When asked about the Bible course at the local public high school, a West Texas minister told the Abilene Reporter News, “My hope is the end result is they read their Bible and start asking questions elsewhere and they become Christians. That’s the hope of the community, too.”
Public schools have been a primary battleground between the despisers and defenders of religion. The forces of secularity have pounded steadily forward on the prayer front, pushing into a tiny meditative corner those who want schools to reflect and teach spiritual, and even specifically Christian, values.
Bibles are cheap. In their zeal to make scripture accessible to everyone, Protestants have manufactured Bibles in almost every language and made them available for startlingly small sums. Perhaps in doing so they have unwittingly made the Bible cheap not just financially, but theologically.
Be like the wise man who built his house on the rock.
In Papago Park, a preserve near the center of Phoenix, two small rock mountains rise up from the desert. One of them, Garden Butte, is 1.6 billion years old. The other, about half a mile away, is a youngster at only 17 million years old.
It is easy for us to underestimate the aura that surrounded a written text in the ancient world. As you read this review, you are performing something that once seemed like magic: converting signs on a printed page into human speech.
“But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first” (Mark 10:31). “So the last will be first, and the first will be last” (Matt. 20:16).“Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last” (Luke 13:30).
One of the comical moments in the early history of printing occurred in 1631, when the English printer Robert Barker produced an edition of the scriptures which became known as the “Wicked Bible.” This edition contained a misprint of the seventh commandment.
In a famous 1936 lecture, “The Presentation of New Testament Texts,” Dietrich Bonhoeffer proposed to the Confessing Church an alternative strategy of reading scripture. Instead of questioning the Bible from their standpoint, as the German Christians were doing, Bonhoeffer challenged them to let the Bible question them.
When I was 12 and far more interested in horses than high culture, my father dragged my sisters and me to a student production of The Pirates of Penzance in the gymnasium at the University of Alabama. I had seen plenty of movies by then and had watched plays on television, but nothing prepared me for the experience of live theater.
A cartoon in the New Yorker shows a man making inquiry at the information counter of a large bookstore. The clerk, tapping on his keyboard and peering intently into the computer screen, replies, “The Bible? . . . That would be under self-help.”