David Jeremiah - When the Bible Would Be Marginalized
I want to put something up on the screen and see if you remember, any of you, what this is. The first line goes like this. A, in Adam's fall, we sinned all. B, heaven to find, the Bible mind. C, Christ crucified, for sinners died. D, the deluge drowned the earth around. E, Elijah hid by ravens fed. And so on through the remainder of the alphabet. I'm going to guess that you did not learn your ABCs that way. I didn't either, and neither did my children. But if you had been a child in New England in 1690, there's a good chance you would have learned your alphabet just like that. The New England Primer was first published between 1687 and 1690 in Boston. And it was based on "The Protestant Tutor".
Well, let me ask you another question. Did you pray the following prayer as a child, or did you teach it to your children? "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take". That nighttime prayer was first published in the New England Primer, along with numerous other instructional and spiritual guides for children, all with a thoroughly Puritan, biblical foundation. In his book about the New England Primer, Douglas Phillips writes these words. He says, "It is the single most influential Christian textbook in history". Most scholars agree that most, if not all, of the American founding fathers were taught to read and write using this volume, which is unsurpassed to this day for its excellence of practical training and Christian worldview.
First published in 1690, the goal of the primer was to combine the study of the Bible with the alphabet, vocabulary, and the reading of prose and poetry. Though the New England primer was used extensively in the 18th and 19th century, it was gradually replaced by another series of books known as the McGuffey Readers. The McGuffey Readers were several volumes of basic alphabet and reading skills for young ages. William McGuffey was born in 1800, and he grew up in Ohio in a committed Christian family. Even as a teenager, his twin passions consumed him. They were education and preaching the gospel. After receiving his own excellent education, he was hired to write four reading instructional books for the elementary age students. These were published in 1837. His brother later added two more volumes in the 1840s. And millions of American children learned to read using the McGuffey readers.
And the fact that William McGuffey's Presbyterian Calvinism permeated the books was not a problem. For instance, here's a little section out of one of the readers from lesson number 18 in the "McGuffey Eclectic Primer," 1836. Here's what it says. "'The Setting Sun.' Look at the sun! See, it sinks in the west. Who made the sun? It was God, my child. He made the sun, the moon, and the stars. God made each tree and herb and tall oak and the low bush. God bids the trees to put forth their leaves, and at his word, they fade and fall. He bids the wind to blow, and he bids it to cease. God sees and knows all things. He sees me when I rise from my bed. He sees me when I go out to work or play, and when I lie down to sleep. If God sees me, and knows all that I do, he must hear what I say. Oh, let me speak no bad words, nor do any bad act, for then God does not like bad words and bad acts".
Now, that's not quite as biblical or theological as the New England Primer. The original editions of the McGuffey Readers presented learning from a biblical foundation, and used its lessons to reinforce biblical principles of morality and life. But when William McGuffey died in 1873, his beloved readers underwent a radical overhaul. America was changing into a pluralistic society, a melting pot of religions and worldviews. And the six volumes of the readers, plus the primers and spelling books, were made totally secular. And he would likely never have approved the changes that had been made. For instance, you know the lesson we just learned on the sun and how that means God and all of that? Well, that was replaced. All references to God and his sovereignty over nature and man's accountability to him are gone. And lesson number 18 is now about Sue and her pet bird.
Are you seeing the trend that started back then in American history and education? And then, of course, in the 18th century, the New England Primer was explicitly biblical. In the 19th century, the original McGuffey readers were implicitly biblical. In the late 19th and early 20th century, the revised McGuffey readers were wholly secular. And then came modern 20th century education under the influence of a man by the name of John Dewey, the father of progressive American education. If you want to know why there's so many Christian schools today that dot the map of the United States, it's all because of one man. That man's name is John Dewey. John Dewey lived from 1859 to 1952. He was a psychologist and a philosopher who was most responsible for how American children are educated today. He changed the priority in education from acquiring knowledge to experiencing knowledge.
In the 1920s and 1930s, John Dewey became famous for pointing out that the authoritarian, strict, preordained knowledge approach to modern traditional education was too concerned with delivering knowledge and not enough with understanding students' actual experiences. Dewey was certainly not against students acquiring knowledge. He was against teaching it to them instead of helping them discover it on their own through experience. John Dewey changed American education from the didactic transfer of knowledge based on a biblical worldview, beginning in the late 1600s, to the modern view of education that experience is what drives the acquisition of knowledge. John Dewey warned about being overly concerned with delivering knowledge. But God said through his prophet Hosea, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I will reject you from being priest for me. Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I will forget your children".
