One of the great dangers that every generation of the church has to deal with is the problem of “A Bible Bowl Faith;” A faith that is concerned with getting all of the correct answers but doesn’t get expressed in daily life change.
Before everyone starts sending hate mail I want to make something clear: I am not completely against Bible Bowls. I do see the purpose in them. I was even once in a Bible Bowl, however, my team came in second place to a group that cheated (there’s something really wrong about cheating in Bible Bowl.) That experience has only slightly skewed my thinking. While I must honestly admit that I’m not a huge proponent of Bible Bowls I do see the good that happens when we study the Bible together as a community and that Bible knowledge is a great foundation for faith.
However, I do think there is something wrong with Bible Bowl Faith. There is something wrong with believing that the most important thing is to get all the answers right. And I do wonder if we are slightly misguided when we encourage our children, and ourselves, to learn all the facts of the Bible but we fail to ever tell them what those facts mean or why they are important for life. I’ve recently started teaching a high school bible class and I am dealing with this same struggle. How do I help the students gain a passion for the Word while also making sure they are ready to take the test on Friday because I have to give them a grade. (Of course, all grades and tests are a result of the fall, but that is a completely different blog post.) What is most important is not that they can tell the facts of the Book of Hebrews and quote answers on a test, but that they understand the heart of the message, that God has done so much for them and they need to stay faithful to the end. We must make sure we convey the facts in a way that it leads to changed lives.
Bernard of Clarivaux lived during the 12th century and is credited with reforming monasticism. During this time the church was gaining more power in the greater culture and many monks and pastors were taking on leadership roles in the community. These public leadership roles though took away from their more important work attending to God in their own lives and encouraging the church. So Bernard led a group of monks, known as the Cistercians, to return to the ancient Rule of St. Benedict and focus on that which is most important. During one of his sermons, he said this:
“We must beware of this misstep so that we do not fall asleep in our faith. I warn you – do not become one of those who has a head full of “the right” Christian doctrines while failing to go on by working truth into everyday practice. For as the apostle James warned, faith that does not show itself in good deeds is not true Christian faith at all. For when we truly believe something, we give our whole self to it – not only our minds – and gradually all of our actions are changed.” – Bernard of Clairvaux
Correct knowledge is important. Christians should always be striving to grow in knowledge of the Bible and more importantly of the God revealed in the Bible. Scripture knowledge is one thing that the Holy Spirit uses to help transform believers into the image of Christ. But, Biblical knowledge is not sufficient on its own. Correct knowledge must lead to transformed lives. As Bernard says, if we truly believe something that knowledge will gradually lead to a change of actions. And thus the problem with a Bible Bowl faith that leads to correct answers but not a changed life.
The goal is transformation into Christ likeness. Paul says it best when he says; “And all of us with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18) The goal is to become more like Christ, not just in knowledge but in action. All that we do as Christians, whether bible study, spiritual disciplines, attending Sunday Gatherings, should all be in an effort to grow in Christ likeness that leads to changed lifestyles. Bible Bowl Faith is not enough, we must always teach and learn for transformation. Or, as James says, faith without works is dead.