Opening the Closed Book

Many more would read the Bible if they only knew how.
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TIM STAFFORDTim Stafford is a free-lance writer living in Santa Rosa, California. He is the author of several books, including Knowing the Face of God: The Search for a Personal Relationship with God (Zondervan, 1985).

Over the past three years, CTi has interviewed young people in evangelical churches to find out how they used the Bible and what they thought of it. The research—part of the development of the NIV Student Bible by CT editor-at-large Philip Yancey and senior writer Tim Stafford—uncovered some disturbing facts. But it also suggested some ways to help all of us become more deeply involved in the world’s best-loved, but often unread Book

Gallup polls have established that the majority of Americans believe in the Bible as God’s inspired Word. But the same polls show that their commitment is vague and impractical: They cannot name four of the Ten Commandments, nor four of Jesus’ disciples. Obviously the Bible they proclaim as inspired is a Bible they do not read.

I used to think this represented those whose “born-again” religion consists mainly of Christmas Eve services. But what we found in our research paralleled Gallup’s results. Young people in the churches surveyed had no qualms about the authority of the Bible. To the contrary, many seemed to have an almost magical view of the Book. While a generation ago young people wanted Bibles with pictures, paperback covers, and modern translations—Bibles that did not “look like” Bibles—the young people interviewed wanted highly traditional Bibles with leather covers, gilt-edged pages, and the words of Jesus in red—Bibles that seemed to convey by their appearance the weight of tradition and authority. These young people had only positive expectations of what they might ...

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