Israel was not destroyed for delivering knowledge, but for abandoning knowledge. The people perish not because they elevated knowledge, but because they elevated experience over knowledge. And Jesus Christ rebuked the leaders of Israel in his day because they had taken away the key of knowledge, which is the right understanding of God's Word. The correct relationship between knowledge and experience is set forth clearly in the book of Deuteronomy. And this is the famous passage that we all know. "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your hearts. You shall teach these words diligently to your children. You shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates".
The focus then was on facts and truth, as set forth in the Ten Commandments. There is only one God, who is to receive the wholehearted affections of his people. And the fathers were responsible, according to the book of Deuteronomy, to communicate that truth, representing all the objective law of God to their children throughout all the experiences of their life. But experience was not for discovering truth. It was for learning how life must be conformed to the truth. And the book of Proverbs is a perfect example of that. For instance, the book of Proverbs says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction".
So from Benjamin Harris, the printer of the New England primer, to John Dewey, the philosopher of modern education, knowledge went from being Bible-based to experienced-based. And with American public schools being patrolled by armed security guards, and American teenagers lagging way behind their international peers in math and science, it's not difficult to draw negative conclusions about the change in our educational priorities. They have not been for the better. They have been for the worse. Instead of having the Bible quoted in school textbooks, today the Bible can hardly be opened or read in public anywhere on the school property. I agree with our founding fathers that no religion should receive national legal sanction by our government. But things have dramatically changed in our nation.
Many of the founding fathers who insisted on religious neutrality were themselves Christians, or men like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, who readily acknowledged the value of the Bible's teachings in the life of our society. But in our journey from Plymouth to pluralism, the Bible has been downgraded from taught to tolerated in the public square. And from being a rule of faith and practice, the Bible has become a relic of history, a cultural icon used to illustrate the narrow-mindedness of people who founded our nation. And as much as I hate to admit it, the public square is not the only venue in which the Bible's status has been downgraded and its message diluted. It also is happening in the last place we should expect it: in the Christian church itself.
As goes the culture, so often, so goes the church. And I never thought I'd see the day when the Bible would lose its pride of place in the Christian church in America. Subtle societal changes happen so slowly that we almost don't notice them until after the fact. But there is mounting evidence of the same shift that took place in education from propositional knowledge to experiential knowledge, the same shift happening today in the church of Jesus Christ. In short, the Bible has been marginalized in American culture, and it is becoming marginalized in our churches.
When I talk about the Bible being marginalized, let me explain to you what I mean. Marginalization is almost a word so big, you can hardly say it. But what does it mean? It's an important word for the idea that it represents. And if you look it up in the American Heritage Dictionary, it defines marginalize as, quote, "To relegate or confine to a lower or outer limit or edge, as of social standing". Within the same general range of meaning are words like banish, deport, exile, expel, blacklist, boycott, and shut out. But there is a significant difference that last group of words represents. It represents overt actions that happen in a point of time. It's easy to know when you've been banished. It's easy to know when you've been deported or blacklisted.
For instance, Leo Tolstoy's nonfiction book, "The Kingdom of God is Within You," the culmination of 30 years of reflections on Christianity, was banned in Russia. No problem figuring out what they were saying. "Get this book out of here. Don't let it here. It's done. It's put out of circulation". Non-Nazi books were not marginalized in Germany in 1933. They were banned and burned. There's a difference between marginalization and being banned. Marginalization is much more subtle. And it never has restoration in mind. Banning or shunning often has repentance or restoration in view, but marginalization never does. Marginalization is different on both counts. It happens slowly, not quickly. And the goal is a reduction in influence, not restoration.
Marginalization often happens when those in power or authority stop giving credence to a person or an idea. In the workplace, a particular employee might not be invited to significant policy meetings. Or he might be excluded from social gatherings. The goal is not to get rid of the employee, but to move him or her to the margin, to the edge, to put him out to the very edge of the community. That is, to marginalize the person. It's what happens in junior high school when a clique of cool kids decide to reduce the role or influence of a fellow student. Every young person's been through being marginalized at some time in their career. Hopefully from this discussion, you're getting a sense of how the Bible has been marginalized in modern culture.
