With Bible illiteracy plaguing Christians in areas even where Scriptures are in abundance, one bishop is urging churches to use hits by bands such as U2 and the Beatles to help their congregants connect with the teachings contained in the Bible.
"For many people the language of the Bible has become inaccessible," says the Rt. Rev. Nick Baines, bishop of Croydon in South London, “and yet pop song writers can make a connection with people because their language is fresh.”
"They are able to open our imagination to a way of thinking about God that we've become deaf to in church language.”
In his latest book, Finding Faith, Baines argues that Christian themed pop music can convey deep theological concepts in a way that is more accessible to the younger generation.
"Songs get more into the soul than simply reading an ancient book,” he told the Telegraph.
But Baines emphasizes that while some songs can get people closer to understanding the Bible’s messages and themes, they are limited and, of course, cannot replace Bible reading.
“My point is that many people are disconnected from the Bible and don’t even begin to read or hear it,” the bishop told The Christian Post. “Songs are not an alternative to the Bible, but connect with people in ways that can open them up to what the Bible is all about.”
Baines hopes that songs such as U2’s “I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For” will awaken people to God and lead them to want to engage themselves in Bible reading at a time when the number of people who read the Bible has declined dramatically in countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom.
In the United States, fewer than half the 1,002 youths polled by the Gallup organization in 2005 knew that Jesus turned water into wine at the Cana wedding, and nearly two-thirds couldn't identify a quote from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount or the relation of the road to Damascus to the Apostle Paul's conversion. About one-in-ten thought Moses was one of Jesus' 12 apostles.
“The Bible is an amazing collection of books that we've allowed to become banal," Baines commented.
"For many people it is a closed book and asking them to read it is a lost cause, which is a tragedy,” he told the Telegraph.
Music, meanwhile, is influential in challenging people to think of some of life's big questions, Baines added.
"I have read the Bible through many times and I have enjoyed art all over the world,” the bishop reported. “But it was a simple song from [Bruce] Cockburn's early period that gave me the words to hang all this together and provide me with a vocabulary for connecting the bigness of the universe with the smallness of men in a language of worship."
Finding Faith has been backed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, who described the book as "profound and challenging."
Artists highlighted for exploring Christian themes in their music include Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan and John Lennon, who famously claimed the Beatles were bigger than Jesus.
Christian Post reporter Eric Young in Washington contributed to this article.