There can be no doubt about it, the Bible is the most influential book in the history of the world. It is also the most widely read book in history.
Its influence cannot be reduced to the mere fact of its availability. It is rather because the Bible is the revelation of God concerning salvation through Jesus Christ.
In the book, "Trial by Fire," author Harold Rawlings details the account of the struggle of men like John Wycliffe, Martin Luther and William Tyndale to translate the Bible into the common languages of their day. These men fought against the greatest super power of the time, the Catholic Church, and were deemed as heretics for translating the Bible into their native languages.
Their struggle occurred during "The Dark Ages." It was a period after the fall of the Roman Empire, when much of the advancements the Romans had made in philosophy, education, architecture, art, rhetoric, and even democracy, had been lost.
Most people during this time were poorly educated, impoverished, and led dismal lives. The Catholic Church became extremely corrupt, and sought to keep the Bible out of the hands of common people, apparently believing that, if people had Bibles, they would be able to determine that the actions -- and many of the doctrines of the church -- were wrong.
Thus, Wycliffe, a Catholic priest, and Luther, a Catholic monk, experienced Christian conversion through their study of the Scriptures. Salvation is by "grace alone ... faith alone ...," Luther concluded. He defended his beliefs this way: "Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason, I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other. My conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot, and I will not, recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen."
These reformers believed that God could speak to any person directly from the Scriptures, if they could read the Scriptures in their own language. They heralded their belief in the priesthood of all believers, meaning that God can speak to all people through the Holy Spirit and teach them His ways.
They were not saying church, or instruction, was unnecessary, but they were concerned with the fear-mongering of the Catholic Church. The Church had the power, at least they taught, over a person's very soul. One example of this is when the Church authorized John Tetzel, a traveling friar, to sell indulgences in Germany, where Luther lived, to finance the building of a church. At first, a person could simply pay the church a certain amount of money to have their sins forgiven, but then, when enough was not being collected, penalties for the afterlife were included.
Tetzel devised a little jingle to sale his indulgences, "As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs." This infuriated Luther and put him on the path to translate the Bible from the original Hebrew and Greek into the common German language.
Once completed, this translation changed the face of Germany. Ultimately, the German Bible is what inspired William Tyndale to translate the Bible into English, and the impact of that has been felt around the world.
So, what's your point? -- you may be asking by now. Why remind me of the history of the Bible's translation? Well, the Bible's translation into native languages was one of the main reasons Europe was able to ascend out of the Dark Ages. The Bible was the source of freedom -- spiritual, political and ecclesiastical.
God's word delivered men from oppression and bondage. Likewise, God's Word is what much of our freedoms in America are based upon. I fear for our country, because we continue to move away from, not only our Constitution and Bill of Rights, but, regretfully, our country is moving away from the Bible, which is the source of much of those documents.
For many, it is no longer a source of Authority over life, but now seen as archaic and irrelevant. We have finally turned the corner from "God has made this country great," to "this country can be great without God."
Now, I leave us all this warning: Many "intellectuals," politicians, atheists, evolutionists, humanists and others have proclaimed that we are on the verge of a new renaissance, one without authority and without God, and many, many people have bought into this. But I don't see it that way. I see many of the same trends that occurred right before the Roman Empire fell.
The Romans had been corrupt, immoral, filthy, and lustful. They had no boundaries, and personal responsibility was exchanged for self-seeking indulgence and pleasure. Those who tell us that life without the Bible will be liberating have deluded themselves to believe that they are guiding us to a period of Enlightenment, free from God's authority.
But as history has taught us, when God's Word is removed from society, freedom and liberation are not the results. Instead, oppression, fear and slavery are. When we exclude, or ignore, God's Word to the degree we are personally doing, and our country is now doing, we will not enter into a glorious period of enlightenment.
No! What awaits us is a sad, despondent Dark Age -- unless we accept that we need the Bible now, more than ever, and heed God's Word for life, salvation, and eternity.
Rev. Todd Dionne is pastor of Corinth Baptist Church in Jonesboro.