The Bible by Life
Life magazine devoted its entire Christmas issue to an 146 page dissertation on the Bible. Presumably this was intended to be a religious endeavor and an acknowledgment of the important place the Bible occupies in our lives.
It was, however, a very evil and oftentimes blasphemous denial of all that Scripture is. Proceeding from the position that the Bible is not the Word of God, but rather a collection of ancient writings, it put together a blend of higher criticism, cold rationalism, liberal “scholarship,” archeological discovery, and plain ordinary guess-work to produce a hodge-podge of heresy.
To give our readers who have not seen the issue a taste of the articles we quote, almost at random, from the many pages of written material.
In the introduction we read among other things:
Lucky troves of very early biblical manuscripts such as those found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, and hard-won archaeological and linguistic discoveries bearing on biblical time s and places, have forced scholars to revise and refine their old interpretations of what the Bible says and means . . . .
Besides the textual and translation difficulties, another burden of the Bible is its internal contradictions and crudities. Was it God or Satan who prompted David to take a census? The Bible says first one
then the other
Even before Augustine the Church felt obliged to interpret as allegory much that the Bible presented as fact, such as the erotic Song of Solomon or the unedifying massacre of the Amalekites. But the logic of later Protestantism produced a degree of fundamentalist “bibliolatry” . . . that maintained every word was divinely and equally inspired. When this indefensible view was attacked by 19th Century rationalists, and when Darwinian geology and biology challenged the literal truth of Genesis, the Bible underwent so much over debunking that the casual 20th Century reader may think of it as myth all the way through. . . .
The subject of the story (of the Bible) is the continuing encounter and dialogue on this earth between man and God.
In this continuing story God seems to develop from one kind of deity to another; but from our later standpoint the human generations to whom he disclosed himself are also seen to have been improving their comprehension of the Eternal. If Yahweh (more commonly known as Jehovah) sometimes seems like a primitive desert storm god awing the nomadic Israelites, he also reveals himself to Elijah as “a still small voice” (of conscience?) and he speaks through greater and greater prophets who see or stress first one aspect of him, then another.
Briefly and carelessly the magazine describes the history of the Old Testament in words and with reproductions of famous religious artwork. Again a few short quotations:
The opening of Genesis evokes times and events fathomable to present generations only by faith. To the ancients they were matters of fact; for the story was sacred long before Genesis was written. It had been told a thousand years earlier in a Babylonian epic of Mesopotamia, the Hebrews’ ancestral home. The epic itself was rooted in traditions stretching back, myth upon myth, into prehistory. The two accounts, biblical and Babylonian, agree in chronology, from the creation of light, firmament and dry land to man. But in profound ways, Genesis breaks with the past. In the epic, creation took place after a cosmic struggle. In Genesis it happens methodically in six days and 31 verses. . . . In its message Genesis marks a leap in human thought. Instead of the haphazard act of many gods, biblical creation is the purposeful act of a single God, and a divine backdrop which gave meaning to the history of a single people and its mission.
Scholars have long regarded the introductory account of Creation as the work of a whole school of Hebrew priestly writers who labored over it perhaps for centuries, refining and compressing the tale to the elemental grandeur of a sacred creed. But no committee could have written the story that follows: the Garden of Eden. Anything that fresh and spontaneous could have sprung only from a single inspired mind.
Who this line writer was nobody knows. Scholars think that he lived in the 10th Century B.C. in the time of King Solomon. They call him “J,” form Jehovah—a faulty rendering of “Yahweh,” an ancient Hebrew name for God . . . .
In a fit of jealousy Cain then killed Abel. Cain’s crime signifies the depravity of man cut off from God, but the brother’s rivalry may also have historical significance. It may personify the age-old struggle between the pastoral and agricultural peoples in the ancient Middle East . . . .
Stories of floods are common in folklore—ancestral memories perhaps of actual disasters. Mesopotamia, always subject to floods, produced a classic account of a great deluge in another Old Babylonian poem, the Epic of Gilgamesh, which served as a model for the one in Genesis . . . .
The form of the covenant (the giving of the law at Sinai) closely parallels the political “treaties of suzerainty” which were common among the kings in Mesopotamia in the centuries before Moses. These treaties bound lesser vassal kings to a suzerain, or great king, in gratitude for his favors and protection. And the framework of the Ten Commandments, which God gave to Moses in an awesome biblical scene of thunder and earthquakes, is modeled closely after the ancient treaties . . . .
Turning to the New Testament, the gospels are described as being nothing else but First and Second Century collections of myths, traditions, records, a exaggerations which the early church brought together because they were disappointed that Christ had not returned and they wanted to preserve at least some record of Christ’s life.
Christ, consequently, is present as a fairly good man who had very little influence during His own lifetime, but Who had a tremendous impact on the future through His moralistic teachings. There is no shred of mention of His atoning work and His salvation which He accomplished as sent by God.
