A facinating contradiction
How many of us have had moments where we wish we could have a burning bush experience with God? A lot of people like to do questionnaires, and a question that often pops up on them is something like, "If you could ask God anything..." Many of us would like very much to get some kind of direct communication from God. That desire drives all kinds of books, studies, and seminars about how to hear the voice of God. Wouldn't that be nice? If God had something to say, wouldn't we really want to know what it is?
But I have noticed a facinating contradiction. Most people are Biblically illiterate. Think about that for a second. The churches are full of people who seem totally convinced that the Bible is the word of God. It is God-breathed. They go to church and hold on to their Bibles and praise the Lord and everything. And these people yearn to hear directly from God. Yet they don't read the Bible, much less do they study it. What is the explanation?
If we really believe the Bible is God-breathed, how can we resist wanting to know what it says? Shouldn't that drive us to read it? And not only to read it, but shouldn't it drive us to try with everything we have to study it so that we can understand it?
And that's another thing. Most people in America have at least a high school education. A big chunk of us have college educations. That means we had to study, we had to write papers, and we had to exert a great deal of mental energy to learn things like algebra, history, chemistry, etc. We go through that because we think it's important. But few of us ever exert half that much energy in studying the Bible. Sunday schools rarely go beyond a 3rd grade level even in adult classes. I don't think I've ever been in a Sunday school class where the teacher required the class to read a chapter in the Bible and be prepared to discuss it the next week. In fact, people seem to have an aversion to any kind of requirements at all. Oh, there are a few who'll get together in a special small group to do some deeper study on hearing the voice of God or something, and they'll covenant to do their little readings. But they never study the Bible with any intensity.
A close friend of mine recently told me how she thought very highly of her pastor. She said she always feels blessed when she attends church. I don't remember her exact words. But this person has never read the Bible. A pastor's job isn't to make us feel good. It's to encourage us in the faith, to build us up in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. I know people who have gone to her church for years and remain Biblically illiterate. How effective could that pastor be if he is totally unable to motivate anybody to grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ?
Jonathan Edwards did not make people feel good. He certainly didn't make people feel good with "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." Rather, he made them feel conviction. Conviction can be quite uncomfortable, but it is exactly what people need to feel, because conviction leads to repentence and salvation. Jonathan Edwards was quite effective in motivating people to live holier lives and to take their faith seriously. I just don't see a lot of that these days.