America Needs To Relearn The Bible
Prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991, I read an extremely interesting article about the delivery of 50,000 free copies of the New Testament to the USSR. This mass distribution of the Scriptures included 10,000 copies made available at the Moscow Book Fair. People, standing in long lines, waited for as long as two hours to receive a free copy of the New Testament. When the people saw that only a couple thousand copies remained, the crowd went out of control. Policemen had to be utilized to settle the crowd. Finally, when all the New Testaments had been taken, and several thousand people were left standing without a copy, addresses of those people were requested. In two days, 26,000 addresses were submitted, and all received by mail their New Testament!
A Moscow television reporter asked the question, “Why do our people stand in line for hours to get a copy of [this] Bible?” The response to this question was given by one who was assisting in the distribution of the Scriptures. The reply was: “. . . [I]n these 72 years of atheistic-oriented Soviet society [the] people have come to the point where they want to know more about God, who, as they were told, did not exist. They want a copy of the Book on which the foundation of their culture and literature rests. How can you read and understand Dostoyevski if you don’t know the source of his greatest literary works? Russian people deserve to have access to the Word of God. They should decide for themselves whether they want to believe or not. That is a basic human right” (Woodson 1-2).
Go forward nearly 10 years to a speech delivered by philosopher Christina Hoff Sommers concerning the threat that moral relativism poses to society. In a Hillsdale College event Dr. Sommers referenced a Tonight Show “man on the street” interview in which some young people were asked questions about the Bible (3). Two collegeage women were asked: “Can you name one of the Ten Commandments?” One of them replied, “Freedom of Speech?” Then the other student was asked to complete this sentence: “Let he who is without sin . . . .” Her response was, “have a good time?” Then the questioner turned to a young man and asked, “Who, according to the Bible, was eaten by a whale?” The confident answer was, “Pinocchio.”
Sommers observed that, conceptually and culturally, today’s young people live in a moral haze because of an undermining and unlearning of moral history and great moral ideals. She asked, “How can we help them become morally articulate, morally literate, and morally self-confident? . . . We need [a] Great Relearning.” Sommers argues this must be a “classical moral education” because of the erosion of knowledge and the increase of moral relativism. And the professor affirms this moral education “must teach the classics. We must bring the great books and the great ideas back into the core of the curriculum. . . . American children have a right to their moral heritage.” This means they “should know the Bible” (emp. added).
Is it not significant that as the USSR was tottering there were many Russians who were beginning to see the value of examining “the Book [the Bible] on which the foundation of their culture and literature” rested? The Bible had been undermined and unlearned but a relearning began which has shown, as Sommers observed, “the structural damage . . . has handicapped their [society] for decades. . . . They are learning that it is far easier to tear apart a social fabric than it is to piece it together again.”
Today America needs to be awakened to the danger of the unlearning and undermining that continues to corrupt the foundation of our society. What is this foundation? At its very core it is the Bible. A young Chinese journalist conducted a two year project concerning how and why freedom has figured so prominently in Western civilization. He reported his findings at an academic conference in Chicago in 2007. He said, “As I went on with the studying of Western history, I found what made it genuinely different was mainly adoption of the Holy Bible as its foundation of worldview” (cf. Aikman 168-70, 233).
We are committed to pressing our culture with the need for relearning the Bible’s place in the establishment and ongoing well-being of the home, the nation, and the church. The absolute truth of the Judeo-Christian ethical revelation in the words of the Bible served as the foundation for America. Such is obvious when one studies the founding documents and also witnesses government buildings. In closing, I cite the words of the sixth President of the United States, John Quincy Adams. The following words are from one of the remarkable letters Adams wrote in 1811 to his son. Amazingly, in light of the facts cited at the beginning of this article, he wrote this from Saint Petersburg in Russia where he was serving as a diplomat for the U.S. These letters first appeared in the New York Tribune and later were published as Letters of John Quincy Adams to His Son on the Bible and Its Teachings (1848). The inscription in the book of letters is: “To the Young Men of America This Little Volume Is Respectfully Inscribed.” In the second sentence of the first letter Adams wrote, “. . .
[S]o great is my veneration for the Bible, and so strong my belief, that when duly read and meditated on, it is of all books in the world, that which contributes most to make men good, wise, and happy—that the earlier my children begin to read it, the more steadily they pursue the practice of reading it throughout their lives, the more lively and confident will be my hopes that they will prove useful citizens to their country, respectable members of society, and a real blessing to their parents. . . . I advise you, my son, in whatever you read, and most of all in reading the Bible, to remember that it is for the purpose of making you wiser and more virtuous. . . . I have myself, for many years, made it a practice to read through the Bible once every year.”
Charles Pugh III
Adams, John Quincy. Letters of John Quincy Adams to His Son on the Bible and Its Teachings. 1848. Auburn: Alden, 1850.
Aikman, David. The Delusion of Disbelief. Carol Stream: SaltRiver-Tyndale, 2008.
Sommers, Christina Hoff. "Are We Living in a Moral Stone Age?" Imprimis. 27.3 (Mar. 1998): 1-4, 8.
Woodson, William, ed. "Moscow Book Fair." Aim. Nashville: Granny White Pike Church of Christ. 7 Jan. 1989: 1-2.