15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good
The Bible and the Presidential Election Season
Many conservative thinkers in our society honestly believe that simply handing a bible to people, in this case handing a bible to politicians, will profoundly change their behavior and outlook on life. Maybe you feel the same way. But what if your perceptions about this important subject is not at all true? How would you handle that revelation? Let’s discuss.
I recently came upon a study or a poll conducted by the Barna Group—a fundamental Christian think-tank of sorts—who seized upon the current political season to learn what Christian Americans think about the ongoing political climate in this country. I have to say at the outset of this thoughts and reflections that I was not in the least surprised at the findings of this poll and study. But what surprised me was the true issue behind the study and poll—and that true issue I will reflect upon at the end of this discussion.
To begin with, the results of this poll was published by the Barna Group 03/30/2016. Interestingly, the Barna Group appeared to have worked collaboratively with the “American Bible Society” to bring about this study that you can find at https://barna.org.
The American Bible Society is a charitable organization who’s focus is “to make the Bible available and alive to people in the most difficult circumstances.” (http://www.americanbible.org/about)
According to this joint survey, 51% of Americans (and I have to believe that we’re talking specifically about Christian Americans)—that 51% of Americans have this crazy idea that “politics would be more civil if politicians engaged in regular bible reading.” 51% believe that if our politicians would simply devote themselves in regular bible reading, then this general election season would be oh so civil. Really? What Kool-Aide are these respondents drinking I wonder? The reason I ask this question with obvious cynicism is that most Americans—for that matter, most Christians—fail to read their bibles with any frequency in the first place.
According to an articles posted on Christianity Today’s website (http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2012/september/new-research-less-than-20-of-churchgoers-read-bible-daily.html), dated 09/2012, less than 20% of churchgoers read the bible daily. That should come as no surprise to most of us in Hebrew Roots. The Bible holds the keys to all truth. Yet most self-professing Christians prove by their actions (or maybe better stated, by their inactions) that they do not believe this for they seek the truth from their church leaders as opposed to their bibles. Of course, church leaders are happy to render this service. Think about it: if you can find the answers to life—the answers to your Faith’s most important and challenging questions simply by diving deeply into the pages of your bible, why would you need your church leaders? So, in order to secure their positions and their paychecks, church leaders are more than happy to “church” their members.
This Christianity Today poll went on to reveal that only about 19% of churchgoers actually read their bibles on a daily basis. This number was followed by 25% of churchgoers indicating that they crack their bibles open just a few times a week, followed by 14% of churchgoers who claim they read their bible maybe once a week. Oh, then we have the once-a-month-bible readers who come in at 22%.
The Barna Group published another study they conducted related to Christian Americans and their bibles and the findings are none-the-less troubling. The findings of this study were published 04/08/2014 on the Barna website (https://www.barna.org/barna-update/culture/664-the-state-of-the-bible-6-trends-for-2014#.V0-7rvkrJhE). It appears from this study, most Americans have positive views about the Bible in general. However, skepticism toward the Bible appears to be increasing—that is, people who are doubtful of the Bible’s relevance and doubt the Bible’s veracity, appear to be on the rise. With that skepticism, more and more American Christians find it impossible fit bible reading, much less bible study, into their already crowded and hectic lives. So you’re either too busy to pick up your bible or you’re not sure if the Bible is simply a book of myths and fairy tales. Indeed, a problem with no clear solution.
Furthermore, this study found that more and more people look to the Bible for comfort and answers to their problems. This would appear to most to be a very optimistic finding. But I submit to you, I find this indicative of a problem. This finding suggests to me that people choose to go to the bible for answers and comfort, but most likely never even consider going to the Bible for instruction in righteousness; for reproof; for correction; for equipping. (2 Timothy 3:15,16) How well do I know this to be true. I recall a few years ago, I participated in a Christian prayer and bible study at my job—at its height, we numbered about 6 of us in an office of about 45. And the one thing that was consistently discussed in our weekly gatherings was how this or that individual was blessed by a passage from the Bible while this or that individual was comforted in the midst of a trial by another passage. I honestly can not recall there ever being a statement or testimony from anyone in the group (and that included me as I had been shut down by my boss when I mentioned that we should be observing the Feast of Sukkot one session—so I basically just shut my mouth) regarding revelation of something or somethings that they should be obeying or observing as revealed from the pages of their bible. The undeniable spirit in this group as it related to the Bible was that it was a source of comfort and sometimes direction when times get rough in a believer’s life. Certainly faith in God and the relevance of the Bible was evident among the members of our group. But there was not even an ounce of commitment towards obedience to Yahovah’s Word. And I would guess this same sentiment exists in most Christian groups throughout the world today. Christians simply do not see the Bible as the instruction manual whereby it instructs us on how to live—how to flourish—how to have a a true relationship with the Most High. The comfort should come from knowing that you have a most unique relationship with the Creator of the Universe and because of that, you are obedient to His commands and His way of life. Comfort comes from knowing that you’ve overcome the world through your obedience and through the sacrifice of Yeshua Messiah and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Bible was never intended to be a touchy-feel-good instrument. But Churchianity has sold every self-professing Christian a bill of goods that shouts from the rafters of every church—Grace is all you need. That you don’t need no stink’n Law—in fact, you better not even think about keeping the Law, for if you do, you will have fallen from grace. So help you God. But that’s just me.
