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For any students of American history or of the role the Bible has played in affecting world affairs, Reading The Bible With The Founding Fathers is an eye-opening book. You can check out my full book review by clicking here. Unless otherwise noted, quotes are from author Daniel Dreisbach.
“Following an extensive survey of American political literature from 1760 to 1805, political scientist Donald S. Lutz reported that the Bible was referenced more frequently than any European writer or even any European school of thought, such as the Enlightenment or Whig intellectual traditions. Indeed, the Bible accounted for about one-third of all citations in his sample. According to Lutz, ‘Deuteronomy is the most frequently cited book, followed by Montesquieu’s The Spirit of the Laws.’ … Saint Paul is cited about as frequently as Montesquieu and [William] Blackstone, the two most-cited secular authors, and Deuteronomy is cited almost twice as often as all of [John] Locke’s writings put together.”
“The founders often quoted the Bible without the use of quotation marks or citations, which were not necessary for a biblically literate society but the absence of which fail to alert a biblically illiterate modern audience to the Bible’s invocation.”
“Increasing unfamiliarity with the Bible makes it harder and harder for Americans to understand their origins and their mores, or to put words to their experiences. … Lacking knowledge of the Bible, Americans are likely to be literally inarticulate, unable to relate themselves to American life and culture as a whole.” —Wilson Carey McWilliams
“Knowledge of the Bible and its place in the American experience, in short, helps Americans better understand themselves and their history.”
“In regard to this Great Book [the Bible], I have but to say, it is the best gift God has given to man. All the good the Saviour gave to the world was communicated through this book. But for it we could not know right from wrong. All things most desirable for man’s welfare, here and hereafter, are to be found portrayed in it.” —Abraham Lincoln
“[T]he Bible has had a literary influence not because it has been considered as literature, but because it has been considered as the report of the Word of God.” —T.S. Eliot
“[William] Tyndale, who was the first to translate the Bible into English from the original Hebrew and Greek, can be rightly called the father of the King James Bible. Approximately ‘eighty percent of his Old Testament and ninety percent of his New Testament’ were adopted by the King James translators. …
“There is much truth in the remark that ‘without Tyndale, no Shakespeare.’ It is also true that ‘without Tyndale, no King James Bible.’ ‘Without the King James Bible,’ Alister McGrath observed, ‘there would have been no Paradise Lost, no Pilgrim’s Progress, no Handel’s Messiah, no Negro spirituals, and no Gettysburg Address. … Without this Bible, the culture of the English-speaking world would have been immeasurably impoverished.’”
“The size of the vocabulary found in the King James Bible is not extensive. [William] Shakespeare, it is estimated, used between fifteen and twenty thousand different words. Milton’s verse draws on a lexicon of about thirteen thousand words. The Old Testament, in the Hebrew and Aramaic, has approximately fifty-six hundred words. The New Testament, in the Greek, has around forty-eight hundred words. In the entire King James Bible, by contrast, there are only about six thousand different words, according to one accounting.”
“The opinion that human reason, left without the constant control of divine laws and commands, will preserve a just administration, secure freedom and other rights, restrain men from violations of laws and constitutions, and give duration to a popular government, is as chimerical as the most extravagant ideas that enter the head of a maniac. … Where will you find any code of laws, among civilized men, in which the commands and prohibitions are not founded on Christian principles? I need not specify the prohibition of murder, robbery, theft, [and] trespass. … Every wise code of laws must embrace the main principles of the religion of Christ.” —John Adams
“Moral principles and precepts contained in the Scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws. These principles and precepts have truth, immutable truth, for their foundation; and they are adapted to the wants of men in every condition of life. They are the best principles and precepts, because they are exactly adapted to secure the practice of universal justice and kindness among men; and of course to prevent crimes, war and disorders in society. No human laws dictated by different principles from those in the gospel, can ever secure these objects. All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible. … For instruction then in social, religious and civil duties resort to the scriptures for the best precepts and most excellent examples of imitation.” —Noah Webster
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Alvin Schmidt claims, “No other religion, philosophy, teaching, nation, movement—whatever—has so changed the world for the better as Christianity has done.” And I quite believe him. He lays out the evidence to back up this bold claim in his book How Christianity Changed The World.
A few years ago I presented a series of messages to make the case for the resurrection of Jesus. One of the pieces of evidence I presented was the cultural engagement of Christians whose lives had been transformed by a personal relationship with the resurrected Jesus Christ. Alvin Schmidt’s book is like taking this single point of mine and putting it on steroids!
