The 21st Century church has a problem: it’s become far too worldly. And I blame a 14th Century mind-set among Christians for it.
Previous to the 14th Century, Christians were totally dependent upon the Roman Catholic Church for the interpretation of Scripture; the Roman Church did not allow the Bible to be translated out of Latin and into the vernacular, and had maintained that theirs was the only authorized interpreters of God’s Word.
In the 14th Century, however, men like Wycliffe, John Hus, and Luther began translating the Bible into English and German in order to provide Scripture that was understandable to the people – as few outside the clergy could read Latin. As well as prompting a backlash from the Roman Church, wherein many of the translators and copyists were excommunicated (at a minimum) or executed (at a maximum), it gave to the people something they desperately needed – the Word of God in their own tongue, so they could actually understand and learn what God had to say to them. Incidentally, it also opened a new door to the teaching of reading and writing among the populace.
Fast-forward to the 21st Century, and what do we have? We have the Bible in a gajillion different languages, in a bewildering array of versions, and Christians (for sure in the US) don’t read it. They get their biblical knowledge from the clergy – just as the folks pre-14th-century did; the only difference is that back then they had no choice.
But the problem is the same: biblically-illiterate people have no clue whether what they’re hearing in church on Sunday – or what they hear from the various and sundry TV preachers and YouTube preachers and Internet preachers – matches what the Bible actually says. This may be one of the reasons the new History Channel series, The Bible, is so popular.
We've thrown ourselves back to the 14th Century, folks; it's our own fault we're like this.
Is it any wonder, then, why we have so many problems in the 21st Century church?
Wycliffe, Hus, Luther, and others sacrificed their livelihoods and, often, their very lives, to give the opportunity to non-clergy to read, study, and learn God’s Word, yet we snub reading the Bible because, well, we’re too busy or it’s too hard to read or well, I go to church on Sunday and the preacher tells me what it means or whatever other excuse we may want to come up with.
Not good enough, because you don’t know – you can’t know – whether that preacher is telling you the truth about Scripture; not if you don’t know Scripture well enough to compare what it says to what you’re hearing or reading.
For Christians, (I’ve said this before) the Bible is a life-textbook – from it we learn the way God wishes us to live our lives to glorify Him; if we don’t read the manual, we don’t know how to live properly, let alone why we should.
Early Christians devoured the writings of the apostles; modern Christians should devour their writings in like manner. How else do we learn what God expects of us?
Read your Bible; study your Bible; live your Bible.