Monday, October 10, 2005

The 100 Minute Bible--Decent Premise, Poor Execution

The 100 Minute Bible

Much has been made of the 100 Minute Bible recently. It's not really my intent to review that product (if you want to learn more, you can just follow the link). Instead, I want to use that as a jumping off point to address what I do see as an important issue.

The makers of the 100 Minute Bible may be faulted for many things, but one thing that is not faulty is their premise. People describe themselves as weak in Biblical knowledge, but also desire to improve. (I use Barna because he's easy to link to--take an informal poll at any church, and I'd bet that the results would be substantially the same). Society at large, and (even worse) many Christians, are Biblically illiterate. Feel free to quibble with the best way to deal with these issues, but give them credit for identifying the issues and trying to do something to help.

Nevertheless, there are better ways. Here are some that address these problems without compromising the text of the Bible.

1. Read the Gospel of John. John is a great place to start. John himself says that he writes "so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believeing you may have life in his name." (John 20:31)

2. Read the book of Romans. Described by some as the world's first and best Gospel tract, Romans is probably the single greatest explanation of the gospel that exists, and it certainly represents the fullest explanation of the gospel in Scripture. One pastor I had said if he had to pick one book of the Bible to be stranded on a desert island with, it would be Romans.

3. Read the New Testament. Here is an intriguing method I came across from John MacArthur, who got it in turn from James M. Grey (a past president of The Moody Bible Institute). MacArthur has a whole sermon series on the Bible over at the Bible Bulletin Board--very helpful (topic=Bible).

Read through a section of the New Testament every day for 30 days. It will take a little longer, about 2 years, but at the end, you'll have read through the New Testament the equivalent of 30 times. Divide larger books into smaller sections (7-10 chapters), combine a couple of the smaller books. He also recommends making a note card of the theme of each chapter, so you'll have better memory.

Some great advantages to this:
  • Use the same Bible for the whole time, and you'll actually start to see the words on the page in your mind when you remember
  • Helps minimize loss if you miss a day
  • Easier to keep track of--you only change once a month
  • Flexible--you can make this fit what you need--read in smaller chunks (& just extend the time), read passages longer than 30 days if you are really digging in deep, schedule reading to coincide with your church's teaching (if expository).
For the Old Testament, MacArthur recommends reading straight through--this traditional method works better in the OT because of its narrative nature.

4. Bible in a Year--the page method. Turn to Revelation 22:21 and note the page number. Divide that number by 360, and round up to the nearest whole number. Read that number of pages every day for a year (360 is so you can miss a couple of days if you need to).

5. One-Year Bible Products (incl RSS, software). In the beginning, there was paper. Now, you can have the Bible e-mailed to you or subscribe to an RSS feed (ESV, for example). If you have Bible software, chances are it comes with some option for a year's worth of readings. If you don't have software yet, and have a Windows computer, try e-Sword.

The goal of all of this is to fix firmly in your mind a knowledge of the Bible. This is important for all Christians, and remember, all theology flows from the Bible. If you will just focus on this piece, no doubt you will pick up much theology just by virtue of studying. On the other hand, it's hard to make a case that your really understand theology (even if you know it) without a knowledge of the Bible. For example--can you really know about God's justice just by reading a description of it in theology books? It needs to be learned by reading the Bible, by seeing how God's justice works in all 66 books of His revelation.


Mattithyahu said...

"Society at large, and (even worse) many Christians, are Biblically illiterate." I agree and I am worried that people will see that 100-minute Bible as a way to correct that when, in fact, it will proably hurt their understanding of the word. Great post, cheers.

tbright said...

As one who teaches Middle School aged Sunday School, I wonder if the 100 minute Bible would be a good source for taking the kids through the bible in a year.

I would certainly spend more than 2 minutes each Sunday on a page.

I see it as potential notes or an outline for a Bible based Sunday School lesson.

An added plus is it's likely simple enough for that age group.