Calvin College English professor John Netland was one of dozens
of professors at the nation's top colleges and universities to take
part in a recent study on what educated people need to know about
The study, funded by the John Templeton Foundation, is entitled
Bible Literacy Report II: What University Professors Say Incoming
Students Need to Know.
The results were released June 1 by the Bible Literacy Project at an
academic symposium on the Bible at Baylor University.
The Bible Literacy Project believes the Bible should be studied in
public schools and created the first student textbook for public
high schools: The Bible and Its Influence, which can be used
with the Bible itself as core text in English or Social Studies
The recent Bible Literacy Report II surveyed 39 English professors
at 34 top U.S. colleges and universities. Their conclusion:
knowledge of the Bible is a deeply important part of a good
All but one of the professors said knowledge of the Bible was
important for students in their classes and 18 of the professors
surveyed said students know less about the Bible now than when the
professors began teaching.
"The virtual unanimity and depth of their responses on this question
were striking," says Dr. Marie Wachlin, researcher and author of the
Bible Literacy Report II. "The Bible is not only a sacred scripture
to millions of Americans, it is also arguably, as one professor put
it, the most influential text in all of Western culture."
Netland agrees. He says knowledge of the Bible impacts students'
ability to understand both modern and ancient literature.
"The findings of this study," he says, "confirm what those of us who
teach in church-related institutions have long believed -- that
Biblical literacy is an invaluable benefit for a rich, well-rounded
liberal arts education. But there are also some sobering reminders
in this study that we as a culture, and I would include our
Christian communities as well, are less familiar with the Bible than
previous generations were."
The founder of the Bible Literacy Project, Chuck Stetson, told the
Chronicle of Higher Education that the purpose of his organization
and the new report has to do with education, not religion.
Stetson believes that fear of violating laws regarding the
separation of church and state mistakenly has led public schools to
delete the Bible from the curriculum.
He told the Chronicle that he was not in favor of teaching the Bible
for devotional purposes in public schools.