In Defense of Bible Quizzes
Over at the 5ive (pronounced “Five” not, “five-ive.” I think) Jeremy Doan, Blake Collier, and Matthew Linder, three all-around weirdos, take turns compiling lists of five things related to a chosen subject and then they mercilessly vilify each other for their respective lists. It’s really fun to watch, so if you’re the kind of person who enjoys brutal, unrelenting sarcasm it’s a place worth checking out (fair warning: they employ strong and/or crude language at times).
Their most recent subject is that of “The Top 5 Worst Christian Sub-Culture Things.” If you’re overly-attached to any Christian sub-culture thing odds are you will be offended because nothing in that sphere is off-limits. Jeremy started things off with his list and, coming in at #5 was Bible Quizzes. Here’s an excerpt:
I didn’t participate in many Bible Quizzes outside of in-home contests between my brothers, so perhaps if I had competed “in the circuit,” I might have a bit more jaded a view (I also would have owned the circuit, but that’s neither here nor there). But I like Bible Quizzes (and AWANA, which is a little in the same vein). More than that, I’ll waste a few moments defending them here.
First thing first, however, Jeremy has a valid point when he says teaching children the truth of Scripture is more important than teaching them to quote verses, passages, or whole books verbatim. And doing the latter will not automatically bring the former along for the ride. But neither are the two mutually exclusive. This is not an either/or scenario as both can and, in my mind, ought to be done. Allow me to expound ever so slightly.
I’m a trivia nerd. The accumulation of knowledge is something I don’t merely value but enjoy. So I’m rarely, if ever, going to argue against stuffing kid’s brains with more information than they may know what to do with. You don’t know or care about how many presidents there were? Too bad, you’re gonna hear about them, anyway. The reason being that just because something is “useless” now doesn’t mean it will forever be that way.
Memorization was my thing as a kid. I fooled my violin teacher into believing I could read music by memorizing the piece as she played it and then playing it back to her. I ruled the church AWANA program, memorizing so many passages of Scripture that they thought about writing new epistles to keep up with me (that last part might not be true). Do I remember it all? Not even half. Did I know what those passages meant/taught? I didn’t really care.
Awww, what a failure, you might say (and by “you” I mean Jeremy). And, if the metric of success is a high percentage of retention and a deep understanding of theology then, yes, quite an abysmal failure. But maybe success should, in such ventures, be measured differently. Maybe it should be viewed as kind of like swimming: even after you’ve moved on to other things you’ve still got some of it sloshing around in your ears. In the case of chlorine-laced water, that’s bad, but when you’re talking about the Bible, not so much.
In my mind, anything you learn/memorize you have the potential to remember and use at a later date. It amazes me that my twenty-seven year-old brain can pull to its surface some archaic memory of the past when prompted. My wife was watching home videos of her and me in preschool the other day and as she sent me screen-captures of some moments, memories that I forgot existed resurfaced. Those memories are over twenty years old, but they’re still there.
Likewise, I can still remember and utilize passages, verses, and fragments-of-verses learned in my formative years. And while Bible quizzes are no replacement for Bible Studies, they can be a worthwhile pursuit in their own right. I can’t memorize things as easily now as I could twenty years ago, so I’m glad that twenty years ago someone had the good sense to find ways of encouraging my seven year-old self to memorize Scripture as a child so a little could still be sloshing around between my ears as an adult.