Using the reports of first-person observers from the first century all the way through present day, Mr. Schmidt shows how there is not a single part of the culture that hasn’t benefitted from the involvement of those who live out the Christian principles they have discovered in the Bible. From the care of the sick and elderly, to the elevation of women and marriage, to art, and architecture, and music, and medicine, and science, and education—every sphere of life has been improved by practicing Christians.
I would highly recommend reading this book and then keeping it close at hand to share with those ignorant or skeptical of the claims of Christianity. As William Barclay noted, “Anyone who asks the question, ‘What has Christianity done for the world?’ has delivered himself into a Christian debater’s hands. There is nothing in history so unanswerably demonstrable as the transforming power of Christianity and of Christ on the individual life and on the life of society.” To that, I add a hearty Amen!
Please get a copy of How Christianity Changed The World for your library.
In times like these it’s important to remember that there have always been times like these!
In the United States, elections bring regular changes in leadership. Around the world and throughout history violent dictators are toppled, benevolent monarchies fall, dominate personalities shine brightly and fade from the scene, even people who called themselves “Great” or “the king of kings” have disappeared. What should our perspective be in changing cultures—whether they are good or evil?
In Psalm 9, he contrasts the temporary track record of mortals with the transcendency of Yahweh. His Selah pauses in this psalm invite us to consider the question: Who benefits me ultimately and affects me eternally: mortals or God?
In the Septuagint, Psalms 9 and 10 make up one psalm. In our English Bible, Psalm 9 closes with the phrase “they are but men” and Psalm 10 closes by calling mankind “mere earthly mortals.” Contrast that with Yahweh who is described as “the LORD reigns forever” and “the LORD is King for ever and ever.”
In between these eternal affirmations of God, mere earthly mortals are described as:
boastful—literally saying “hallelujah” to themselves
blessing all who are like them in their wicked thoughts
having no room in their thoughts for God
evenpraying to themselves—which is the literal meaning of “he says to himself” that David repeats three times
Literally this mere earthly mortal thinks of himself as god! But even as he says “nothing will ever hurt me while I’m alive” he acknowledges his mortality, admitting that he is indeed finite.
In Psalms 11 and 12, David gives the righteous the proper perspective to handle all of this. In a word, David wants the godly to remember:
Remember God sees everything
Remember God punishes the wicked and rewards the righteous
Remember God gets the final word
Christians can only live exemplary, anxiety-free, and God-honoring lives when we stay focused on the Infinite, on the Eternal God. With this perspective we can live out our roles as “aliens and strangers”—as the apostle Peter calls us—while we live in this evil culture.
I grew up reading the King James Version of the Bible. So naturally, this was the version I also memorized. Even to this day (all these many, many[!] years later), many of the verses I memorized still come back to my mind in that Olde English slant.
A few years ago we celebrated the 400th anniversary of the King James authorized translation of the Bible into English. It’s astounding to realize how many words, phrases, and concepts from this version have become mainstays in the English language. From Shakespeare’s plays right down to current writings, this “Book of books” infiltrates our thoughts and our vocabulary.
Here is an outstanding poem Glen Scrivener put together to honor the 400th anniversary of the KJV, where he attempts to share 100 phrases from this translation in 3 minutes. Enjoy!
In his letter to the Christians in Ephesus, Paul uses the word “walk” seven times to instruct them how to follow the path Jesus laid down for us.
In Greek, the word for “walks” (peripatēo) means something that regulates my life, or something that keeps me on the right path. It’s my lifestyle that is kept in proper boundaries by something outside of me.
…knowing I am God’s workmanship, created for a great purpose (2:10)—It may take me some time to discover my purpose and my talents, but I keep at it.
…worthy of my vocation (4:1)—Once I have discovered my talents, I develop them into strengths that will benefit others.
…lovingly (5:2)—Just as Jesus did!
…in the light of God’s truth (5:8)—This is the exact opposite of foolishly walking. It means I seek the truth and I apply the truth to my life.
…circumspectly (5:15)—Not wasting my moments, but making sure I am giving 100 percent every single day.
When I WALK THIS WAY people will inevitably notice that I’m motivated not by popularity with people, but by intimacy with God (5:2-7). They will see that my path is bordered by the principles in God’s Word (5:8-14; Psalm 119:105). And they will notice that my life has purpose and is productive (5:15-20).
