Do you remember the story of Stacey Irvine, the girl in Great Britain who ate nothing but chicken nuggets and just about died? Well Kenneth Berding asserts that North American Christians are killing ourselves spiritually in the same way by dining on a steady diet of “Christian fast food” and ignoring the necessary sustenance of the word of God. Berding lays out a call to Bible Revival and challenges Christians to learn, value, understand, apply, obey and speak the word.
Berding’s passion to see Christians passionate about the Bible is clear and contagious. He has a legitimate concern that while we have the greatest access to the Bible in all of Christian history, we are not only not reading it, we are often despising it. Our biblical illiteracy is not only a shame, it is a sin, and Berding calls it such. I sped through this 80 page book in a single day, because I also share the author’s concerns and I was eager to read his take on this self-induced spiritual famine.
Kenneth Berding identifies many of the issues related to the problem clearly. He calls laziness and unbelief and a failure to trust in the sufficiency of scripture exactly what they are, and he illustrates those things to help us face our own blind spots. He writes like a concerned parent, and readily admits his own failures in many of these things. I felt like I would really like to invite the author for dinner and have a long conversation with him on the subject.
I did have two disappointments with the book. First, in addressing the need for a revival in our passion for the word of God, Berding fails to express why, exactly, we should care about the Bible and our knowledge of it. Romans 10 tells us this:
13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?[c] And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (ESV- emphasis mine.)
So we know that the word of God, both read personally, and preached in corporate worship (vs. 14), is one of the primary ways by which the Holy Spirit works faith and grace in our lives. Berding never expresses the reason for the urgency of his call to return to the word of God. Not only are we starving ourselves to death, we are removing ourselves from the work of the Holy Spirit when we remove the word of God from our lives. That is the first, and most important, reason for us to learn, value, understand, apply, obey and speak the word, as Berding challenges.
Secondly, this quote in the first chapter was very disheartening: “In short, the sense that we know a lot about the Bible because we grew up going to church is misguided.” While it may be true, it should not be accepted as true. Berding’s point is that we must be actively involved in reading the word daily rather than weekly, and I heartily agree; however, as Romans 10 (above) and Ezekiel 37 teach, the weekly preaching of the word MUST be the cornerstone upon which all other personal and group bible study is built. I am sure that Berding would agree with the necessity of the church and corporate worship. His emphasis on personal study of, and literacy in, the Bible, without the inclusion of the importance of the preached word, created an unfortunately unbalanced perspective.
Bible Revival is a necessary book on a necessary subject, and Berding’s challenges to some of the besetting sins of our North American Christian culture are as well written as they are well deserved. His appendix on memorizing is a wonderful resource and is almost exactly the way we are memorizing scripture in our family.
I received no compensation for this post. I was provided an electronic edition for the purpose of review. I was not required to provide a positive one. I keep a disclosure statement here.