I recently participated in a conference at fbcBranson entitled “Christianity and the Death of the Old Testament.” You can check out the excellent presentations here. As part of this conference, I was giving a presentation on how the Old Testament is dying. I relied heavily on the work of Brent Strawn in his book, The Old Testament is Dying, in which he argues that the Old Testament is (like) a language, and therefore a study of languages and how they die might prove helpful in assessing the present and future of the Old Testament. He was right. One of the things I gleaned most from his work and that I sought to introduce in the conference was the way in which children learn the language through its use in the home. As parents speak the language and teach it to their children, the language is successfully passed down and utilized by the next generation. However, the Old Testament, I would suggest, is not a language being spoken much at home, and because many Christians have opted for public schools for their children, they are not learning the language at school either. Below is a brief reflection on some of the things I have been thinking in light of my preparation for that conference talk, a topic I hope to write more fully upon soon.
The amount of time that it takes simply to read the Old Testament is daunting to many. On average, audio Bibles last between 72 and 75 hours, which means that the Old Testament is approximately 54 to 56 hours in length. Many readers today actually read slower than audio Bibles, so the number may be longer, especially when one takes into account actually studying and thinking about a passage and not merely reading and moving on. That means for most readers, simply reading the Old Testament through one time with no further reflection requires more than one hour commitment each week. This doesn’t sound like much, but it far surpasses the amount of time that most Americans read outside of school on a weekly basis. Perhaps this is as much a commentary on the decline of literacy in our culture, but it certainly is a reality regardless.
Imagine now a student who attends a public school. I am not even considering at this point the things that are taught that may be antithetical to Scripture; for now I am simply pointing out that eight hours of daily education is spent NOT reading the Bible. The reality is that students in grades K-12, on top of eight hours of school each day and any homework outside of school, would need to add an additional 1 to 1.5 hours each week simply to reading the Old Testament (again, not meditating on it or studying it) in order to get through the Old Testament in a year. And if one were diligent enough to do this, starting even in the younger grades, a high school graduate would have covered the Old Testament no more, and likely far fewer, than thirteen times. And again, this is merely doing the cursory reading without any other thought. How many times do we need to study our Spanish vocabulary in order to make it stick? Certainly more than thirteen. My point is that public versus Christian education is not only a worldview clash—it’s also a time crunch. When we pass on our children’s education to a secular entity, our concern is not only the “bad stuff they might learn,” but how much good stuff they could potentially learn instead of and apart from the Bible. The good, sometimes more efficiently than the bad, can shove out the better.
Instead, our churches need to take seriously that the call to discipleship is also a call to education. And by churches, I don’t just mean our pastors and programs—I mean a community of believers committed to raising these children in the Lord. In a forthcoming post I aim to explore this idea further and make some suggestions for how church can and should get involved in classical Christian education.
This is figured by accounting for the Old Testament being 75% of the entirety of the Bible.