Widespread Biblical and Historical Illiteracy Is on the Increase

“…kids may know next to nothing about the Gospel of Mark, but will know plenty about the gospel of Marx.”

As the West experiences a rise in secularism, it is also seeing a rise in the masses being dumbed down. Schools today increasingly are not teaching kids the things that matter. Certainly history and the like – including church history – is not getting much attention. Or if it is, it is more along the lines of historical revisionism.

What students are mainly being taught today are all the progressive woke agenda items. And at the same time “dead, white males” are being denigrated and ignored. Most Christian figures from history are included here. Thus kids may know next to nothing about the Gospel of Mark, but will know plenty about the gospel of Marx.

If they do know anything about Jesus, it is some vague notion of a tree-hugging hippy Jesus, or a socialist guerilla leader Jesus, or even a non-binary Jesus. But most students – at least those in the state school system – know hardly anything about who the real Jesus is.

A brand-new book titled Jesus: The Centre of It All by Kurt Mahlburg and Warwick Marsh is one reminder of just who this Jesus is and why he is so important. Mark Powell in his foreword to the volume said this:

There can be no doubt that the person and work of this obscure carpenter from Nazareth has changed the course of human history. Time itself is now rightly divided between B.C. for ‘Before Christ’ and A.D. for ‘Anno Domini’. The latter is not, as many people assume, an acronym for ‘After Death’. It is from the Latin and means, “in the year of our Lord”. Why? Jesus rose from the grave on the third day after His death, and subsequently ascended into heaven. So, every year since continues to be the day in which Jesus is Lord! We cannot escape the centrality of Jesus in our world.

If what I have written in any way whets your appetite for more, then you are in for a treat. Kurt Mahlburg and Warwick Marsh have written one of the most accessible, insightful and personable accounts as to why Jesus should be considered the “centre of it all”. A quick glance at the table of contents tells you why this is so. For Jesus is: the Messiah of Israel; God in Flesh, Friend of Sinners, Radical Revolutionary, Way to God, Saviour of All, Good Shepherd, Light of the World, Christ in You, and finally, the Coming King.

I write all this by way of introduction to something that was found in the press last week. Because it is behind a paywall, I can only share with you the headline and first sentence of the news article. But that is enough to tell us all we need to know:

‘30 mins of bible reading’: Local upset over religious carols event
A Gold Coast resident who attended their local Christmas carols has unleashed on social media after discovering it was a religious event.

A number of things can be said about this episode. One is how dumbed down most folks now are. As already noted, our school system has a fair share of blame for this. But other factors come into play. We live in a culture where thinking and reasoning are played down while feelings, emotions, and images have become everything. Just look at most advertisements today to see the truth of this.

And we also know that the commercialisation of things like Christmas also sends out confusing messages. Giving and receiving gifts is fine, but we need to be reminded of WHY we do this at this time of the year. It is all about the gift of God’s Son that was sent to this needy and sin-soaked world. Enjoy the festivities and meals shared together, but we must keep reminding folks of the reason for the season. As Paul put it: “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15).

Two, it tells us how overwhelmingly secular most things now are in the West. While church attendance is declining and religious observance is waning, the gospel of secularism is on the rise. Sure, there is a mixed bag here. In a new book on the church scene in Australia and their stances on issues of sexual morality, we find both growth and decline. Looking at recent census figures, Mark Durie says this:

The story of Australian Christianity has not been one of uniform decline. While the “Catholic” and “Mainstream Protestant” churches have been declining, the “Other Protestant” and “Pentecostal” churches have been growing, and the net effect of these trends is an increase in overall Protestant church attendance despite mainstream Protestant decline. (Double-Minded, Deror Books, 2023, p. 60)

Three, someone needs to give this guy a copy of the first book I mentioned above. He is obviously all rather clueless about the most important figure in human history. Um, what part of CHRISTmas did he not understand? Did he see no connection at all between Christ and Christmas?

And even the meaning of the word “carol” seems to have eluded him. The first online definition I found of this puts it as follows: “a religious folk song or popular hymn, particularly one associated with Christmas.” And given that it is in the Bible that we learn about the origins of the Christmas story, it is not too surprising that the Bible should be read from at such a service!

But we cannot pick on this one individual. He (or she) would be representative of so many Australians and Westerners who know next to nothing about Christianity but also know next to nothing about most things that matter. Such is the sad condition of our culture today.

The question of how all this can be turned around is the stuff of another article or two. But it will not happen in a matter of days or weeks or even months. The slow but steady erosion of the West and its long-standing values, beliefs and social goods has been happening for quite some time now and cannot be reversed overnight. It will take a very long time indeed to stop the rot and turn things around.

But despite the protests of the fellow discussed in this piece, hopefully, things like Christmas can still be of use to help other non-believers learn about Christ and the real meaning of history. As my friend Jenna just posted on the social media:

“Another positive aspect of Christmas, is the display of nativity in the public sphere and the singing of Christmas carols that glorify Jesus. This only happens at Christmas. It’s still socially acceptable for the most part. It is likely one of few exposures some people have to Christ all year.”

If you or your church are thinking about doing a carol service this year, please go ahead with it, and ignore the critics. You never know who will be reached by the message of Christ and why he came into the world. The world really does need to hear about this.

Merry Christmas.

The Caldron Pool Show

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