There are likely scores of words which could summarize why many Christians do not read both Testaments with equal dedication and seriousness. They are lazy, indifferent, distracted, worldly, unspiritual, fleshly, uncommitted, ignorant, unschooled, illiterate (biblically), misinformed, spiritually nearsighted, infantile (milk drinkers, spiritually speaking), confused, and on and on.
Perhaps most significant in my opinion is a general lack of appreciation among Christians for the grand sweep of salvation history, from beginning to end. Scripture is, after all, one book, and while the Old Covenant in many ways looks forward to the fulfillment of its many shadows, types, and prophecies (both veiled and unveiled), the New Covenant, though different in many ways from the Old, is exactly that: NEW. The Old Covenant is filled with shadows and symbols; in the New Covenant the substance is Christ, the fulfillment and embodiment of the shadows and symbols. As Jesus said on the night he was betrayed,
"This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood" (Luke 22:20).
By implication, Jesus was saying that the blood of the old covenant has been superseded by the new: the very lifeblood of God's Lamb, Jesus.
If many Christians were to read my last few paragraphs, I suggest there would puzzled expressions on the faces of more than a few readers! According to Sue Bohlin, the author of the "Bible Literacy Quiz,"
"Along with an alarming drop in basic literacy and cultural literacy in the United States, researcher George Gallup has discovered that born-again Christians are woefully ignorant of some very basic, very important Bible teachings. According to Gallup, less than half of the born-again community can list five of the Ten Commandments."
I suppose we could blame our lack of biblical savvy on the failure of preachers and teachers, generally, to preach from the Old Testament on a regular and systematic basis. I have a feeling, however, that many congregants would rebel against such preaching if only because they have prejudged the New Testament to be a kinder, gentler testament, and the Old Testament to be a bit too bloody, violent, and incomprehensible.
The primary reason for our lack of biblical savvy is perhaps very simple, and that is we are a generation of Christians who are simply not in love with God's Word. There are too many distractions and entertaining alternatives to Bible reading. According to a new Barna study, however, there is an encouraging trend among Millennial Christians regarding their high view of Scripture. According to summit.org:
The new Barna study, conducted in partnership with the American Bible Society and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, represents one of the largest studies ever conducted on a single generation’s view of the Bible. Three significant trends emerged. And if properly understood, they may inform churches’ efforts to reach, win, baptize, catechize, and disciple America’s newest adults.
The first insight? Practicing Christian millennials maintain a high view of Scripture. As Barna reports, of those young adults who identify as Christians, attend church at least once a month, and who describe their faith as “very important,” 96 percent say the Bible contains everything necessary to know in order to live a meaningful life. The same proportion say the Bible is the “inspired word of God,” and a plurality (46 percent) say they believe Scripture “should be taken literally, word for word.”
Additionally, researchers asked practicing religious millennials where the Bible ranked in their personal hierarchy of moral authority and truth. Of the 71 percent of respondents who said they believe in absolute truth, more named the Bible as their number one source of truth over any other, including church, pastors, and parents.
In light of this encouraging sign, leaders in churches across this country need to channel the respect Millennials have for the authority of God's word into a deeper knowledge of and appreciation for that word, particularly regarding the unity and affinity between the Old- and New Testaments, and why they both play a significant role in shaping our understanding of the Judeo-Christian faith.
Not that there is anything especially remarkable about the Christian denomination with which I am a member, but a leader within my denomination devised a program for Bible reading which has local churches in my denomination (and perhaps other denominations as well, I hope) reading through the Bible in about two years. It's called "91 Weeks with Jesus.". About 1800 members of my local church have signed up for this project, and I'm one of them. Though I've read the Bible from cover to cover a number of times, I am excited to be a part of this commendable effort to instill a love for God's word in the hearts of believers. Only good things can come of it. Of that I am sure.