It has been pushed to the edge of the town square, and the centers of debate and decision-making. It has been relegated to the place of irrelevancy to the modern needs of modern people. Just consider how it has been pushed to the edge in public education and in government. It is treated as either a relic of history, an icon of times past, or the sole property of religious people who want to live in the past, who honor the Bible when the Bible should be tolerated and not honored. But here is what is so worrisome to me. If somewhere between 75 and 85% of Americans identify themselves as Christians, which almost every poll says is true, how could the Bible be marginalized in the life of this nation? Self-professing Christians supposedly represent a strong majority of the nation's population, yet the book that is the only known source for their faith is being marginalized to a status of irrelevancy.
The only way a person can reasonably claim to be a Christian is to be dependent upon this book. There's no other source of information about the founding of the Christian faith than the Bible. And the Bible represents the guide for faith and practice that all Christians acknowledge, so how is it that self-professing Christians are found throughout every level of our society, but the book that is the foundation of their faith is being pushed to the edges? The only conclusion I can draw from this paradox is that there is a serious, serious disconnect between Christians' presence in the culture and their allegiance to the book upon which their faith is based. And this can happen so slowly, and yet, for some subtle reasons. And I want to just give you some reasons that I've come up with that I've studied. And I believe these are the reasons why we see the Bible moving out of the center place even in the churches that many of us are acquainted with.
First of all, through the example of leaders and authorities. Christians always have had a healthy respect for authority, and for good, biblical reasons. Christians are to submit to one another, wives to husbands, children to parents, slaves to masters, younger people to older people, and so on. And when it comes to civil and governing authorities, Christians are to be submissive to them as well. But how far does that go? We are a young nation. And until recent years, most citizens were at least familiar with, if not well versed in, the Bible-friendly history of America's founding. The original pilgrim founders came to the new world in search of religious freedom, a principle robustly embraced by the framers of the Constitution.
In other words, for the first 200-plus years of our history, it was easy to be a Christian in America. But things have drastically changed. The Bible is no longer quoted or referenced in the halls of government or education as it was in the beginning. And it is very easy for Christians who are committed to being submissive to leaders to be lulled into thinking that our leaders' lukewarmness toward the Bible is the example they should follow, so they just get in behind their secular leaders and they follow them down that track. If civil authorities decide to marginalize the Word of God, Christians have to give themselves a wakeup call. Even though my leaders in my culture want to marginalize God's Word, I am responsible as a steward of God to uphold his Word in every dimension of my life, in private, in public, at home, and at church.
And as a Christian, I am never free to move God's Word to the edge of my life, regardless of what everybody around me is doing, or those in authority over me may be doing. We can be lulled into complacency by the Christian history of our nation, and by our tendency to let our leaders do all the thinking for us. But we now live in a post-Christian nation, when God's Word is being pushed to the edge, and nothing could be more dangerous for Christians and churches than to wander thoughtlessly down the path of these secular influencers. Secondly, the example of leaders and authorities, and the price of the loyalty.
William Tyndale was strangled and burned at the stake for defending the right and privilege of every English person to have a copy of the Bible in his mother tongue. Hopefully, no citizen in our country will ever have to pay that price, or anything close to it. But many Christians in repressive nations are risking their lives today for the privilege of having even one page or one small portion of the Scriptures. In our nation, and in our Christian churches and circles, there may be other kinds of prices to pay since not everyone is ready and willing to hear or honor the Word of God.
On one occasion in the Old Testament, there was a story that was told that's sort of an illustration of what it's like today. Old Testament King Ahab of Israel and King Jehoshaphat of Judah made an alliance one time to go to war. But Jehoshaphat insisted that they inquire of the Lord before advancing. So Ahab brought together 400 of his prophets, who gave the king a unanimous green light. But Jehoshaphat was suspicious of such blanket approval. This was too good to be true, so he asked Ahab if there was not a prophet of the Lord available that they could ask. And here is Ahab's reply. I've always loved this. "There is still one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may inquire of the Lord, but I hate him because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil".
This is called pick your own prophet. Ahab didn't like the prophet named Micaiah because he would not conform to the king's expectations. Micaiah's rule of practice was, 1 Kings 22:14, "As the Lord lives, whatever the Lord says to me, that I will speak". Pretty simple. Not only did Micaiah prophesy that the military venture would be a disaster, he revealed that a lying spirit had been spoken through the 400 prophets of Ahab. And one of Ahab's officers slapped Micaiah in the face. And Ahab decreed that Micaiah be put in prison, and given nothing but bread and water until Ahab returned from the battle. And Micaiah would not relent. He said, "Ahab, if you ever return in peace, the Lord has not spoken by me".