So then, would it make any difference in the civility of the political landscape if our politicians read their bibles? I truly doubt it. There must first come a change from within. Our politicians would actually have to turn to Yahovah and become a disciple of Yeshua Messiah first and foremost. Secondly, they would have to be baptized and receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Thirdly, they would have to be obedient to Yahovah’s Word—His precious Torah. These politicians would have to give over their political ambitions to Father and follow Yeshua. I believe they would actually have to leave politics. Yes, I honestly believe that. For politics is so corrupt and politicians are forced to serve the god of this world and we all know who that is. If a politician elects to become a true disciple of Messiah, they would be forced to serve two Masters and we know what the Master says about serving two masters: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to one and despise the other…”and He goes on to mention money or in the KJV, mammon. (Matthew 6:24, ESV) So no, I do not see how anyone can become a true Disciple of the Master and be a politician for the stated reasons.
The Barna study went on to report that 53% of Christian Americans sampled feel that politicians would be more efficient if they were to simply read their bibles on a regular basis. Again, those sampled obviously don’t get it. One can not simply pick up a bible and become a better politician or a better this or a better that. The bible is not some elixir that magically makes people better at what they do and makes people more civil by simply reading its contents. What these two findings tell me is that those sampled have absolutely no understanding of the true Faith once delivered, nor do they understand what the Bible is nor do they understand the purpose of the Bible.
This Barna study addressed several other areas of the bible’s wishful influence on American life and politics, but the last thing on this study I want to reflect upon is the findings that 46% of those American Christians sampled wished the Bible had greater influence on American society in general. No, I have to say that I find this point of the study to be absolutely foolish. Again, those sampled just don’t get it. Placing a bible in every American’s hand would conceivably be a wonderful thing. But the Bible in and of itself is not going to change the spirit and fabric of our society. Only Yahovah can change our society for the better. It’s an absolute fool’s way of thinking that the Bible is the one thing that will change lives. The Bible folks is Father’s rule book. It only applies to those who belong to Him. If you don’t belong to Him, then the Bible is absolutely useless. Look how many bibles exists in our world today. Remember years ago when it was reported that the Bible was the so-called “best selling book in the world and in history.” With so much world presence and popularity, and assuming the Bible when put in the hands of people it changes society and people and lives, why then is the world in the state that it’s in. Wait, don’t try to think—I can’t help but answer! The world is in the state it’s in because the world outright rejects the Creator of the Universe and His way of life. Plain and simple. And putting a bible in the hands of an unrepentant and disinterested soul in whatever society they hail from will have absolutely no affect upon that person nor upon the society from which that person resides.
One of my biggest gripes related to this whole issue of believers living righteous, holy lives that consists in great part, of meaningful and responsive bible study (i.e., not general casual bible reading that has little to no value apart from making one feel good about themselves or the situation they’re in) has to do with the plague of bible illiteracy. I’ve made mention on this program last year in a multi-episodic series that our Faith, and Christianity as a whole, is suffering from bible illiteracy. What is bible illiteracy? It simply means that most folks in our community and in Christianity have never given themselves over to any meaningful bible study and thus they tend to be extremely lacking in terms of their knowledge and understanding of the Bible. In many areas, the Bible has become mixed in with popular western culture and sayings and perspectives that many believe to be one in the same. So we find our brothers and sisters in the Faith (and for that matter, our wayward cousins in churchianity) spouting off things that they believe to be from the pages of their bibles, but turns out that the stuff that they’re spouting is actually popular western gibberish. The sad consequences of this plague—bible illiteracy that is—is that many in our fold are ignorant of what the Bible says and stands for and more important, ignorant of what they are responsible for doing as a true believer—as a true disciple of Yeshua Messiah.
Why does this plague exist—this plight of bible illiteracy? It exists because we for the most part do not read our bibles as pointed out in an article written by Albert Mohler entitled “The Scandal of Biblical Illiteracy: It’s Our Problem.” According to researchers George Gallup and Jim Castelli, “Americans revere the Bible—but, by and large, they don’t read it. And because they don’t read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates.” Oh really?! I would probably take umbrage with the statement that Americans revere the Bible. You see, if one reveres something—I’m talking, truly reveres something, they will take care of it and place that object—that thing—that belief—that faith—that ideal in a prominent place in their lives and not allow that thing to lose its place of prominence in their lives. I’m not saying that there won’t be scattered periods of abandonment or disuse of that revered thing as life happens and things will fall into disrepair from time-to-time. Bible reading and bible study is certainly one of those things. However, those true disciples of Yeshua Messiah who have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, will constantly hunger and thirst after righteousness and they can not be kept from the Word of the Almighty. We are drawn to it and we are constantly thinking about it. It’s not natural for the true disciple of Messiah to simply abandon regular bible study because there’s no time in the day. We have become hardwired to yearn after the Word. If by chance one simply can’t find the time in their days to study the Word, then maybe that person needs to reevaluate their relationship with the Most High.
