Is the Bible disappearing from public discourse?

Kenneth A. Briggs set out on a two-year cross-country journey in search of the Bible’s place in American culture. He reveals his discovers in his book “The Invisible Bestseller: Searching for the Bible in America.” He recently shared some of what he learned in an interview with the Religious News Service.

There is not enough room here to even cover a shortened version of that interview, but I will share a few of the more pertinent points.

Q: When you say the Bible is disappearing from public life, what do you mean?

     A: Well, people aren’t reading it very much, and it just doesn’t show up in – as they love to say – public discourse. It doesn’t really make many appearances, and it is not in the public consciousness.

Q: What does it say about us, that despite the diminished role of the Bible, it’s still listed in Guinness World Records as the world’s best-selling book?

A: We still love it to some extent as an artifact, as a keepsake, as a gift to people we think do read the Bible even though we may not, so it remains very popular that way and something almost like – I don’t want to say quite “rabbit’s foot,” but it’s sort of like that.

Briggs goes on to say the Bible is “largely unknown” in America today, but is “discoverable.” He has seen the Bible “become a museum exhibit, hallowed as a treasure but enigmatic and untouched.”

Though I find Briggs’ observations unsettling they seem to be spot on. Despite the Bible being available in more versions and formats making it “discoverable” biblical illiteracy is on the rise so its disappearance in public discourse is to be expected. If we don’t read it then we do not think about it or discuss it.

The Bible is said to be the number one all time bestseller, which indicates it holds a place of respect in our thinking, but it should be more than a lucky charm or a paperweight.

The sin and vices so prevalent in our culture today are mirrored in the church, which means the culture is exerting more of an influence on the church than the church is on the culture. Is that because the church no longer sees the Scriptures as a reliable guide on what to believe and how we should live?

I do not believe in bibliolatry, the worship of the Bible, I worship the God of the Bible. But the Bible is a revelation of God’s holy nature and divine will so I agree with the late Bible teacher Derek Prince, “You do not trust God any more than you trust His Word, you do not obey God any more than you obey His Word, and you do not love God any more than you love His Word.”

If the Church hopes to be a righteous influence in America, then the Word of God will need to be a greater influence on the Church.

The Sacred and the Secular

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ legislature recently amended its anti-discrimination law to include gender identity. The new law will become effective October 1, 2016. The problem with anti-discrimination laws is they always discriminate against someone.

A guide to gender identity practices has been published by The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination charged with enforcing the new law. It is an interesting read.

The guide says the law is legally incumbent on “agents of public accommodation.” Those are “any place…which is open to and accepts or solicits the patronage of the general public.” This has been general defined as hotels, restaurants, theaters, etc. But churches are open to the public and are tasked by the Scriptures to share the Gospel that may be considered as soliciting.

Any such place of public accommodation is required if it “ lawfully separates access to a place or any portion thereof based on a person’s sex, shall grant admission to that place, and the full enjoyment of that place or portion thereof, consistent with the person’s gender identity.”

The guide further says “even a church could be seen as a place of public accommodation if it holds a secular event, such as a spaghetti supper, that is open to the general public.”

A good working definition of the word “sacred” is that which is devoted to the service of God. Using this definition some would say the office of a pastor is a “sacred” profession. In contradistinction, a good working definition of the word “secular” is that which is not devoted to a spiritual or religious purpose. Using this definition being an accountant would be considered a “secular” profession.

This was especially true prior to the Reformation when the work of the clergy was considered sacred, heavenly and eternal, and the work of the laity was considered secular, worldly and temporal. But after the Reformation the doctrine of labor underwent a reformation as well.

Paul admonished, “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God,” 1 Corinthians 10:31, and “whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus,” Colossians 3:17. Peter echoes this sentiment in his first letter, 4:11.

Christianity teaches whatever honest labor the believer engages in if done for Christ and God’s glory is sacred. The farmer plowing in the field is as honorable and his labor just as sacred as the pastor preaching in the pulpit. Thus the labor of every man is ennobled. For the believer there is no dichotomy between sacred and secular.

Using the commission’s example of a spaghetti supper, if hosted to bond with and serve the community, and the church hopes to build relationships to create a positive atmosphere to share the Gospel that is inherently sacred.

It seems those sympathetic to the LGBT cause want to limit the outreach of the church and force it into the same closet they came out of. Freedom of religion is lost when government dictates what is sacred and what is secular.

Robin Rinaldi and The Wild Oats Project

Robin Rinaldi had wanted children and her husband did not. So after 18 years of marriage she decided if they would not have children she wanted more lovers. Not wanting to go behind her husband’s back, they discussed and decided on taking a year off from their marriage. This was so that Rinaldi “could experience life (and by life we mean sex) with other people.” Her book The Wild Oats Project is her account of what she experienced.

What little I know about the book is what I have gleaned from reviews and quotes, which in turn makes me disinclined to know more. There were two things about her experience I found extremely distasteful.

First, the idea that for sex to be both exciting and satisfying one must venture outside of the marriage. Study after study reveals married couples enjoy more sex and more satisfying sex than their single counterparts, who by the way should not be fornicating, which may be why they are not enjoying it as much, guilt, fear of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, etcetera.

