The facts are that God is not silent, has never been silent. It is the nature of God to speak. The second Person of the Holy Trinity is called the Word. The Bible is the inevitable outcome of God’s continuous speech. It is the infallible declaration of His mind put into our familiar human words. A.W. Tozer
The Eighteenth century philosopher Francois Voltaire said, ‘‘If we would destroy the Christian religion, we must first of all destroy man’s belief in the Bible.’’ At the end of the Twentieth century we may be witnessing, not the destruction of Christianity (of which no power in heaven or earth is capable), but the destruction of the Christian foundation of this society. That foundation has been no less than a confidence in the reliability and sanctity of the Bible. Ulysses S. Grant once said, ‘‘To the influence of this book we are indebted for all the progress made in true civilization, and to this we must look as our guide in the future.’’ Such is not the case in present-day America.
Our generation was not here when our Grandfathers-in-the-faith fought the great Fundamentalist/Modernist battles at the turn of this last century. The rationalistic Liberals had attacked Christianity at the very source, the proposition that God had spoken in not only the Living Word but also in the Written Word. This written Word of God was made to be seen as a merely human product to be manipulated in the same fashion as any other human book. Our spiritual forefathers boldly met that challenge and succeeded in preserving not only Christianity’s but America’s faith in the Book.
That fight was aided by peripheral studies such as Archeology which connected our present reading of the Bible with historical evidence from the past. Textual studies of ancient manuscripts also confirmed the church’s historic faith in the reliability of the Bible. Even the style of the biblical Greek was confirmed to be authentic while the Dead Sea Scrolls moved our understanding of the biblical Hebrew one thousand years closer to the original texts and confirmed their reliability. Modern literature also gave profound witness to the Bible. Victor Hugo said, ‘‘England has two great books, the Bible and Shakespeare. England made Shakespeare, but the Bible made England.’’
But that was then. This is now. Christians who will see the turn of the next century may be playing while western civilization burns. Perhaps we have thought the Bible question was settled and we no longer need to defend its integrity. But while we have concentrated on the proclamation of the Word (and who does not want to be left with that task alone?) the audience to which we are speaking has undermined the authority, significance, reliability and relevance of our text. In March of this year, USA Weekend published statistics in which one third of Baby Boomers said they were born again and twenty eight percent of them also believed in reincarnation!
In a blasphemous book entitled God: A Biography (called a ‘‘theobiography’’), author Jack Miles has Christ on the cross asking mankind to forgive God: ‘‘Forgive Him for He knows not what He has done,’’ and has God apologizing to Job for tormenting him. This year the Wis.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation put stickers on Gideon Bibles that said, ‘‘We’re offended to have these Bible in our rooms.’’
In preparing some Biblical Archeology material, I constantly have come across statements by archeologists disclaiming the historicity of the Bible. The greatest find of the nineties was in biblical Dan where a stone ‘‘stele’’ was found with the words ‘‘House of David’’ from the eighth century B.C. (making it the only place we have found the biblical name David outside biblical texts). But in Biblical Archeology Today, Philip Davies wrote, ‘‘Biblical stories, like any other ancient accounts, ought to be verified before being accorded the status of facts. . . I am not the only scholar who suspects that the figure of King David is about as historical as King Arthur.’’
To today’s audience, the Bible is simply a record of what the church has culturally expressed. since it does not come from our generation, it has little significance for our culture. Stanley J. Grenz, in Revisioning Evangelical Theology: A Fresh Agenda for the 21st Century, published by Inter-Varsity, says that the role of Scripture in Christian theology is ‘‘ultimately unnecessary.’’ Following this postmodern agenda he writes, ‘‘In recent years we have begun to shift the focus of our attention away from doctrine with its focus on propositional truth in favor of a renewed interest in what constitutes the uniquely evangelical vision of spirituality.’’
Whether we want to or not, we are going to have to fight our own battle for the Bible. Francis Schaeffer warned us, ‘‘Unless the Bible is without error, not only when it speaks of salvation matters, but also when it speaks of history and the cosmos, we have no foundation for answering questions concerning the existence of the universe and its form and the uniqueness of man. Nor do we have any moral absolutes, or certainty of salvation, and the next generation of Christians will have nothing on which to stand.’’
Has Voltaire won? Have we won a few battles but lost the war? Not necessarily. But we must know when to befriend and when to confront. Becoming user friendly with the Bible can come at the price of becoming verbally indistinct. We desire so much to appeal to our generation but the desire of our generation is to have no appeal.
In the same Eighteenth century in which Voltaire died, Harvard President Joseph Willard at a graduation exercise, prayed that the class of 1799, about to enter a new century, had kept ‘‘the sacred code called the Bible in which you have been instructed from your early years and which is worthy of all acceptation, and that none of the writings of infidels have unhinged your minds or removed from them the hope of the gospel.’’ Let us pray that our minds do not become unhinged by a friendly-sounding but infidel culture.