For a while now the church has observed that America is living in a post-Christian society. That is, we are living in a society in which many people are growing up not knowing a thing about the Bible let alone having read one. For generations within America, even the average person who did not attend church had a basic knowledge of the contents of the Bible. This is not the case anymore. What is worse, this post-Christian situation has worked its way into the church. The church has become unfamiliar with the Bible, the very book it claims to base its beliefs and knowledge of salvation on.
So what do we do about this situation the church has found itself in? In his short and powerful book, Bible Revival: Recommitting Ourselves to One Book, Kenneth Berding boldly claims that the church needs a revival of the Bible. The church needs to get back to being “people of the book” (the Bible) and recommit themselves to knowing and obeying it. He succinctly states, “It is my conviction that we will never see anything that lasts – that is, we will never see anything worth calling a revival of the Holy Spirit – unless we recommit ourselves to the Bible” (12).
The contemporary church has more Biblical resources at its finger tips and yet it might be described as the most Biblically illiterate generation ever. So how is it that the church has come to the place, as Berding believes, that it is living through a spiritual famine of Bible knowledge? In chapter one Berding cites several reasons for how the church has become famished with the Bible. While all of them were spot on, two of them hit home for me. First, we are overconfident in the Biblical knowledge we already have. Even though I want to now more I can easily fall into the diluted ditch of believing I know enough already. I skim the pages of Scripture instead of taking my time to really soak up the richness before me. Second, we are too distracted by other things we have convinced ourselves that are necessary for the happiness of our lives. For me, I can let the reading of other books about the Bible get in my way of the actual reading of the Bible. This is something I find myself repenting of too often.
The second chapter addresses a more fundamental problem within the church regarding its attitude towards and view of the Bible itself. He believes Christians do not believe the Bible is sufficient and clear. It is not sufficient to give me what I need for life and godliness nor is it clear enough to communicate to things to me. Citing passages like 2 Peter 1:3-4, Psalm 19 and 2 Timothy 3:16-17, the author simply and clearly shows how God has given us, in Scripture, all the Christian needs for life and godliness. Regarding the clarity of the Bible, Berding insightfully points out that what often times keeps us from seeing what Scripture does clearly tell us is ourselves. We too easily dismiss passages relevant to our lives because of the sinfulness of our hearts. Further, and worse so, we do not even turn to Scripture to see what it does say about something, but rather, we turn to the latest self-help book or popular sociologist and psychologist.
The third and fourth chapters address the basics to properly interpreting and applying Scripture. For interpretation the author gives five simple steps: context, genre, cultural situation, allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture and remembering the overarching storyline of the Bible. Much misinterpretation of Scripture can be traced back to failing in one of these areas. Following interpretation is application. Proper interpretation is necessary for proper application. There is nothing worse than sitting through a sermon or Bible study in which a passage of Scripture is treated like papier-mâché -cut to pieces. In addition to guiding Christians on proper interpretation and application, Berding roots out a few reasons for why we have a hard time getting the Bible right. For one, we too often come to the Bible assuming what the answer already is which causes us to read passages into that viewpoint. Another is that we come to the Bible from a therapeutic standpoint looking for it to meet our expectations and meet our “felt” needs. Berding states,
People who try to apply the Bible therapeutically may ‘find’ the answers in the Bible for their ‘needs,’ since that’s what they are looking for. A therapeutic orientation significantly alters the way you apply the Bible. When you know how you are going to apply the Bible ahead of time, it actually doesn’t matter a whole lot what passage you are reading; you will make everything in the Bible answer your felt needs. This way of thinking about life is so deeply ingrained in some of us that without a radical change of direction in our thinking (repentance) we will never learn how to apply the Bible the way God intends. (71-72)
Connecting these thoughts to the previous discussion on the sufficiency and clarity of Scripture he continues with the following,
Everything needed for life and godliness is found in the Bible. But that doesn’t mean that everything we ‘feel’ we need, whether self-fulfillment, freedom from pain, or job satisfaction, is found in the Bible. Felt needs are not true needs of the human heart. (72)
The final two chapters of the book deal with obeying and speaking the Word. In regards to obedience, people, especially children, have a hard time doing what they are told. We are masters of deflection and avoidance (85). For some professing Christians the words of Scripture have no more claim on their lives than do powerfully written words of poetry. The words of Scripture may be emotionally moving when read but stop short of moving the heart and mind into action. What’s more is that there might be many people who read the Bible thinking they are Christians when in fact they are not. They lack the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives that spurs them onto and into repentance of sin and obedience to the Word. After providing the reader with many reasons as to why the Bible does not have the place in the lives of Christians that is should, he closes chapter six with some practical ways in which we can bring it back to its rightful place. For one, churches need to be more centered on the Word. Fellowship and community projects are both ways in which we can obey the Word but we need avenues in the church, beyond the Sunday sermon, in order for Christians to study the Bible together. We need Sunday School, small groups, and even more academic gatherings within the church to believers to grow deeper in their knowledge and understanding of the Bible. We need men to lead their homes in family devotions and parents need to follow Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and speak of the work of the triune God in all of life.
There is little dispute, and the evidence is overwhelming, that the contemporary church needs a revival of the Bible as central to its existence. Bible Revival is a clarion call for all the church to return to the one book through which God has revealed all it needs for life and godliness – the Bible. With clarity, humility, honesty and the experience of teaching today’s generation of Christians, Berding is calling the church back to the life giving words of the prophets, apostles and Jesus – the Bible. I heartily agree with everything Berding has said. My only critique is that in pointing out the many reasons for why the church is famished when it comes to Scripture I think he left out that too often it has also some from a famine in our pulpits of the preaching and teaching of the Bible. The church has a role in this as well and it is something pastors need to repent of.
I commend this book to all Christians and ask parents and church leaders to take special note and apply it to their ministries.
NOTE: I received this book for free from Weaver Book Company through Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for an honest review. I was under no obligation to provide a favorable review and the words and thoughts expressed are my own.