The apostle Paul is presented as a rather fanatical promoter of the teachings of Christ. He and his epistles are described:
For the character of the man himself, his personal traits and his more intimate thoughts, we could scarcely imagine better sources. The letters bring him to us, not as he might have wanted us to think of him, but as he really was. We sense his vitality, the energy of his mind, the vigor of his reactions to men and things; his eagerness to be loved and to love; the strength of his loyalties and his fierceness in defending them; his ready capacity for both tenderness and anger. We see him in moments of elation . . . . But he was equally subject to moods of deep depression . . . . The letters show him sometimes struggling, not too successfully, with his pride and sometimes carried entirely beyond himself in an exuberance of devotion. We are shown some of his narrow, unreasonable prejudices, and also how broad and generous his sympathies could be. We can watch the actual working of his mind as convictions held with almost fanatical assurance had to be adjusted to the realities of experience or the demands of common sense. Indeed the letters of Paul are an example of unconscious self-portraiture unique in the literature of antiquity.
Some passages in them so intimately concern his relations with his readers or with others and so frankly disclose his own feelings toward them that they are often disconcerting and even, at times, shocking. Paul could be almost intolerably harsh . . . . His tongue could be caustic . . . .
And so on and on and on . . . .
I suppose that from a magazine as worldly as Life we can expect little more than this. What is distressing is the fact (if current religious magazines are any indication) that an article such as this meets the complete approval of a great majority of religious leaders and churches in this country and abroad. This is not only true of modernistic and liberal churches who have, for many years, been far removed from orthodoxy; this is also true to a greater or lesser degree of historically more conservative churches. From religious periodicals it is easy to see that all these vicious evils are being openly maintained and taught in such churches as the United Presbyterian Church, the Southern Presbyterian Church, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, the American Lutheran Church, the Reformed Church of America, etc. In fact, it is really astonishing that sue h blatant denial of Scripture has made such large inroads into practically every major denomination in this country.
This is the religion of an apostate age that piously prates about being “Christian” but denies all the truth of God. This is the religion which has produced a scientific technology that is worshipped as the pagans worshipped idols; that has reared a generation, of religiously indifferent, materialistically minded people who delight in the pleasures of sin under the guise of Christianity. This is the religion of a nation that cannot cope with the staggering problems of crime, juvenile delinquency, racial strife, and moral deterioration,—problems that their godless religion have created and that have rotted the body politic to the core. This is the religion that becomes increasingly popular even in historically Reformed Churches until their entire life is enervated and destroyed. This is the religion that has no place for the people of God who cling to the Bible as God’s infallible Word of hope and comfort in God’s unchanging promises.
Harassment and Religious Liberty
In his inaugural address President Johnson gave to the country his blueprint of what he likes to call “The Great Society.” In this speech he made mention of the fact that his goals ought to be the goals of any and every conscientious and patriotic citizen. By implication he also suggested that his program had divine sanction and that it was a program which would surely be supported by anyone who calls himself Christian. He further noted that those who disagree with his plans and with his ultimate aim to bring a utopia here on earth are nothing but trouble-makers who seek to divide the nation and destroy it by internal dissension and hate.
In hoping for the support of the church, President Johnson was not disappointed, as he knew he would not be. For the majority of church leaders rushed to assure him that his goals were also theirs and that they would aid him in his battle against poverty, in his attempt to provide education for all, in his plan for Medicare, in his determination to end racial strife, in his effort to eradicate sickness and pain, etc.
Dissenters from his program have no place in his utopia, and, as is becoming increasingly clear, the government intends to harass them out of existence if possible.
There are several indications of this.
From the Christian Beacon (a paper published and edited by Dr. C. McIntyre who also speaks over the 20th Century Reformation Hour) we learn that this harassment has already begun. For one thing, the government is beginning to investigate many right-wing movements such as “Life Line,” “Committee of Christian Laymen,” and the organization of Billy Hargis. These organizations have received notice that their income tax exemption status as non-profit organizations is under investigation and about to be taken away. We do not know whether these organizations have been abusing their “non-profit” status. It is possible that they have. But the significant fact is that the organizations which dissent from government policies are under attack. It is well known that many liberal churches, including the Roman Catholic Church (who, incidentally, generally support the government) run multi-million dollar businesses for vast profits and yet maintain their exempt status. This is strange.
For another thing, Faith Seminary, operated by a board of which Rev. McIntyre is president, is attempting to purchase a radio station in its area, but is being blocked by liberal churches who are appealing to the Federal Communications Commission to stop the transfer of license.
For another thing, this same Federal Communications Commission, with its “Fairness Doctrine” has set its sights primarily on programs of a right-wing character while liberals go along blithely broadcasting pretty much what they please.
Now, I have little sympathy for these right-wing movements. I disagree with some of their theology, and I have little patience with their strange mixture of religion and politics.
But this is not the point for the moment.
The point is that religious liberty in this country is becoming increasingly a farce. It is a liberty given only to those “religions” which support the government and do not criticize government programs. The rest have no liberty at all.
I do not know what will happen to these right-wing movements in time. But it is obvious that while, for a time, the true church of God enjoys comparative peace under this provision of religious liberty, this same liberty can (and undoubtedly will) turn against the church and become a means to deny the church her right of existence.
Surely these things are signs of the times, and the distant thunderclaps of the storm of persecution can clearly be heard coming from the distant horizon of history.