Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Scripture memorization vs. Biblical literacy

Can you recite Romans 6:23 and Romans 3:23?  Could you give a brief summary of what the book of Romans is about, who it's written to, and who wrote it?

Which is more important?  Oh, come on.  They're both important.  But we put a pretty good emphasis on scripture memorization (at least our church does.)  But I think we put very little emphasis on biblical literacy.  I would biblical literacy as knowing the overall metanarative of the Bible as well as general knowledge of the content of individual books, passages, chapters, etc.

Why is biblical literacy important?  I think in today's world, we are much more apt to have a Bible available in moments of need.  When someone is struggling with self righteousness, wouldn't it be good to know that the book of Galatians is pretty much all about self-righteousness?  When someone you're struggling with depression, wouldn't it be great to be able to point to a few psalms of lament?  (I can't do this off hand.)  How about when you're looking to pray in public, wouldn't it be good to know where a couple of good prayers are in the Bible.

That's just half of it.  The overall metanarative is the most important.  If we want to know the main character of the Bible (God), then we need to know how he is revealed in the overall story.  We would never go the the Lord of the Rings and read one thing about Frodo and use that as what we say about him as a person. 

My question, is how do we teach this?  How do we teach biblical literacy to our kids?  Teaching our kids 100 memory verses is pretty straight forward.  I don't want to teach my kids 100 Bible stories that tell them to have courage like David or wisdom like Solomon.  I want them to know that God is a covenant God of steadfast love.  I want them to know how that is revealed in different ways throughout the Bible.  Tough, huh?!  What do you think?


Anonymous said...

Great points Andy. The stories are important but also easy to fall back on. I struggle with knowing how to teach the kids who God is (maybe mostly because I'm still trying to figure that out myself) and what his mission is and how we fit into that.

Also, having our kids memorize scripture is important, but makes us look like really great christian parents when the real work of modeling a life submitted to Christ is much harder to discern.

Food for thought.

Anonymous said...

I sure don't find anything wrong with drilling kids with verses or repeating Bible stories often. Rather, like learning the alphabet and multiplication tables, I think these are the fundamentals that build faith. As promised, it is quick, powerful, sharp, and won't return void. Not something we have to over think.

Sharon said...

Well said Dave! Amen:)

Erin said...

Hi, Gammons fam! Love you guys!

So one tool that we've found helpful in catching the metanarrative of the Bible is The Jesus Storybook Bible. I can't recommend it enough. Maybe you guys already have this, but this has helped me absorb His Story in some pretty wonderful ways. And our kids like it too =)

-Erin (for the Kutnows)

Anonymous said...

Andy - again, from afar at TU (in Amanda's class). Love reading your thoughts and we've ordered the fighter verses for our own family/kids.

I had the privilege of learning the Heidelburg catachism growing up and the thematic way it groups scripture (Sin, Salvation, Service). Note only did I learn scripture, but had a framework for understanding it. On a further step, one could really diagram various books of the Bible that emphasis those areas, and even create sub-areas underneath.

What was also helpful about it, was that it was in question/answer form. So each question had answers found in scripture, but those were taken from all over the Bible. So if you memorized the question/answer, you could go back to it and find all the scripture references.

Some don't like it or the idea of it, but I can't tell you how much I find myself repeating Q and A's and then pulling it out to find those scripture references. Very powerful, very beautiful.


Brittany Huyser Smith (TU '00)

Joe Foell said...

These are important questions, and I've been thinking a lot about them as my kids are getting old enough to start thinking on their own more. I think that scripture memorization and regular family devotions are a critical part of the equation.

Beyond that, I think that regularly including material that isn't just fun, but practical in thinking about / from a Christian worldview is important. I'm trying to figure out how to use the Westminster Shorter Catechism in our devotional time. It seems like a great place to start.

I also try to pull out insites from the books that I read (though the kids wouldn't be able to sit through the whole book) as we discuss other books / events. I guess the best rule is if you want 'em to get it - LIVE it. The whole caught not taught idea. (Though I strongly hold that we need to work at the teaching part.)

If you run across more resources along these lines, I'd sure like to read your reviews on your blog. Thank you for the effort you've made to communicate these ideas on your blog.