Biblical illiteracy is at an all-time high. A nationwide poll found that 60 percent of Americans could not identify even five of the Ten Commandments, and another survey revealed that 39 percent of Millennials never read the Bible. To address America's increasing biblical illiteracy, Christians such as Steve Green, CEO of the Hobby Lobby arts and crafts store chain, are working to incorporate the Bible into public school classrooms. Yet a dedicated Bible curriculum, such as Mr. Green is offering to Oklahoma classrooms, isn't the only way to bring the Bible into local schools. In fact, students can and should be reading the Bible as part of a robust literature curriculum that emphasizes great literature and literary non-fiction.
Indeed, as part of new educational standards that have been adopted by most states, schools should be refocusing their literature curriculum on precisely this kind of reading, including Christian scripture. Extensive research indicates that students must continually increase the complexity of the texts they read to be better prepared for college and work. The Common Core literacy standards prepare students to engage in analytic discussions of complex text by requiring them to cite strong textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly and to determine the meaning of words and phrases in text, including figurative and connotative meaning. Additionally, many literary works that feature a Judeo-Christian ethos have had an undeniable and vast influence on Western culture, and for this reason Christian scriptures are a natural primary source to examine when interpreting themes of the literary greats, such as Shakespeare.
As a Christian by faith and an English professor by training, I know biblical literacy is essential for a meaningful life of faith, and has innumerable ancillary benefits, both academic and personal. Like most Christians, I testify that the Bible has been "a rock and a fortress" for me in times of difficulty, and a "lamp unto my feet" to guide me as a father, husband and teacher. In addition, because I was grounded in biblical study as a young man, the lens of Scripture clarified innumerable biblical allusions I have encountered in my academic career, helping me draw out deep truths from diverse materials. From the transcendent truths etched on stone tablets carried down from Mount Sinai to Martin Luther's translation of the Bible for the masses, which went "viral" via the printing press, Christians have always deeply valued literacy, including biblical literacy. more >>
A Christian publishing house has recently unveiled a new translation of the Holy Bible labeling itself "most modern King James translation in 30 years."
Known as the Modern English Version, this English translation of the Bible was produced by Charisma House and officially launched last Friday.
Tessie DeVore, executive vice president of Charisma House, said in a statement last week that the translation strove to be as literal as possible. more >>
Maya Angelou, the internationally celebrated poet and author, died at 86 on Wednesday, May 28. In addition to her trove of writings about her heartbreaking childhood, her convictions on civil rights, and dozens of film, television and play scripts, Angelou often wrote about her faith as well.
Below are several excerpts and quotes from the-late inspirational woman who, in 2010, became a recipient of the Medal of Freedom.
1. In 2013 in a promo for "The Bible" series, she says: "In a world of confusion and noise I look for the moments that help me understand who I am, where I come from and what I want to be. This Bible series brings to life the stories that have shaped our world and shaped my life. Stories that have helped me to forgive. Helped me to love. Helped me to overcome. Helped me to survive, and even do better than that, helped me to thrive." more >>
This week I write upon returning from a nine-day trip with friends to England, where much of my visit centered on an examination the English Reformation. I was fortunate to be exposed to the lessons of history through two groups, Christian Heritage Cambridge and its spinoff, Christian Heritage London. These groups focus on reminding Britons and their guests of the influence of Christianity on Western civilization and inspiring and equipping Christians to demonstrate the reasonableness and transforming power of their faith. Since my wife and I worship in an Anglican Church here in the States, I was particularly interested to learn more about the history of our "mother church," the Church of England. What I found was an incredibly rich history that testifies to the breadth and depth of Christian influence upon the British Isles and upon western civilization as a whole.
We spent most of our time exploring Cambridge, Oxford and London, where Christianity's influence and impact is abundantly evident. Cambridge and Oxford are homes to centers of learning with names like Jesus College, Christ's College, Emmanuel College, Magdalene College, All Souls College, and Corpus Christi College. These colleges were inspired by the Christian notion that since a rational being created the universe, it would be worthwhile to investigate the principles underlying its order. Sir Isaac Newton's life and career is a testament to the power of this belief. A devout but unorthodox Christian, Newton studied at Trinity College in Cambridge and became the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge. A renowned physicist and mathematician, he formulated the laws of motion and universal gravitation and put to rest the mistaken notion that the earth was the center of the universe.
Then there are the churches and cathedrals that dominate the landscape. The most prominent of those houses of worship is St. Paul's Cathedral, the architectural masterpiece of Sir Christopher Wren, which sits atop London's highest point, Ludgate Hill. It was designed to glorify God and to draw the gaze of worshippers to the Transcendent. St. Paul's is to London as St. Peter's Basilica is to Rome. Recognizing its central importance in English History, Hitler sought, and failed, to bomb it into powder during World War II. In so doing, he only reinforced the will of Britons to resist the Nazi menace. more >>
In this last year there have been many books and movies that draw from the Bible for inspiration. From "Noah" to "Son of God" to the upcoming "Exodus" inspired by the story of Moses, many are calling this "the year of the Bible movie." However, drawing on Biblical material is not new. We enjoy a long tradition of films, TV series and books that draw heavily on the Bible for inspiration.
As a writer who sometimes draws on Biblical material for inspiration, I'm well aware that there is a difference in opinion between some Christians about whether or not we should take "creative license" with the stories of the Bible. The argument is that the stories should be able to stand on their own – they are, after all, The Word of God – and that adding anything to them is unnecessary at best, and heretical at worst.
In my experience, the criticism against creative interpretations of the Bible frequently comes from people with a didactic motivation: bible teachers, preachers, etc. (although there are many more teachers and preachers who don't have a problem with it at all). There is obviously nothing wrong with having a didactic motivation – the world needs teachers! But I would just like to draw attention to the fact that the artistic and didactic motivation employ different methods to communicate truth, but we both have the same goal in mind – sharing God's love. more >>
Award-winning journalist Lisa Ling visits with Christians who believe in deliverance, or the practice of casting out demons in an upcoming episode of her Oprah Winfrey Network program, "Our America With Lisa Ling."
In the premiere episode of her final season of "Our America" on OWN, Ling visits charismatic churches in Georgia and Florida to observe first-hand how some Christians practice deliverance — "where faith and the power of Christ are called upon to cast Satan's demons from the emotionally tormented," according to a press release.
Similar to those who practice exorcisms, Christians who practice deliverance ministry believe that demonic forces not only can possess people, but inflict them with various physical, psychological, spiritual and emotional ailments. more >>