PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “The Bible: Relic or Relevant?”
By: Ron Woodrum
The Bible continues to be the perennial best seller of all books! That being said, there is a legitimate question about the impact that it is currently having on lives in this 21st century. Just before he gave up hosting the Tonight Show, Jay Leno did an on the street interview of people, and asked them Bible questions, and aired it on his show. What was the results? It was hilarious and horrific at the same time! The questions were not tricky or hard. They were intended to be easy. That’s what made it so funny…and frightening! Leno asked one person, “Did Adam and Eve have any children?” After a few seconds of deep thought, a woman responded, “No, no, they never had kids!’ He then asked, “Can you name the two brothers…Cain…and———” Absolute blank stare. Had no idea. They were probably thinking Cain and Hurricane! No… she had no answer. Okay—“What happened to Lot’s wife?” Zero response! Someone blurted out, “Who is Lot?’ A little hint-“She turned into________” The person blurted out her guess—“An Angel?” Leno then asked someone-“can you name one of the Apostles?” No reply. “How about one of the Beatles” Immediate response-“John, Paul, George, and Ringo!” The crowd cheered! “How many commandments are there?” One guy replied boldly-“Three! There are three commandments!” Another corrected him-“No, everybody knows there are twenty…twenty commandments!” Another in the crowd heard that and answered “no, it’s like the Apostles…there are twelve!” Leno, assuming someone in the know asked, “can you name four of them?” No one could name four. “How about one?” The man replied, “Something about not coveting your neighbor’s wife!” (Leno said, “Interesting that is the only one he can remember!”). Leno said, “You mean if she’s pretty?” He said, “yea, I think that’s it!” “Is your neighbor’s wife pretty?” The man replied, “No!” Leno told him, “I hope she is not watching tonight!” “Who was swallowed by a whale?” Leno asked. The man responded, “A whale? Is this a trick question?” Let me give you a hint, Leno replied—“Jo….” “Joan of Arc” was the quick response! “No… Jo……..?” “Joe DiMaggio?” “No” Jay told them. Someone in the crowd asked…”Pinocchio?” “Which two cities were destroyed in the Book of Genesis?” “Let me give you a hint—Sodom________?” “Saddam Hussein?” This brief episode revealed that we live in a whole new world, and nothing has been more adversely affected by postmodernism than the Church and its relationship to God’s Word-The Holy Scriptures! The sad thing may be that the Church may not have fared much better! Bible Illiteracy is rampant. But it hasn’t always been that way. The Bible has impacted civilization all through out man’s history. Some of the greatest thinkers of all time have been those who were literate of the Bible, and let it have an impact on their thinking and therefore their lives!
Novelist, Philosopher, Author, and Literary critic George Steiner wrote, in the New Yorker, some very affirming words on the influence that the Bible has had on civilization…until recent years. He wrote, “One is indeed tempted to define modernism in Western Culture in terms of a recession of common currency recognition of both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. That recognition was once the sinew of literacy, the shared matter of intellect and sentiment from the sixteenth century onward…not only in the spheres of personal and public piety, but also in those of politics, social institutions, and the life of literary and aesthetic imagination”. Virginia Stem Owens, agreeing with Steiner, went on to say, “All Western literature… is a Midrash, (a commentary) on the Bible”. But she went on-“It has become like an unplayed Stradivarius, this once-Holy Text now inhabits the air-conditioned glass case of DISPASSIONATE DISREGARD!” In other words, this Bible that used to be so revered and relevant…has become a revered but relegated relic! George Herbert, in his book The Temple—1633 wrote, “Bibles laid open…millions of surprises!” We have forgotten that! Not only is it full of surprises…but full of power that we are desperately in need of. John Calvin wrote, “No human writings, however sacredly composed, are at all capable of affecting us in a similar way. Read Demosthenes or Cicero, read Plato or Aristotle, or any other of that class. You will, I admit, feel wonderfully allured, pleased, moved, enchanted; but turn from them to reading the Sacred Volume, and it will so pierce your heart, so work its way into your very marrow that the comparison to that of orators and Philosophers will disappear, making it manifest that in the Sacred Volume there is a Truth Divine, something that makes it superior to all the gifts and graces attainable by man!” C.I. Schofield, (author of the Schofield reference Bible), wrote “I gave much of my earlier life to the study of Homer and Shakespeare, and while my understanding undoubtedly profited from that study, I found keen intellectual delight in it, these books held no rebuke for my sins, nor any power to lift me above them, but, when I came to the Bible and received Him, concerning whom, after all, the whole Book is written, I entered into peace, joy, and power. The Bible led me to Jesus and Jesus transformed my life!”
That truth is expressed so well in a poem by the great Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier:
“We searched the world for Truth;
We cull the good, the pure, the beautiful;
From graven tombs and written scroll.
From all old flower fields of the soul;
And weary seekers of the best,
We come laden back from our quest,
And find that all the sages said,
Is in the Book our mothers read!”
We could save ourselves a lot of fruitless search if we understand that the “beginning of wisdom is in God’s Word”. Luther sought for salvation, God, and truth desperately. To no avail. But as he studied Scripture he not only found the Jesus Christ as Savior, but truth for his generation, and just sharing it brought about the Great Protestant Reformation, that is still evidenced today in Evangelical Christianity. Luther spoke about how that happened. He wrote: “Take me for example. I opposed indulgences and all papists; but never by force. I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word. Otherwise I did nothing. And then, while I slept…the Word so greatly weakened the Papacy that never a prince or emperor did such damage to it. I did nothing. The Word did it all! Had I wanted to start trouble…I could have started a little game at Worms that even the emperor wouldn’t have been safe. But what would it have been? A mug’s game. I did nothing. I left it to the Word! The Word did it all!” It still does! If we will embrace the Word and unleash the Word. The greatest quote concerning the Bible comes from The Prince of All Preachers-Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Someone had asked him about whether we should defend the Bible. He gave his answer in an Address to the Annual Meeting of the British and Foreign Bible Society, May 5th, 1875. He spoke-“There seems to me to have been twice as much done in some ages in defending the Bible as in expounding it, but if the whole of our strength shall henceforth go to the exposition and spreading of it, we may leave it pretty much to defend itself. I do not know whether you see that lion-it is very distinctly before my eyes; a number of persons advance to attack him, while a host of us would defend the Lion, with all our strength…pardon me if I might offer a suggestion. Open the door and let the lion out; he will take care of himself. Why, they are gone! He no sooner goes froth in his strength than his assailants flee. The way to meet infidelity is to spread the Bible. The answer to every objection against the Bible is the Bible. Defend the Bible? I would just a well defend a lion!” Good advice! Open the Bible and turn God’s ferocious Word loose. Isaiah said, “Unleash God’s Word…It will not return void!” (Isaiah 55).