It seems to me a wonderful irony that Christians in America are preoccupied with debates about biblical authority just when all parties to the debates are less knowledgeable about the content of scripture than many of our predecessors were. On college campuses, teachers of English literature find it difficult to teach texts like Paradise Lost, Moby Dick or Toni Morrison’s Beloved because students are unable to grasp the biblical allusions. In churches, preachers comment on the lack of biblical literacy among their parishioners, and the pastors’ comments sometimes deflect attention from their own illiteracy.
This lack of familiarity with scripture weakens our capacity for theological reflection, moral discernment and spiritual nurture. It also impoverishes our vocabulary for characterizing God, the world and the purpose and destiny of our lives.