The Influence of the Bible on Culture
The influence of the Bible on culture does not constitute a conclusive proof of its divine origin, but that fact is remarkable and helps to support the creditability and reliability of the sacred scriptures. Where the Bible has been read and loved the result has been a society that protects individual freedom and human dignity; a community characterized by enlightenment and progress. There is no more striking example of the power of the Bible to elevate a country than the success story of the United States. Our nation was founded by men who had an abiding faith in the Bible message. Their faith is reflected in the preamble to the Declaration of Independence:
“When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
The framers of this document avow that man is a created being; that he has a Creator; that he is responsible for his actions; that he has a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The closing sentence of the declaration applies for “the protection of Divine Providence.” What has grown from that humble beginning is well known in all the world; and all the world attests to the greatness of America.
If there had been no Bible many of the things that cheer the heart of man and give beauty and refinement to life would not exist; gone would be most of the works of art. Clement of Alexandria recognized that art could be perverted to low and harmful ends, yet he wrote, “Let art receive its meed of praise, but let it not deceive man by passing itself off for truth.” (Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vo12 p. 188). Art, misdirected by animal passions, can have a devastating effect upon humanity, but, ennobled and elevated by an understanding of the holy God of heaven and earth, it can enrich human experience.
Literature is another art deeply indebted to religion. The Bible furnishes rich materials for the writer. There can scarcely be found an English literary production that has not borrowed heavily from the sacred scriptures. S.A. Brooke, in his excellent work Religion in Literature and Religion in Life, gives a keen insight into the tremendous influence of religion upon all literature that has made a measurable impression for good in the world. Even a casual glance through any great work of English poetry gives credence to the claim that the Bible has had a profound effect upon the truly great and magnificent works of English literature. The Bible itself is splendid literature. It has been said that the King James translation of the Bible has made English speech and letters “more pure, more intellectual, and more inspiring. ” John William McGarvey wrote: “There are many persons now, of limited reading in Biblical literature of the past few centuries, or possessed of convenient memories, who speak and write as if the fact that the Bible is literature was a new discovery now being brought before the public for the first time. There is nothing more deceptive. The literary merits of the Bible and the special literary excellencies of the several writers have been known, and have been held up to public admiration in all the literary ages of the past…”).
Brother McGarvey goes on to warn that we must not consider the Bible to be “the mere national literature of the Hebrews, comparable to the national literature of other ancient peoples, excelling these chiefly, if not only, in the fact that it emanated from a people who worshiped only one God, but not excelling them in truthful representations respecting the earliest times.” It is impossible to deny that the Bible has also had a pronounced effect on oratory, law, education, benevolent activities and Ethics.
The Bible always promotes culture and enhances society. This declaration is confirmed by a consideration of the nations of the earth. In those nations of the world where people have, even ostensibly, embraced the Christian system there has been the removal of all that is coarse and rude and a corresponding attainment of what is delicate, elegant and beautiful. It is not the primary purpose of the religion of the Bible to excite and interest in music, art, literature and to improve every area of human interest and lawful endeavor. The purpose of the Bible is to exalt Jesus and point to Calvary. The emphasis of God’s Word is on what man must do in order to receive the remission of sins and upon the mighty intercession of the Son of God by which the redeemed of the earth are enabled to keep themselves in a saved condition. When men walk in the light of heaven’s wisdom, being governed by the precepts and principles of the scriptures of truth, a pleasant, incidental result is the encouragement of those things which make life sweet and human relationships blessed. It is not the aim of the Christ of God to create an earthly Utopia but to point to an everlasting, heavenly kingdom. However to the degree that men accept the divine offer of mercy and imitate the example of the Savior to that degree and no other-“the wolf shall dwell with the lamb.” It is to the credit of the Bible that its appeal is to the masses. It is said of the teaching of Jesus, “And the common people heard him gladly” (Mark 12:37). God “would have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1Timothy 2:4). Paul reminds us “that not many wise after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called” (1Corinthians 1:26). He does not say any, but “not many.” The chief captains of this world are often too preoccupied with this world and their position in it to bow at the cross.
We are glad, however, that some whom the world calls great have recognized that the enduring truths of God’s revelation to man are above all price. Their testimony to the worth of Holy Writ, for whatever value it may be, should be noted:
“The foundations of our society and of our government rest so much on the teachings of the Bible, that if would be difficult to support them, if faith in these teachings should cease to be practically universal in our country.” -Calvin Coolidge.
“I believe that all of the differences that rend the world would find speedy solution if men and nations would but return in all humility to the plain teaching of the Sermon on the Mount. There, indeed, are the truths that set men free.” -Franklin D. Roosevelt .
“We account the Scriptures of God to be the most sublime philosophy. I find more sure marks of authenticity in the Bible than in any profane history whatever. ” -Sir Isaac Newton.
“The Scriptures contain a declaration of the mind and will of God...They ought also to be read, believed and fulfilled in our day. We accept them as the Words of God Himself.” -William Penn.
“If we abide by the principles taught in the Bible, our country will go on prospering; but if we and our posterity neglect its instructions and authority, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us and bury all our glory in profound obscurity.” -Daniel Webster
H.A (Buster) Dobbs, 1970