There was a time in American civilization when the Bible was integral to every aspect of life. It was reverenced in the home. It was taught and used in the schools. It was incorporated into our laws and integrated into our courts of justice. It was quoted by politicians, judges, educators, and even entertainers. It permeated the great literature of Western Civilization. But with the multitude of attacks on the integrity, inspiration, and inerrancy of the Bible over the last century, respect for the Bible has waned significantly. Particularly after World War II, confidence in the Bible as the divine Word of God has been seriously undermined in America. Amazingly, a recent poll still shows the Bible to be the all-time favorite book for American adults: “Researchers said it’s rare to find such consensus among Americans, regardless of gender, education level, geographic location, race/ethnicity or age” (Hamm, 2008).
THE BIBLE’S CLAIM
How important is belief in the Bible to the survival of any nation? The Bible speaks directly to this point: it is absolutely critical to both personal and private life, as well as national life. Consider these few biblical declarations:
Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the Lord our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him? And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set before you this day?… You shall therefore keep His statutes and His commandments which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land (Deuteronomy 4:5-8,40, emp. added; cf. 5:33; 6:2-3,18).
Set your hearts on all the words which I testify among you today, which you shall command your children to be careful to observe—all the words of this law. For it is not a futile thing for you, because it is your life, and by this word you shall prolong your days in the land (Deuteronomy 32:46-47, emp. added).
The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it (Jeremiah 18:7-10, emp. added).
I will never forget Your precepts, for by them You have given me life. Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; for they are ever with me. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Your precepts. How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Psalm 119:93,97-98,100,103-105, emp. added).
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12, emp. added).
If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free…. He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day…. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth (John 8:31-32; 12:48; 17:17, emp. added).
This means that the Bible is the most important book on the planet, in a class by itself, surpassing all others. Indeed, whereas all other books are the word of men, the Bible is the Word of God.
THE FOUNDERS’ CLAIM
How important was the Bible in the minds of the architects of American civilization? History is decisive on this point as well: the Founders viewed the Bible as absolutely indispensable and integral to the survival of the Republic. It is no wonder that, after a decade-long study in an effort to identify where the Founders acquired their ideas for the formation of the nation and the writing of its constitutions of government, political scientists conducting the study concluded that the Founders cited the Bible in their political utterances far more often than any other source (see Lutz, 1988, pp. 140-141).
Indeed, we live in a time warp far removed from America’s origins. The Founders clearly believed that the initial founding and the future survival of the Republic were both heavily, if not exclusively, dependent on the successful diffusion of the Bible throughout society. In fact, the Framers of the first state constitution of Massachusetts emphasized that very point in its third article:
Article III. [As the happiness of a people, and the good order and preservation of civil government, essentially depend upon piety, religion and morality; and as these cannot be generally diffused through a community, but by the institution of the public worship of God, and of public instructions in piety, religion and morality: Therefore, to promote their happiness and to secure the good order and preservation of their government, the people of this commonwealth have a right to invest their legislature with power to authorize and require, and the legislature shall, from time to time, authorize and require, the several towns, parishes, precincts, and other bodies politic, or religious societies, to make suitable provision, at their own expense, for the institution of the public worship of God, and for the support and maintenance of...teachers of piety, religion and morality, in all cases where such provision shall not be made voluntarily (Constitution of the...,” emp. added).
The Framers of the Massachusetts constitution believed that “public instructions in piety, religion and morality” could come only from the Bible.
The Continental Congress considered the Bible so important to national life that they actually passed resolutions to make certain that Bibles were in abundance in the country. The Continental Congress directed a committee to investigate ways by which Bibles could be secured. The committee made its report on September 11, 1777, stating “that the use of the Bible is so universal, and its importance so great...your Committee recommend [sic] that Congress will order the Committee of Commerce to import 20,000 Bibles from Holland, Scotland, or elsewhere, into the different ports of the states in the Union.” Congress promptly ordered the importation (Journals of…, 1907, 8:734-745, emp. added). Four years later, as the colonies suffered from the effects of the British embargo, and as the shortage of Bibles continued, importation became sufficiently impractical that Congress was again petitioned for approval, this time to print Bibles in America, rather than to import them from outside the country. The request was approved and upon completion of the printing, on Thursday, September 12, 1782, the full Congress not only approved the edition, but gave permission for their endorsement to be placed in the front of the Bible! It read: “Whereupon, Resolved, That the United States in Congress assembled…recommend this edition of the Bible to the inhabitants of the United States” (Journals of…, 1914, 23:574). Who today would believe that the members of the original Congress of the United States considered the Bible so important to national existence that they would expend effort—even in wartime—to make certain that Bibles were available to the American population? The present widespread loss of respect for and interest in the Bible, is disgraceful, and if continued, will spell our national doom.