And last, I found her cavalier disregard for the seventh commandment of the Decalogue disturbing. “You shall not commit adultery” is not a suggestion and its violation in the utilitarian search for a more satisfying sexual relationship is a betrayal of her marriage despite her husband’s knowledge and permission.

A professor once asked a fellow student, “If you lie to your roommate about something, and he knows you are lying, and you know he knows you are lying, is it really a lie?

This was a discussion about ethics and I should give you some background so you can understand the professor’s point. The difference between saying something that is not true and telling a lie is intent. I may say something that is not true, but believed it was true at the time; I just was not in full possession of the facts. A lie is when you say something that is not true to deceive the hearer.

The professor’s point was, if you did not succeed in deceiving your roommate, did you really lie? The answer from a scriptural point is yes! Lying is a sin because of the intent to deceive whether or not you succeeded in deceiving someone.

I know there are many competing ideas of what a marriage should be, but whether it is in the marital vows or not, an underlying foundational concept of marriage is the mutual commitment to a sexually exclusive relationship. Otherwise, what’s the purpose?

A working definition of adultery is having sex with someone other than your spouse, or if single with someone else’s spouse. Adultery is still adultery even if your spouse consents to your adultery. At the heart of every sin is the intent to disobey God. Rinaldi may not have sinned against her husband, but she sinned against God.

There was a time when we were shamed by our sin, now we write books about it and flaunt it.

Calling Evil Good

One of my spiritual disciplines is Bible reading. The reading plan I use has me consistently reading through the Scriptures about every eleven months. I began reading through the book of Isaiah this past week, and though he prophesied almost 700 years before Christ I found one of his writings especially relevant.

Isaiah spoke to the nation of Judah and its capital Jerusalem. The people of Judah had lapsed into idolatry and were practicing their ancient faith only in pretense. They were under the impending judgment of God and on the brink of being deported into Babylonian captivity.

Isaiah proclaimed this warning, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter,” Isaiah 5:20. It is a caveat of exchanging the bitter way of disobedience for the sweet path of obedience, choosing to stumble in darkness instead of in the light of God’s Word.

These words address the spiritual realities of ignoring God’s directions and lapsing into sin, but the statement “calling evil good, and good evil” addresses the denial of the pragmatic realities of life that lie at the bottom of man’s depravity, trading the truth for a lie.

We are witnessing a parallel to Judah’s plight in America today.

In the name of sanctity of life we say a duly convicted murderer should not be executed and then deny that same truth and allow the killing of the unborn for the sake of convenience. We spare the guilty, and slaughter the innocent.

Here in America we say marriage is not a union of man and woman alone, but is also the union of two men or two women. The reality though is that the union of two men or two women cannot produce the next generation that would insure the flourishing of our nation. What God says about marriage is wrong, and what man says about marriage is right.

In this country a man can claim to be a woman, or a woman can claim to be a man and use the restroom of their choice. Last year a man was voted woman of the year and highlights this truth. A man can claim to be a woman, and a woman can claim to be a man.

Calling things something they are not is a mark of depravity. It is a sign of deep-seated rebellion against reality to declare a thing to be something it is clearly not. It is a sign of how far people have strayed from the will of God.

Sin not only causes one to reject the will of God, but also to reject the realities of life when it doesn’t fit into their fantasies.

Is being LGBT innate or a choice?

Since lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people have been coming out of the closet they have claimed they are born that way and those who oppose their lifestyle say it is a choice. This debate is unresolved at present.

A recent study has been released addressing this debate. The report is titled, “Sexuality and Gender: Findings from the Biological, Psychological, and Social Sciences.” There were four findings that contradicted popular opinions on this issue.

First, “The belief that sexual orientation is an innate, biologically fixed human property – that people are ‘born that way’ – is not supported by scientific evidence.”

Second, “Likewise, the belief that gender identity is an innate, fixed human property independent of biological sex – so that a person might be a ‘man trapped in a woman’s body’ or a ‘woman trapped in a man’s body’ – is not supported by scientific evidence.”

Third, “Only a minority of children who express gender-atypical thoughts or behavior will continue to do so into adolescence or adulthood. There is no evidence that all such children should be encouraged to become transgender, much less subjected to hormone treatments or surgery.”

Fourth, “Non-heterosexual and transgender people have higher rates of mental health problems (anxiety, depression, suicide), as well as behavioral and social problems (substance abuse, intimate partner violence), than the general population. Discrimination alone does not account for the entire disparity.”

As you can imagine the study is seen differently depending on who is writing about it.

Conservative writer Ryan T. Anderson, Ph.D., points to the fact that this is a “143-page report” that “discusses over 200 peer-reviewed studies in the biological, psychological, and social sciences, painstakingly documenting what scientific research shows and does not show about sexuality and gender.”

LGBT activist and writer Robbie Medwed describes the study as being produced by an “anti-LGBT think tank” and questions the objectivity of those who conducted the study.

