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.