Ahab did not listen to the prophet, and he was killed in the battle. Those who are loyal to the Word of God may pay a price. They may be mocked or ridiculed, and they may even suffer physically. A Christian who attends a city council meeting and expresses a strong biblical conviction may be laughed at. A Christian teenager who takes his Bible to school for an after-school Bible study may be ridiculed by his peers. A Christian legislator who rises to present a bill and argues from a biblical perspective may be accused of violating church-state separation. Any or all of these Christians may be labeled as religious fanatics, and they usually are. And for some, the pressure is just too strong. The price to pay is too high. But ladies and gentlemen, if you are a Christian, it is your responsibility not to be conformed to the world around you, and to remain loyal to the Word of God regardless of the cost. Just remember William Tyndale.
So sometimes the Bible is marginalized in our churches because of the example of leaders and authorities, because of the price of loyalty, and sometimes thirdly because of the fear of shame. Tied to the previous reason is this fear of shame. Many Christians today are afraid or ashamed to be identified as followers of Jesus or believers in the Bible. The previous reason focused on the physical, vocational, or reputational price one might pay for allegiance to the Bible, but this reason focuses on the intellectual credibility one might lose for being a Bible believer. But in the end, God and his special revelation in Scripture do not require our defense in order for it to be trustworthy, nor does every question have to be answered in order to replace shame with confidence.
The Apostle Paul carefully explained why no one in his day or in ours should be intimidated or ashamed by those who use intellectual prowess to marginalize God and his Word. Jesus, the living Word of God, has strong words for any who find themselves ashamed of the Word of God. Listen to this, "For whoever is ashamed of me and my words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his own glory, and in his Father's, and in the holy angels". We don't stop the marginalization of the Bible because of the example of our leaders, because of the price of loyalty, because of the fear of shame and the fear of offense.
If America has a new religion, surely it must be the religion of tolerance, whose main liturgy is taken from non-committal postmodernism. Tolerance says that all religions deserve equal respect. No problem there, but postmodernism essentially says that all religions are equally valid and true since life and history have no central meta story, no central script by which all other stories are measured. This can be very confusing, indeed very guilt-inducing, to any Christian who has grown up in this pluralistic soup that we have been living in over the last several decades.
Didn't Jesus say, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. And no one comes to the Father except through me"? It may be politically incorrect, it may not be the kind of thing people want to hear. It just happens to be the truth. And the paradox of tolerance in our modern society is that Christians seem to lose both ways. We are called the most intolerant of all because of the supposed narrowness of our views, and are at the same time the least tolerated of all, again because of the narrowness of our views. Because of that double-barreled assault, many Christians have grown afraid to utter the words, "The Bible says," or, "God says," or, "Jesus says". And because everything we have to say about God comes from the Bible, we have become fearful of offending any who might not agree with us.
I fully recognize that many Christians have earned the accusation of being offensive by the way they have acted, by the way they have preached, or by the way they've used the Bible as a sledgehammer rather than as a source of love, and life, and comfort. But if we are not guilty of the lack of love, then neither should we be fearful of being an offense. Indeed, regardless of how lovingly the Bible is communicated, there is an inherent risk of offense in the Bible. The Apostle Peter said so in 1 Peter chapter 2. Let me read this from the Message. "The Scripture provides precedent. Look, I'm setting a stone in Zion, a cornerstone in the place of honor. Whoever trusts in this stone as a foundation will never have cause to regret it. To you who trust him, he is a stone to be proud of. But to those who refuse to trust him, the stone the workmen threw out is now the chief foundation stone. For the untrusting, it's a stone to trip over, a boulder blocking the way. They trip and fall because they refuse to obey, just as it was predicted".
Do you see Peter's point? The stone in Zion is Jesus. And by extension, in our day, the message of the Bible about Jesus. To some people, the stone becomes the foundation of their life. But for others, he is a stone to trip over, a blocking boulder that's in the way. So how can the same stone be both a blessing and an offense? The answer does not lie within the stone, but within our response to the stone. If a Christian woman is afraid to share with her Muslim neighbor what the Bible says about Jesus for fear of offending a new friend, or if a preacher is afraid to say what the Bible says about heaven and hell for fear of offending some wealthy donors, or if a Christian politician is afraid to identify himself with the truth of Scripture for fear of losing votes, those people have agreed with our culture that the Bible is offensive and should be moved to the edge of the discussion. But the Bible is offensive only to those who are offended by its message.