Mohler goes on to report that fewer than “half of all adults can name the four gospels. That many Christians cannot identify more than 2 or 3 of the disciples of the Master; or for that matter 60% can’t name even 5 of the 10-Commandments.” Mohler goes on to comment of this startling crime: “No wonder people break the 10-Commandments all the time. They don’t know what they are…” Well Mr. Mohler, I don’t necessarily agree with you on that contention. Knowing the 10-commandments is in no way a guarantee that one will obey the 10-commandments. You see, it requires a change of heart and mind and allegiance in order for one not to break the Father’s commandments. Let’s face it, most secular westerners know that it is wrong to steal, kill, commit adultery or fornication; that the Sabbath day is Yahovah’s special day (yes, I said it, the Sabbath day); that it is important to honor one’s parents; to not bear falsely against another; to not have other gods before the one true God. It’s not rocket science. We’ve been taught these principles from our youth—our childhoods. So I don’t buy that most westerners don’t know these things. On the contrary, most westerners simply choose not to be obedient to the 10-commandments, or for that matter, obedient to any of Father’s commandments that are contained in the Bible.
So I’m a firm believer that it’s not just the lack of Bible exposure and inclusion in one’s life that is a big problem; it’s also the absence of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in peoples’ lives that is necessary for people to want to study and learn and obey the contents of the Bible. So giving a bible to a politician and thinking that he or she will suddenly straighten up and behave in a godly manner is utter naivete. And I would submit, as I reflect upon the bigger picture here: the respondents in Barna’s study in my humble opinion are really transferring the true but hidden problem onto others. What I mean by that is that those who were polled who relayed that they felt politicians would be better people if they simply read their bible, these individuals are showing forth their lack of consistent bible study and understanding in their own lives; for if they were knowledgeable and spiritually equipped in Father’s Word, they would know that simply handing a Bible to someone will not in and of itself change an individual. The only thing—the only Person if you will—that will change a politician or anyone for that matter, is our Master and His Holy Spirit dwelling within that individual. The true purpose and relevance of the Bible then becomes evident: it is our instruction manual for life; useful once we’ve spiritually signed that contract to live Yahovah’s way and Yahovah’s way only. The Bible is useless unless we’ve abandoned our way of life for His. Then and only then, does the Bible aid in changing how we behave. A natural side condition of being a true disciple of Yeshua is that we thirst and hunger after the things of Yahovah and have a sincere desire to live in accordance to His Torah and the teachings of our Master. So I believe that the Barna study is interesting and pertinent, but I believe more that Barna’s findings are completely misunderstood by their analysts and researchers. I believe that we must take these findings and place them in their proper perspective so that we may be of the most value to Master in the times ahead.
What this Barna study has shown us Saints is that we have our work cut out for us. The world has for some time now received the soft sell related to the Faith once delivered. Wicked men centuries ago infiltrated various assemblies throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East in the last quarter of the 1st century and throughout the 2nd and 3rd centuries of the common era and through their twisted peddling of the teachings of Paul completely transformed the true Faith into Catholicism which then split at the Protestant Reformation into Catholicism and Protestantism. Both religions are barely shells of their nascent first-century origin. Both have instead of adopting the teachings of Yahovah and His Son, have instead adopted the traditions and doctrines of men. These have sent the world down a path towards certain doom and destruction. It then becomes our job to set the record straight. The default button has been hit and we are instructed to return to the true Faith once delivered to the First Century Saints by Yahoshua Messiah. From there, we are commissioned to take the teachings of Yeshua Messiah to the world and make disciples for Him and teach them to live Torah, Yeshua-style. Handing out bibles is not the answer friends. Such an act only pushes believers to assume a form of self-righteousness that is not of Yahovah. Father never ordained us to go out into the world and put bibles in peoples’ hands. A nice sentiment, but not the commandment and will of the Father nor the direction of our Master. We’ve been instructed to make disciples for and to obey Messiah and retain and show forth His testimony in our lives.
I am excited about the opportunities that this study has presented us. Let us not squander this opportunity to do the right thing and fulfill our destinies as disciples of Yahoshua HaMaschiach and take His message to the world.
Faithfully Submitted, Rod Thomas.
Be Most Blessed Fellow Saints in Training!