An article in GQ magazine written by the editors declares that the Bible is one of 21 books that you don’t need to read. It’s 12th on the list and the description by Jesse Ball begins with the following comment:
The Holy Bible is rated very highly by all the people who supposedly live by it but who in actuality have not read it.
More people live by it that have not read it, and that’s the main reason that the Bible is the most significant book in all of history. Vishal Mangalwadi’s The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization develops this theme. The literature, morality, redemptive nature of grace, mercy, forgiveness, law, education, and the laws of creation (nature) permeate every facet of our being and our world.
Those who have read it know there are some good parts, but overall it is certainly not the finest thing that man has ever produced. It is repetitive, self-contradictory, sententious, foolish, and even at times ill-intentioned.
The Bible is not a novel. It’s a history of our world, a story of fall and redemption, to put in language that someone like Ball might understand. Yes, it’s repetitive because the human condition is repetitive. It’s not self-contradictory. In fact, the compilation of 66 individual “books” is remarkably cohesive if a person actually studies it.
It is “sententious,” and that’s why many people don’t like it. There is morality in the Bible; there is judgment; two things the self-willed libertine does not like. “Foolish”? For the materialist who believes we evolved from a primordial soup of chemicals and a he can become a she and a she can become a he, I imagine the Bible does seem foolish.
The Bible does mention foolishness: “The fool has said in his heart, ‘there is no God’” (Ps. 14:1). The Apostle Paul writes:
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength (1 Cor. 1:18-25).
Tell former slave Frederick Douglas (1818–1895) the Bible is foolish. When the slave owner of Douglass discovered that his wife was teaching his 12-year-old slave to read the Bible, he stopped her. “If he learns to read the Bible it will make him ever unfit to be a slave. In no time “he’ll be running away with himself.”
In his later years, Douglass reflected on that incident as the first antislavery lecture he had ever heard, and it inspired him to do anything he could to read more of the Bible. Eager to learn more about the Bible, Douglass recalled, “I have gathered scattered pages from this holy book, from the filthy street gutters of Baltimore, and washed and dried them, that in the moments of my leisure, I might get a word or two of wisdom from them.”
Douglas had begun to realize what his “master” understood. “There was power, indeed subversive, revolutionary power, in reading and interpreting the Bible for oneself, and that the institution of slavery in fact depended on controlling biblical literacy—who can read the Bible when and how.”
Years later Douglass wrote,
Let the reader reflect upon the fact, that, in this Christian country, men and women are hiding from professors of religion, in barns, in the woods and fields, in order to learn to read the Holy Bible. Those dear souls, who came to my Sabbath school, came not because it was popular or reputable to attend such a place, for they came under the liability of having forty stripes laid on their naked backs. Every moment they spend in my school, they were under this terrible liability; and, in this respect, I was sharer with them. Their minds had been cramped and starved by their cruel masters; the light of education had been completely excluded; and their hard earnings had been taken to educate their master’s children. I felt a delight in circumventing the tyrants, and in blessing the victims of their curses.
The history of Western civilization is the history of the development and implementation of the Bible to all of life. While the GQ article and a book like James A. Haught’s 2000 Years of Disbelief try to counter this assertion by claiming that for two millennia no one of any significance believed the truths of the Christian religion, especially in the realm of science, the facts of history demonstrate that Christian scientists, explorers, philosophers, artists, inventors, and writers have dominated their fields.
Dan Wallace, a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary and Executive director at The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM), comments:
Even skeptics and atheists recognize the Bible as the most influential book on western civilization ever written. And as for literature, H. L. Mencken, no friend of Christianity, said, “The King James Bible is ‘unquestionably the most beautiful book in the world.’” Mario Pei claimed, “The King James Bible and Shakespeare together are responsible for well over half of all our language clichés and stock phrases.”