Few things are more obvious and alarming in our times than biblical illiteracy. Even though the human mind can absorb an enormous amount of information, mental laziness remains a scandalous and undeniable trend in popular culture and even within the church.
Few things are more obvious and alarming in our times than biblical illiteracy. Even though the human mind can absorb an enormous amount of information, mental laziness remains a scandalous and undeniable trend in popular culture and even within the church. Fewer people than ever know the most basic contents of the Bible, and that was not the case until roughly fifty years ago.
The United States is officially a secular nation. From a historical point of view, however, America is very much Christian in culture and character. The Founding Fathers were not all professing Christians, and still fewer affirmed the Bible as inerrant divine revelation, yet virtually all of them knew the Scriptures well, and a Christian worldview shaped their understanding of government. Their knowledge of the Bible reflected their childhood education, which included study of the Scriptures. In the 1960s, however, we began a dramatic shift toward a post-Christian society as atheists, pushing for a truly secular nation, challenging any kind of religious expression observed in the public sector. As a result, America is far more secular and far less knowledgeable about the Bible than we were fifty years ago.
I won’t harangue you with a long essay decrying the downfall of spiritual America. I’d rather focus on the good news: there is a solution. While there is no quick-and-easy cure-all that will suddenly eliminate the grind of biblical illiteracy, I do believe that one particular discipline more than any other will ease the burden. When I began to get serious about spiritual things, it was this discipline that helped me the most. No other decision has been as profoundly helpful to me as memorizing Scripture.
When I was younger, one of the first verses I learned came from the old King James Version, the most common translation at the time. It read, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11). A more modern rendering appears in the New International Version: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” The term hidden expresses the idea of treasuring the Bible the same way a miser hoards gold coins, keeping them in a secret vault.
Over the years, I have hoarded Bible verses, gathering a storehouse of them in my mind. I can recall more than one occasion when the memorized Word of God rescued me from sexual temptation. It was as though God pulled down an imaginary shade between the other person and me, and inscribed on the surface were the words “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7 KJV). I had committed that verse to memory as a teenager. During times when I felt profound loneliness, Scripture I had memorized rescued me from the pit of depression. Verses like Isaiah 41:10 and 49:15–16, along with Psalm 27:1 and 30:5, have brought me great comfort.