I am an avowed Biblicist, I believe the Scriptures are the very Word of God, inspired and preserved by Him, and are a reliable guide to how we should live our lives. When I read that in the beginning “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them,” Genesis 1:27, I believe that to be literally true and embrace all it infers logically about human sexuality and gender.

But this does not mean mine is a blind faith. While the LGBT community has attacked the objectivity of those who conducted the study claiming these researchers were biased, the LGBT community has yet to give an explanation why this study is scientifically unsound. Nor has the LGBT community ever produced a scintilla of scientific evidence to show genetic markers that affirm the claim they are genetically predisposed to their lifestyle choices and are subsequently inborn.

Human sexuality and gender is clearly seen in both our genes and jeans. It is spiritually dangerous to disagree with the Scriptures, and just plain foolish to oppose what is empirically obvious.

Is White Christian America Dying?

John Sides recently wrote an article for the Washington Post titled “White Christian America is dying.” John is an Associate Professor of Political Science at George Washington University. His article is based on a survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute founded by Robert P. Jones and the book authored by Jones, “The End of White Christian America.”

There is not enough space here to address all the results of the survey, but there was an interesting trend. There was a considerable generational decline in those claiming to be Christian with a corresponding increase in those claiming to be unaffiliated with any religious tradition.

While the survey cited a number of reasons for millennials leaving the church, one reason stood out for the youngest age group surveyed. Seventy percent of millennials, 18-33, “believe that religious groups are alienating young adults by being too judgmental about gay and lesbian issues.”

Of those millennials raised in a religious home but now claim to be unaffiliated with a religious group, thirty-one percent said “that negative teaching about or treatment of gay and lesbian people by religious organizations was somewhat or a very important factor in their leaving.”

I have said this before and it bears repeating here, the kingdom of God is not a democracy. We do not get to vote on what is or is not a sin. That holds true for sexual sins including homosexuality.

The homosexual lifestyle and the LGBT community’s pursuit of what they believe is marriage equality are dividing our culture. Currently, homosexuality is riding a wave of unprecedented popularity with no sign that popularity has crested.

There is much misinformation and misunderstanding on both sides of the issue. Gay and lesbian couples believe they are being discriminated against when Christians of good conscience do not want to be a party to something the Scriptures condemn. Disagreements arise over the limits of religious freedom and because those disagreements are emotionally charged they tend to generate more heat than light.

Divine admonitions are not arbitrary; there are always practical implications to transgressing what God declares to be sin. Recent legal rulings coupled with the growing acceptance of homosexuality have created seismic shifts in our nation’s morality and laws. These shifts are relatively sudden with no long-term statistical data of the effect of these changes on our society.

The Scriptures warn, “You shall not follow after the masses in doing evil, nor…turn aside after a multitude to pervert justice,” Exodus 23:2. Popular opinion sometimes is little more than mob rule. I think millennials would be well advised to think clearly about traditional marriage and not be so impulsive about changing something that has worked for thousands of years.

There is a reason why no civilization, culture or religion in the history of mankind has flourished celebrating the homosexuality lifestyle, because it is biologically unsustainable. Christianity, whatever color or ethnicity, is biologically sustainable; millennials should rethink which one is dying.

Doubt and Faith

I read an article by a young woman who shared things a believer should not say to someone who doubts their Christian faith, and suggested what they should say and do instead. She had been raised in a “conservative, evangelical” home, but when she began attending college her faith began to unravel.

She said, “The faith my parents gave me had been constructed like a delicate house of cards.” Her story is not unusual. Many children when they leave home and begin to make a life for themselves and are no longer under the influence of their parents, often experience a crisis of faith, when they must make sense out of what they believe and why they believe it.

Children often “get saved” for a host of reasons. A friend of theirs did, or they want to please their parents, or they want to fit in with the church crowd. But those reasons seldom translate into genuine faith when they are on their own. I am not discrediting the decisions made by children, I came to Christ at the age of eight, I am simply saying sometimes decisions are made for social reasons rather than spiritual reasons.

The words in the New Testament for faith, a noun, and believe, a verb, come from the same root word that means to put one’s trust or confidence in something. Faith at its essence is a decision to trust, it is not a feeling. I can remember at the age of eight making a decision to repent of my sins and trust Christ as my Savior.

As a person matures and begins to search for truth they come to have questions about matters of faith. They want answers; they think they are owed answers to their questions. This was Job’s issue, he felt he was suffering unjustly and God owed him an explanation.

We are like that at times. We think God owes us an explanation, but he doesn’t. Questions are often just a reason not to trust God. I have noticed that once a person decides to trust Christ they no longer have any questions. It is not that the questions do not still exist; they just lose their significance when we trust God. Besides, if we had all of our questions answered there would be no need for faith.

I do not have all the answers myself, but I have all the answers to the most important questions. I know why I exist and my purpose for living.

We read, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him,” Hebrews 11:6. God is pleased when we trust Him whether or not we have all the answers, and faith in God brings me a satisfaction and contentment that is indescribable.

It is my prayer that others will find this “peace of God, that surpasses all comprehension,” Philemon 4:7.