Yesterday Pete Wilson asked his readers, "Why do you think more people don't spend time in God's Word?"
As it happens, this was one of our discussion questions at PRAXIS last night (expanding on the idea of the rhythm of devotional Scripture reading), and these are some of the reasons we came up with:
1. We don't understand it.
Most people just don't know where to start. The Bible tells us an incredible story, from Genesis to Revelation, with lots of little stories echoing that grander story hidden throughout, but most of us just don't how to get a handle on it. Even in modern translations, Scriptural language and concepts don't have many modern analogues, and in a culture increasingly raised on television, magazines, and the Internet, we just don't have the skills or the interpretational framework from which to start.
2. There's nobody explaining it to us.
Compounding the above problem is the increasing dearth of church and pastoral help with grasping and understanding Scripture. Evangelical church services are more and more entertainment-driven and Scripture is relegated to quick prooftexts under message points. We receive minimal exposure to Scripture in our worship services, and outside of them nobody is really teaching us how to read it, how to understand it, what it's all about, etc.
This is very much connected to . . .
3. Scripture is being touted less and less as central to the Christian life.
Our preachers don't treat it with any kind of reverence. The Bible is shown as "useful;" it is treated pragmatically. It is not the focal point of worship, merely an element of worship. It is not read publicly with as much passion as is put into videos, songs, dramas, illustrations, and message points.
4. It is wielded as a weapon against people.
On the flip side of the above two points, some people avoid Scripture because their only exposure to it are pastors, teachers, and other Christians who use it to thump others with. The Bible gets theologized, propagandized into a cattle prod to get opponents into certain theological camps. Or it is presented dryly, as purely academic, as purely informational, as mainly for "smart people" who really understand it. Who would want to read the Bible if their only exposure to it is from jerky theology nerds or pulpit-pounding preachers who look like they might throw it at you?
5. The Bible says things we don't like.
It makes us very uncomfortable. If we're reading it correctly. Nobody likes having their tables turned and the truths of Scripture have zero regard for our personal space.
6. "Experts" have eroded our confidence in Scripture.
Inerrancy, infallibility, historicity, reliability. Et cetera ad infinitum. The Bible wars and their soldiers have eroded even some of Christian culture's trust in the reliability of the Bible. Blame it on postmodernism or liberalism or whatever. More and more of us are viewing the Bible as outdated, applicable only to original cultures, historically or scientifically naive or specious, or just too "human" to be trusted as God's very word.
7. We are undisciplined and lazy.
Really profiting from Scripture, really experiencing its transforming power, requires the same sort of effort as any transforming practice -- focus, hard work, and consistency. Like working out or becoming proficient at an instrument, you have to do it a lot and for a long time. Western Christians -- heck, Westerners in general -- aren't exactly known for their discipline and tenacity. We like our Bible like we like everything else we consume: Lite, EZ, and as convenient as a drive-thru.
Those are just some of the reasons we came up with for why people don't read the Bible very much.