Est. May 2008

26 April, 2014

Dusty Bibles

There’s an old Gospel hymn that goes a lot like this:

I went into a home one day to see some friends of mine.
Of all the books and magazines not a Bible could I find.
I asked them for the Bible when they brought it what a shame,
For the dust was covered o'er it not a fingerprint was plain.

Dust on the Bible, dust on the holy word.
The words of all the prophets and the sayings of our Lord.
Of all the other books you'll find there's none salvation holds.
Get that dust off the Bible and redeem your poor soul.

Oh, you can read your magazines of love and tragic things,
But not one word or Bible verse, not a Scripture do you know.
When it is the very truth, its contents good for you,
If dust is covered o’er it, it’s sure to doom your soul.
Dust on the Bible, dust on the holy word.
The words of all the prophets and the sayings of our Lord.
Of all the other books you'll find there's none salvation holds;
Get that dust off the Bible and redeem your poor soul...

And when I read things about how 75 to 80% of Americans self-identify as Christians, then read a Pew or Barna or other poll that says so many Americans are Bible-illiterate (like this one), I’ve got an undeniable feeling there’s an awful lot of dust on an awful lot of Bibles out there in an awful lot of ‘Christian’ homes.

We know, obviously, from these polls, that a lot of self-professing Christians don’t really know what’s in their Bible; these same self-professing Christians are voicing opinions on what’s in the Bible – a book they admittedly have little more than a nodding, oh-there-it-is-on-the-shelf acquaintance with.  So what are they basing their opinions on?  After all, they’re getting this information somewhere.

That ‘somewhere’ is someone else, someone these Bible-illiterate ‘Christians’ depend on to tell them the truth of what’s in a Book they haven’t read, and may very well never read themselves.  And the problem with that is at least twofold: either the ‘experts’ they’re gleaning their information from are as ignorant of the Bible as they are (the blind leading the blind), or (and this is scarier – and, sadly, more likely)  these ‘experts are deliberately misrepresenting the contents of the Bible for their own ends.

These folks – the ones deliberately misrepresenting the contents – have an easy job of it.  Few ‘Christians’ really know what’s in the Book (they aren’t Bereans), and everybody likes to hear what they want to hear (those tickled ears), and if a single verse or short passage can ‘prove’ the Bible hates women or doesn’t condone war or despises interracial marriage, then those who spout this nonsense won’t have anybody (at least among their hearers) calling them out on it.

And this is wrong.  Protestants, take note: this is why you’re Protestants; one of the reasons the Protestant Revolution got started was the work of certain men (Tyndale, Wycliffe, and others) who printed the Bible in common language, rather than Latin: the early church had a monopoly on the Bible, and could preach whatever they wished, because their flocks had no way of examining Scripture to ‘see if these things were so’.  Those men died fighting for the common man to have a Bible in his or her own language; their efforts have blossomed into the shelves and shelves of Bibles in every bookstore in the country (save, perhaps, for university bookstores – seems universities have a problem with the Bible, if the latest news reports are anything to go by). 

Every Christian, notional or not, must read their Bible regularly – Paul, in speaking of the Bereans, mentions ‘daily’.  Go to church, listen to preachers on TV and the radio and the Internet.  Then be a Berean – receive the word with all eagerness, then examine the Scriptures daily to see if these things are so. 

And I know – most pulpits are little more than homiletic factories trying to apply a single verse or small Scripture passage to daily life.  Things weren’t that way back in the times of the apostles, when they would read Scripture aloud and expound on it to their flocks.  But this is all the more reason to read the Bible on your own, to get the things missed.  Or misinterpreted.

It’s all too easy to sit back and let the preacher tell you what’s in the Bible.  It’s too hard, we hear, to read the Bible on a daily basis.  It doesn’t make sense to me, we hear.  I haven’t got time, we hear.  But like the song says, you have time to read your magazines, time to read your newspapers, time to watch TV (okay, that’s not in there, but you get the drift); you’ve got time to read your Bible, and in all the versions that are available (NIV, ESV, NKJV, KJV, and others), it’s no longer ‘hard’ to read.  Nor is it hard to understand – there are study bibles which give you notes explaining the verses, plus there are commentaries which you can buy (they’re not all that expensive) or borrow from the library to help you out with understanding).

Christians, stop letting other people tell you what’s in the Bible – they don’t know, or they’ll tell you what they want to tell you, or they’ll tell you what you want to hear.  Go to the source – the Bible – and find out what’s really in there.

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