The Source of 'A.D.'s' Grit and Excitement

The history of the splendid human activity of reading especially centers around the Bible. Besides its divine inspiration, there are several reasons that make it the Best Book ever: millions of people have learned to read in order to read the Bible; the Bible text is supported by the greatest documentation; the Bible sets the records for manuscript copies and books written about it; movable type was invented to help propagate the Bible; it includes the stories that helped shape the best characters and cultures over centuries; and the Bible remains the best seller year after year.

(By CP Cartoonist Rod Anderson)Paul de Vries is an exclusive CP columnist.

Even in the very secular New York City, my town, the largest library – the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue with the iconic giant sculptures of lions in the front – features the Bible in three of its four murals in the lobby near the main reading room.

In fact, even in the officially atheist Lenin Library in Moscow in 1990, where I gave an invited lecture, all the scholars present understood my answer to their first question: "Where did you get your love of books?" "When I was growing up, the Best Book was read aloud nearly every day in our home," I answered. All the Russian scholars present immediately understood what I meant by "the Best Book." My answer then triggered an extended, lively discussion on the huge importance of the Bible in Russian history! Following that discussion, I shared briefly on the unique importance of the Bible even to our American leaders who may have not been Christians – such as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson – and answered other questions.

History and culture around the world affirm the unique, huge importance of the Bible. It is time to renew our commitment to more effectually teach and engage the Bible within all our communities.

So, how is it that not every Church has a reading program based on the Best Book? Especially with so many children reading below the standards for their grades in school, why are Churches not assertively restoring their roles as pillars of education in the community? Tottering schools cannot be the only pillars of education. Consider, too, for the children in your community that are reading at grade-level or above, additional reading fun would raise their skill levels even higher. Most parents are eager for every opportunity for their children to enhance their reading skills and their joy of learning.

The word is out that the best road to enhanced reading skills is all the reading children and youth do outside of school assignments.  Churches, libraries, and families can make the biggest difference.

Why should we let the schools presume to provide the whole education that all the children in our communities need? Why should we allow schools to get in the way of the best education for the next generation? Schools can do better than they do now, but the Churches' capacity to teach is unlimited – especially in after-school, Saturday, and Sunday programs.

Who would teach the Bible in the Churches? Retired teachers, grandparents, and anyone brimming with the love of Jesus. After being properly vetted, these folk could be trained to effectually show that love in fun reading lessons and activities such as those provided in the "7 WordWonders". These lessons offer (a) great language arts training with the Best Book along with (b) precious "life-literacy" and (c) essential Bible-literacy.

In describing their style of production for their epic series "A.D. the Bible Continues," Roma Downey and Mark Burnett explain that "the Biblical stories are told with grit and excitement." Their epic series is now hugely successful because of this evident "grit and excitement" in each episode.

Where do Roma Downey and Mark Burnett find the "grit and excitement" they introduce into their dramatic stories? You do not have to look too far. The Bible stories themselves are full of "grit and excitement." Too many people have allowed their own religious boredom to dull their own recognition of the grit and excitement in the Bible, even when they take a little time to read it.

Instead, read the Bible slowly, conceptualize and visualize the events and truths it describes, carefully explore the Biblical teachings, observe the powerful use of key words, observe the intensely skilled style of its authors, see how ideas and characters are provocatively developed, creatively engage the concepts and events you encounter, and re-read and do what the light from the text teaches. You can also find resources for enhancing these simple methods for mining the valuable "grit and excitement" in Bible texts.

The Word of God is still totally alive and powerful. The Bible empowers Godliness and greatness in each of our lives. It is time to unleash the Bible and to learn its "grit and excitement" again for ourselves and for the next generation in all our families and communities.

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.