Bringing Fun to Serious Bible Engagement

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One floor of the Museum will be devoted to vivid reminders of the impact of the Bible on society, government, and culture — on every continent. Another floor will include an engaging history of the Bible — with many fascinating artifacts. On yet another floor, many of the awesome stories of the Bible will be presented through vivid electronic reproduction — as well as full-sized, livable scenes from the Hebrew Scriptures. We all will also be able to walk into a life-sized, reproduced setting within the Nazareth Jesus knew in his childhood, youth, and much of his adult life and ministry. The walk-in scenes from the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament are separated — both (1) to honor fully the Hebrew roots of the Bible, and also (2) to keep clear the Christian distinctions between the Old and New Testaments. Leading Jewish and Christian scholars and spiritual leaders are advising MOTB leaders and are pleased with its mission and plans. MOTB's commitment to science and scholarship is excellent as is also its commitment to interactive discovery, adventure, and engagement for everyone who visits the Museum.

When it opens in 2017, each floor will certainly enhance the visitors' Biblical imaginations — for adults, youth, and children. The experience of MOTB will make their own daily Bible engagement all the more meaningful and appealing for years to come.

(Courtesy of Paul de Vries)(l-r) Shannon Bennett, Director of Community Relations of Museum of the Bible; Paul de Vries, and Adam Byrd, a manager for Clark Construction during the hard-hat tour of the construction site of the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C.

In my mind, the comparisons between CMSI and MOTB remain instructive. The very fitting, long-standing motto for CMSI has been "We bring fun to science." Even though MOTB is already sponsoring some of the highest level Biblical scholarship and MOTB's purposes are totally and deeply serious, I still predict that MOTB will also bring fun to Bible engagement — for all the adults, youth, and children who visit.

Those of us who cherish the Bible as the Word of God justifiably are upset, even bewildered, by the current continuing assault on the Bible's place in our culture. Clearly, we live in a time of attempted Bible degradation — with university professors mocking it, media ignoring it, most Christians rarely reading it, and many seminaries giving it diminished attention. In the brief three years from 2011 to 2014, according to the Barna Group, the percentage of American people that believe that the Bible is "just another book" has nearly doubled from 10% to 19%. In that same brief three year time frame, Americans have become less oriented to believe that the Bible is "sacred," dropping from 86% to 79%.

However, having the Museum of the Bible on the horizon is a truly exciting gift that can help to change these percentages and attitudes. And of all places, it is being developed in Washington, DC – in the shadow of the Capitol building!

Tragically, some people have thought of "church" as "museum"—with only thrilling stories of yesteryear, dead displays looking alive, and with a "do not touch" attitude toward vibrant spiritual empowerment. Elsewhere, I have called this pathological attitude "formaldehyde faith". Formaldehyde faith is the opposite of genuine, vibrant faith — a failure we should avoid like the plague.

Just as vital churches are not "museums," the well prayed-over and wisely planned Museum of the Bible will be a vibrant place that will serve the purposes of the living Lord and his vibrant Church.

So please pray that this special Museum will be another effectual tool for bringing discovery, adventure, and fun back into serious Bible engagement — for the sake of our churches, ministries, families, and personal lives. Now where did I put my MOTB hard-hat?

Dr. Paul de Vries is the president of New York Divinity School, and a pastor, speaker and author. Since 2004, he has served on the Board of the National Association of Evangelicals, representing 40 million evangelical Americans.