As the Apostle Paul wrote, "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". Being afraid of how others might respond to the Bible is an easy way for Christians to participate in its marginalization in homes, in neighborhoods, in churches, and culture at large. So we have learned that sometimes we who are Christians, a part of this 75 to 85% of this culture which claim to be professing Christians, we rail at the marginalization of the Bible, but we're participants because we over-respond to our leaders. We do not want to pay the price of loyalty. We're fearful of shame and fearful of offense.
Finally, this fear of competition for attendance in our churches and for dollars. When it comes to attracting people to churches, with whom or what is the church competing? More and more, the answer is America's entertainment culture. As a pastor, I fully recognize how thin the line is that threads through the ideas of entertainment, education, edification, and excellence. It's often a small step from one side of that line to the other. I know that because, as the senior pastor of this church, I am ultimately responsible for the glory that is or is not brought to God on a Sunday morning. I have not been appointed by God or my fellow pastors to create a checklist for 21st century churches to use in putting together their Sunday morning worship service.
And I know that finding the balance is a weekly challenge. All I can do is remind us as the world goes, too often, so goes the church. And pastors today are often judged more on their ability to make a congregation laugh and enjoy themselves than they are on the biblical content of their preaching. It should go without saying that there's nothing wrong with laughter and joy in the church on a Sunday morning. There's so much crude and unedifying humor in the world today that laughing to the glory of God is a wonderful outcome of the gathering of God's people. And you know I love to laugh. My main concern is that the entertainment culture, with its emphasis on talk show hosts, sound bite attention spans, the latest in high tech wizardry and gimmickry, can leave precious little time on a Sunday morning for the teaching and preaching of the Word of God.
In Acts 2:42, the very first item on the list that characterized the assembly of the first church in Jerusalem was continuing steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine. More than anything else, the content of the Bible is what the Spirit of God uses to renew the mind of the soul, who is transformed from darkness to light through faith in Christ. It is truth, Jesus said, that sets people free from the patterns and paradigms of sin, and releases them into the liberty of life by the grace of God. And that truth is contained in the Bible.
Now, here I speak to myself and my fellow pastors. It is up to us to make the Word of God a priority in the life of the church, from children's Sunday school, to adult classes, and every home group. There is no reason I can find for not duplicating what appears to have been the pattern of the early church, the careful reading and explaining of the apostle's letters as they circulated through the new churches in the first century. Today, we call it expository preaching, but it is nothing more than taking followers of Jesus through the same apostles' doctrine that the early church learned verse by verse, Sunday after Sunday, week after week, year after year, and watching believers grow in that environment.
Ephesians 4:13 says, "Till we all come to the unity of faith and the knowledge of the Son of God". And the alternative is to see Christians remain as children, "Tossed to and fro, carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting". If whatever mix of education, and edification, and entertainment, and excellence we craft in our churches results in Christian maturity through the faithful teaching of the apostles' doctrine, then I believe God is pleased. But if we are pushing the Bible to the leftover edges of our worship services and our churches' educational ministries, we are contributing to its marginalization in our culture. What adults learn and see prioritized in their church will influence the priorities they pass on to the next generation. And churches ultimately play a pivotal role in whether the Bible is marginalized or centralized in culture.
Where does the idea come from that the Bible is being marginalized in our culture and in our churches? From a cultural perspective, simple observation proves it. We see it in the halls of government, education, business. There are exceptions, of course. And I'm still amazed that the oldest and most respected American business magazine, Forbes, believe it or not, prints a favorite Bible verse sent in by a reader on the last page of each issue of the magazine. Did you know that? And there are countless individual teachers and coaches and company owners, even some politicians, who make faithfulness to the Bible a hallmark of their vocational and personal lives. But overall, one sees little of the Bible in the public square of our nation.
A more telling approach is to look at the research undertaken by polling organizations like Barna, and Gallup, and Pew, and others. Such research is both definitive and discouraging when it comes to the place the Bible holds in the life of Christians. And we have to assume that the role of the Bible in individual Christians' lives is a reflection to some degree of the place the Bible occupies in the life of the churches they attend. This first set of numbers I want to show you was compiled in December of 2010. It focuses not specifically on the Bible, but on the influence of religion in America as a whole. The Gallup people asked a cross-section of Americans, "At the present time, do you think religion as a whole is increasing on American life or losing its influence"? And they compared two dates, 1957 and 2010.
