July 11, 2011

Lighting the Path

                I first memorized this verse in Vacation Bible School (shortly after the earth cooled): “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path: (Psalm 119: 105).  Thankfully we were not required to learn the whole Psalm with its 176 verses!  In those days, memorizing Scripture was a regular part of Sunday School, VBS, and other formative opportunities in my Baptist church.  How grateful I am for that foundational practice, for “hiding the word in my heart” has sustained me in the pursuit of mature discipleship.

                Psalm 119 is cleverly constructed, with 22 sections, one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  Thus, this psalm contains teaching from Aleph to Taw (i.e., from A to Z) about how the reader should revere the instruction of God.  Verse 105  underscores the affirmation that God’s revelation is the only reliable guide for life.  We will stumble in darkness without the light offered through the story of God’s dealings with humanity narrated in the Bible.

                We all hear a great deal of consternation over the decline of basic biblical knowledge in our day.  George Barna, thoughtful researcher, has warned: “The Christian body in American is immersed in a crisis of biblical illiteracy.”  [I will skip all the examples of misnomers—some humorous, some simply a sad reminder that churches are failing in their basic catechetical charge of biblical study.]  In an insightful essay “The Greatest Story Never Read: Recovering biblical literacy in the church,” Gary Burge observes that the church is failing to transmit its religious culture to the next generation.  By privileging “personal experience” over the intellectual heritage of Christian faith, which includes serious engagement with the Bible, churches are contributing to a shallow notion of Christian spirituality.

                Celebrating the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Version of the Bible has provoked lively conversations about the ways in which the idioms of this classic have shaped the English language.  When it is time to recite a verse, the familiar words of the KJV invariably come to my lips.  While I support gender-inclusive translations, I do mourn the loss (at times) of this touchstone of our cultural heritage.  How would I have ever learned the words “wist ye not” if not for its rendering of Luke 2: 49?  This anniversary is also prompting reflection on the truncated forms of Christian education in many of our churches.

Serious Bible study is at the heart of theological education.  The intent of this focus is for the sake of the church. As congregational leaders learn the ways of the self-giving triune God through Scripture, they invite others to understand their lives in God’s redemptive purpose, also.

Molly T. Marshall

                The first goal of Central’s mission is for students to become “biblically knowledgeable.”  Continue visiting our website to learn more about our mission.




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