocks, you go to a broker. And if you want to find out about heaven, hell, the meaning of life, or how you ought to live, you simply go to a priest, minister, or rabbi.
The trouble with this is that some of these Bible "specialists" are not as professional as you might think. Many will merely learn certain portions of the Bible, certain favorite texts they like to quote and preach from each week. As a result, many of these clergymen become like some of the guides I've heard about in the Amazon region of Brazil. As long as they stick to the trails and streams they are familiar with, they are safe. But if they wander out into a huge rain forest — such as the tractless Mato Grosso of Brazil that seems to stretch endlessly in all directions — they quickly become hopelessly lost.
Biblical illiteracy can be as prevalent among the clergy as among laymen. Surveys have shown that some clergymen cannot even correctly name the books of the Bible, much less tell you what's in them! And other surveys have revealed that many clergymen believe in the Bible to a far lesser degree than do their parishioners — but they seldom pass this fact on to their congregations.
It can be an interesting and illuminating experiment to personally read through the Bible to see what it does say and what it does not say. Read our two free booklets How To Study the Bible and Read the Book to learn how to get the most out of your study. And be sure to enroll in our twelve-lesson Bible Correspondence Course, also free and without any obligation.
Why not get started now in your personal study of the Bible to see for yourself what it really says. You may be in for a few surprises!