GQ is taking some heat for a new article called “21 Books You Don’t Have to Read,” in which they included the Bible in a list of classic novels they’ve classified as the “most overrated books of all time.” Their argument for including the Bible completely ignores its unparalleled influence on history, how it has shaped modern thought and the fact that it remains one of the world’s best-selling books every single year.
However, their hot take does have one line that totally hits the nail on the head: “The Holy Bible is rated very highly by all the people who supposedly live by it but who in actuality have not read it.”
This isn’t a matter of opinion. This is an objective fact.
Last April, LifeWay Research conducted a study to find out how people feel about the Bible, and how much of it they’ve actually read. As they note, the American Bible Society found that 87 percent of American households own a Bible. And LifeWay’s survey found: “Americans have a positive view of the Bible. And many say the Christian scriptures are filled with moral lessons for today.”
But when it came to how many actually read it, “more than half of Americans have read little or none of the Bible.” They found that even though, “Four in 10 [Americans] say it’s a book worth reading over and over,” only 11 percent had even read the whole thing once. When it came to Christians, “Those with evangelical beliefs are more likely (49 percent) to read a little bit each day than those without evangelical beliefs (16 percent). Protestants (36 percent) are more likely to read every day than Catholics (17 percent).”
Other research has found that many Christians don’t know basic stories in the Bible, despite believing it’s God’s word.
In 2015, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler wrote, “While America’s evangelical Christians are rightly concerned about the secular worldview’s rejection of biblical Christianity, we ought to give some urgent attention to a problem much closer to home–biblical illiteracy in the church. This scandalous problem is our own, and it’s up to us to fix it.”
He’s right. It’s a scandalous problem because reading and knowing the Bible is the basis of living a life rooted in its principles. When it comes to feelings about the Bible and actually reading and applying its teachings, there is a major cognitive dissonance in the modern Church. Research shows this. If the Bible’s biggest fans don’t even care enough to read it, then why should its critics view it as a relevant book?
If Christians demand that culture still views the Bible as a relevant book, it’s first their responsibility to actually act like it is.
Jesse Carey is a mainstay on the weekly RELEVANT Podcast and member of RELEVANT's executive board. He lives in Virginia Beach with his wife and two kids.