May 25, 2010

Y Jnny Cnt Rd d Bbl

It isn't just the most recent flavor of functional illiteracy. Historically speaking, texting teens are worlds ahead of first century Jews in some measures of functional literacy, but in other aspects, probably not far ahead. Mostly illiterate Jews were still 'the people of the book'. But what good is basic literacy today if nobody reads?

Anyway, Christianity Today thinks Johnny Can't Read the Bible because Johnny doesn't study enough, listen to good Biblical teaching enough, or interact with cool online software enough. Partly, that's fair. Those are indeed some of the reasons. But aside from being illiterate, most people are also illiterary. Serendipitously, today, Tim Bulkeley reminds us that we all have to be taught how not to read books - that is, books whose organization is more intricate than simple 'bed-to-bed' storytelling. None of us has the strength to tear through the Old & New Testaments as if they were Harry Potter.

So, given the Bible's complexity, what does it take to make someone 'functionally Biblically literate'? I'm not sure anyone yet knows.

Rudolf Flesch's Johnny (1955) was worlds ahead of William Tyndale's Ploughboy (1522), but only in some ways. The King James version, which turns 400 next year, copied much of Tyndale's text, but not his noble ambition. The 'Authorized Version' was published to make sure Bishops kept on knowing more than day workers. But then, keeping sheep ignorant and in control was much easier back in the 17th century. Wasn't it?

Alas, ignorance is relative. This month, a team of Evangelical Pastors are working hard to release BibleMesh, to help the rest of us "understand the Bible" and "see how the story fits together" - to know "the big picture as well as important facts of the Bible." Ah yes, those important facts. Just remind me, now. Who is it that gets to make up that 'important' list? (I'll give you a hint. It's not Johnny.)

One reason Johnny can't read the Bible is because well meaning clerics for centuries have emphasized exclusively those parts of the Bible they felt were most important. The goal seems to be always keep plow boys only-so-educated, so Bishops won't have to worry about theological anarchy. The alternative is both risky and messy, and it may take a while to get there in a healthy, balanced, rational, spiritual, faithful way. But this is our quest.

Gd hlp us, we wnt 2 ndstnd d Bbl!


Josh said...

Nice. I enjoyed this one.

Chris Jefferies said...

This is not 'THE ANSWER' to the issue you raise, Bill. But it might be a helpful approach - possibly.

Have you come across the 'Seven Signs in John' idea? Neil Cole describes it well on CMA Resources.

The idea is to encourage people to discover meaning for themselves instead of having it explained.

Alternatively we could just wrt d bbl n txt...

Bill Heroman said...

That looks great, Chris. I think that's part of the answer for sure.

Anything we can do to give people more practical handles for *their* sake, as opposed to for ours...

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