When a politician today talks about the importance of the Bible, you can expect there to be a swift and stern reaction. Federal Opposition leader Tony Abbott made such a remark recently and all the usual suspects started lining up to condemn him for making such a suggestion.
Of course it does not help matters much when media headlines distort what was in fact said. One headline and byline implied that Abbott was demanding compulsory Bible reading in our schools. What he in fact said was a bit different:
“I think everyone should have some familiarity with the great texts that are at the core of our civilisation. That includes, most importantly, the Bible. I think it would be impossible to have a good general education without at least some serious familiarity with the Bible and with the teachings of Christianity. That doesn’t mean that people have to be believers.”
Only angry secularists and crusading misotheists would have a problem with that suggestion. Of course our school children should have an awareness of the great books of history, including the Bible, and have a basic understanding of Christianity.
Western civilization as we know would not exist if it were not for Christianity and the Bible. As William Lyon Phelps, former Professor of English Literature at Yale University once put it, “Our civilization is founded upon the Bible. More of our ideas, our wisdom, our philosophy, our literature, our art, and our ideals come from the Bible than from all other books combined.”
History is replete with glowing testimonials about this amazing book. Consider just a few:
Napoleon said, “The Bible is no mere book, but a living Power that conquers all that oppose it.”
Philosopher Immanuel Kant declared, “The existence of the bible as a book for the people, is the greatest benefit which the human race has ever experienced. Every attempt to belittle it is a crime against humanity.”
Psychologist William James said, “The Bible contains more true sublimity, more exquisite beauty, more pure morality, more important history, and finer strains of poetry and eloquence than can be collected from all other books, in whatever age or language they may have been written.”
US President Theodore Roosevelt stated: “A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education. . . . Every thinking man, when he thinks, realizes that the teachings of the Bible is so interwoven with our whole civic and social life that it would be literally impossible for us to figure what life would be like if those teachings were removed. We would lose almost all the standards by which we now judge both public and private morals; all the standards to which we, with more or less resolution, strive to raise ourselves.”
Scientist Isaac Newton exclaimed, “If all the great books of the world were brought together in convention, the moment the Bible entered all the other books would fall on their faces as the gods of Philistia fell when the ark of God was brought into their presence in the temple of Dagon.”
Noah Webster taught, “Education is useless without the Bible. . . . The moral principles and precepts contained in the Scriptures form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws…all the miseries and evils which men suffer from – crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery and war – proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible.”
American President Abraham Lincoln said, “I believe the Bible is the best gift God has given to man. All the good Saviour gave to the world was communicated through this Book. But for it, we could not know right from wrong. All things most desirable for man’s welfare, here and hereafter, are to be found portrayed in it.”
In 1998 James Kennedy and Jerry Newcome wrote a book entitled What if the Bible Had Never Been Written? In it there is ample documentation of the profound influence and impact this book has had in every area of life. The authors show how morality, society, law, politics, literature, and other areas have been powerfully impacted by this book.
Consider just one area: science. The authors demonstrate how the very foundations of modern science have been established by Bible-believing Christians. They discuss the great pioneer scientists who laid the foundations of modern physics, astronomy, calculus, oceanography, anesthesiology, and other branches of science, such as Johannes Kepler, Francis Bacon, Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton, Carl von Linnaeus, Charles Babbage, Blaise Pascal, Samuel Morse, Matthew Fontaine Maury, James Simpson, George Washington Carver, and so on.
The Bible is unique
The Bible is really a collection of books, yet just one book. In all there are 66 different books written by perhaps 40 authors over 1500 years (1400 BC to 100 AD). The Bible was written in three continents: Africa, Europe and Asia.
It was written in three languages: the Old Testament mostly Hebrew, with a bit of Aramaic, and New Testament in Greek. And it was written by a wide range of people: shepherds (David), kings (Solomon), fishermen (Peter), doctors (Luke), tax collectors (Matthew), etc.
Yet with all of this diversity, the Bible displays an amazing unity. As Norman Geisler remarks, “These sixty-six books unfold one continuous drama of redemption, paradise lost to paradise regained, creation to the consummation of all things. There is one central theme, the person of Jesus Christ, even by implication in the Old Testament.”
The Bible claims to be God’s record of his saving involvement with mankind. It is a book rooted in history. Other sacred books do not make such claims. The Koran is basically a collection of commands and orders by Mohammed about how we should live. The Buddhist scriptures make theoretical and ethical injunctions on how to live. The Hindu scriptures are more attuned to mythology than history.
The Bible is simply unique. And as noted, it is unique in its influence. As the Gideons have stated, “During the British Coronation ceremony a Bible is presented to the monarch with the words, ‘We present you with this Book, the most valuable thing this world affords. Here is wisdom. This is the Royal Law. These are the lively oracles of God.’ These words are true and deeply significant.
“This Book has the power not only to inform, but to reform and to transform lives. Through its influence countless people have been given a new strength, an unerring purpose and a sure hope in life. To the dying it has brought peace and assurance to eternal life. It has brought blessings to millions in every land and age.
“It is supernatural in origin, eternal in duration, divine in authorship, infallible in authority, inexhaustible in meaning, universal in readership, unique in revelation, personal in application and powerful in effect.”
The Bible has been read by more people and published in more languages than any other book. Given the overwhelming importance of the Bible, Tony Abbott was absolutely right to suggest that we all need to become familiar with the most remarkable of books.