In 1957, it was increasing its influence, 69% people believed that. In 2010, only 25% believed it. Losing its influence in 1957, 14% believed that was true. In 2010, 70% believed it was true. Is there no change in influence concerning the Bible, 10% in 1957, and 2% in 2010. The Barna research organization released a comprehensive set of data in October of 2009 that opened the window of insight further still. Regarding whether the Bible is still revered as sacred, 90% of those age 64 and above see the Bible as a holy book; 67% of those age 18 to 25 see the Bible as a holy book. Comparing the Bible, the Moslem Quran, the Book of Mormon, 43% of those surveyed who claim to be Christians believe that all three books offer the same spiritual truth. A disturbing trend in the Barna research regards age.
The younger the respondents, the less confidence they have in the Bible. For instance, to this statement, the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches, strongly agree. Elders 65 and older, 58% of them agreed to that. Boomers 45 to 63, only 46% agree that the Bible is accurate. Those who are 26 to 44, only 39% believe it. And Mosaics, those who are 18 to 25, only 30% believe it. So the numbers go from 58 all the way to 30 based on how old a person is. And before we're too critical of these kids, where did they get all of that? They got it from the fact that their parents and their leaders and the churches marginalized the Bible, and left them with no alternative but to believe that it couldn't be too important because nobody ever talks about it or teaches it.
Younger people are pushing the Bible further to the edges of their lives. And David Kinnaman, who directed the Barna study, wrote that the central theme of young people's approach to the Bible is skepticism. They question the Bible's history as well as its relevance to their lives, leading many young people to reject the Bible as containing everything one needs to live a meaningful life. Remember the New England Primer and the original edition of McGuffey? The Bible's relevance was not met with skepticism then, but it appears to be now. That's what we call marginalization, a slow, subtle, steady shift in how our nation views the Bible. And that includes Christians who are represented in the cultural surveys.
Here's another evidence of marginalization. In 1982, the 97th United States Congress by joint resolution authorized President Ronald Reagan to proclaim 1983 the year of the Bible. Do you remember that? That resolution passed and became public law by a vote of 280 to 97. Fast forward to May 26th, 2009, when a group of 16 Congress members introduced a bill to designate 2010 another year of the Bible. Onenewsnow.com conducted a poll of Americans, asking this question. "What are the chances Congress would approve a bill designating 2010 as the year of the Bible"? Of the 7,681 respondents, 86% said the probability was slim to none. And they were correct, Congress did not pass the resolution.
So from 1983, when we had a year of the Bible, to 2010, we've come a long way, baby. And it's been in the wrong direction. Only 27 years passed for that little piece of the marginalization puzzle to fall in place. Christian historian Mark Noll has written, "The Bible has been a permanent fixture in American culture since the beginning of the European settlement of North America. Scripture has always been extraordinarily potent in American life. Until sometime in the late 19th century or early in the 20th, the Bible existed as the most coherent, widely respected, the most powerful of those means by which Americans ordered their daily existence, and made sense of the universe in which they lived". And today, the Bible has been pushed to the edge.
The problem is that marginalization happens in churches and it happens in culture because it happens in lives. When the Bible is pushed to the edge of our lives, before long, it's pushed to the edge of our family, it's pushed to the edge of our culture, everything that we're a part of it, and it's very easy for that to happen. So, as you think about all the things we've learned about what's happened to the Bible, I hope you will say, "Lord, I don't want the Bible to be on the edge of my life. I want it to be at the center of my life. I don't want the Bible just to be a book that I carry to church on Sunday. I want it to be a book that I read every day, that the Bible is something that gets into my heart and into my life".
Every time you turn around, you're going to be caught with an opportunity either to stand up for what you believe, or to kind of just say, "Well, I'll just go along with the flow and push it off to the edge". Let's take on a new sense of in-your-face grace, how about that? Can we do that? A little bit more of who Jesus is, and a little bit less of what we're afraid about. And let's stand up for the things we believe because, friends, if we don't, and if a lot of people don't join us, we're going to lose this war going forward. Because, as you can see, in just a few short years we've come a long way away from the things that were important to us when we started out.