By Johnny Stringer
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge,” charged Jehovah as he set forth the reasons for Israel’s downfall (Hos. 4:6). Knowledge of God’s word has always been vital to maintaining a good relationship with him. Those who are ignorant of his word can neither obey his commands nor uphold the truths that are essential to man’s salvation. Hence, the New Testament emphasizes the importance of studying, learning, and meditating on the divine revelation (2 Pet. 1:5; 3:18; 1 Pet. 2:2; Heb. 5:11-14; Col. 3:16; 2 Tim. 2:15).
I fear that too many of us are failing in this area. We are not as grounded in truth as we should be, even to the point that we are unable to teach our friends and neighbors the most fundamental truths. Clearly we need to study. Those who serve as shepherds over a local church have a responsibility in providing teaching for the flock; this is an essential part of tending the flock (Acts 20:28). Preachers and Bible class teachers must take seriously their responsibilities in this matter.
Some are making a serious effort to fulfill this responsibility. They are conscientiously seeking to fill the hearts and minds of the congregation with divine truths. They are making a valiant effort to overcome the sad lack of Bible knowledge that plagues our brethren. They are showing reruns of the Andy Griffith show! Those who view the program discuss things in the show that are related to biblical principles.
Now really, brethren, is this what churches ought to be doing in their Bible classes? In watching most any television show, we see things that relate to biblical principles. This fact, however, does not make a discussion of those shows equivalent to teaching the Bible. Sometimes, in the process of teaching the Bible, we may quite effectively use an incident from a television show, a book, or real life to illustrate a biblical point. This, however, should be done while studying the Bible, not while study ing the television show or the book or our observations of life. If we could justify studying the Andy Griffith show in Bible classes because we discuss biblical applications, we could justify studying The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in Bible classes so long as we make biblical applications of things found in that book.
This practice began among denominations, many of which have for many years de-emphasized the study of God’s word. Then, some of the most liberal of the institutional churches of Christ followed the denominational example. Now, the practice is not unheard of among non-institutional churches of Christ. I believe it reflects an attitude of which I am afraid — an aversion to serious study of the biblical text in the belief that such a study is not really relevant and cannot hold the interest of those in the class. The attitude seems to be that the Bible is dull and the only way to teach us is to mix in some biblical principles while we are being entertained. The more brethren substitute the study of television shows (or anything else) for the study of the Bible, the more deficient we will become in our knowledge of the Bible.
It may be argued that Jesus taught in parables, and an episode of Andy Griffith is like a parable. Yes, Jesus taught in parables, and a part of studying the Bible is a study of his parables. Episodes of the Andy Griffith show, however, are not parables of Jesus. They were not written by divine guidance and the church has not been assigned the mission of teaching them.
Brethren, let us teach the Bible. The church does not serve its function as the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15) through showing television programs in which one can find some illustrations of biblical principles. There is a dearth of Bible knowledge among us, and this problem will not be solved by viewing reruns of the Andy Griffith show.