All Christians should ask themselves:
Is Jesus pleased with the path I’m on today?
Can others follow my footsteps toward their own relationship with Christ?
If you can answer “yes” to those questions, then Jesus will be pleased that you WALK THIS WAY!
[You can check out the Scriptures I referenced in this post by clicking on DON’T WALK THIS WAY and WALK THIS WAY above.]
“Men think of the world, not as a battleground but as a playground. We are not here to fight, we are here to frolic. We are not in a foreign land, we are at home. We are not getting ready to live, we are already living, and the best we can do is to rid ourselves of our inhibitions and our frustrations and live this life to the full. …
“That this world is a playground instead of a battleground has now been accepted in practice by the vast majority of evangelical Christians. They might hedge around the question if they were asked bluntly to declare their position, but their conduct gives them away. They are facing both ways, enjoying Christ and the world too, and gleefully telling everyone that accepting Jesus does not require them to give up their fun, and that Christianity is just the jolliest thing imaginable.” —A.W. Tozer, in Culture
(To read other quotes from this A.W. Tozer book, click here or here.)
I loved the financial insights that John Thornton presented in Jesus’ Terrible Financial Advice. The advice is “terrible” in that it flies in the face of conventional financial wisdom and puts it in the proper biblical light. Check out my full review of this book by clicking here.
“As God waits patiently to receive our all, wonder, and appreciation for all He is and does, an idol steps in to accept our applause. Like an insidious illusionist, the idol misdirects our attention to itself. … What does an idol do? Nothing. That’s all an idol can do. Nothing. Nothing but steal God’s glory.”
“Jesus is not trying to impoverish us when He tells us to store up treasures in heaven.”
“Here is where some people mistakenly make it about the money. They wrongly conclude that rich people can’t make it to heaven, but poor people can. This is a grave error. In truth, no one can enter the kingdom of heaven, rich or poor, without God.”
“If we are seeking heaven because our life here is so good that we don’t want it to end, or simply because we don’t want to go to hell, we’ve missed the point. We’ve made the same mistake this young man made [Mark 10]. So doing what Jesus always did, He redirected the young man to the right thing. The greatest good. He redirected the young man to God. Jesus clarifies that no one is good but God Himself. … What makes eternal life good isn’t the length. It’s the company. God Himself is what is good about heaven [John 17:3].”
“Regardless of how much of a blessing of wealth has the potential to be, it becomes a curse for us when it separates us from the love of God.”
“Don’t wrongfully conclude that rich people can’t make it, but poor people can. Or that poor people are godly, but rich people are not. If we do this, we miss the point entirely. We think that Jesus is just calling out rich people. We think He is talking about people’s financial position, when He’s really talking about our heart condition. … At the end of the day, answer to the question ‘Does Jesus want you rich or poor?’ is obvious. The answer is yes! Jesus wants you. And the answer is all about God’s goodness, not ours.”
“The number one theme related to wealth in the Bible is that it is a blessing from God.”
“Whenever we conclude that the plans we have for our lives are better than the plans God has for us, or that the gifts we have for ourselves are better than His gifts, the false master Money steps up. Money promises to put us in charge. With it, we can smooth the way or save the day. Don’t worry. Be happy. But God has a better plan for our lives. We were made to live for so much more. And He is more. God wants us to understand and know Him, His ‘kindness, justice and righteousness,’ for in these He delights (Jeremiah 9:24). God’s plan is to complete us.”
“Wealth becomes a curse for us when we choose it over God.”
“In a society where we have taken independence, individual freedom, and self-love to cult status, submission is taboo. We want to be our own master. Money offers us what we want, so we love it or fear it, trading in the true God for a false one. But Jesus shows us we have it all wrong. He shows us that submission to His Father is the only way to be truly free. Free to live life to the full. The only way to live a life that matters is to find our sole purpose in Him.”
“Our job is not merely to adopt what’s trending in our culture. Leaders don’t just fit in. Our goal is to adapt, not adopt. …
“The fact is when we merely ‘adopt’ what’s happening, we tend to drift. Cultures do this; schools do this, and families to do this well. Years ago, Lawrence Miller wrote about this topic in Barbarians to Bureaucrats. He observes that companies, organizations and schools ‘evolve’ over time, but actually the evolution usually becomes a ‘drift’ away from the very premise it was built upon.
“The process starts with the ‘prophets.’ They’re the people with a vision for something new. They’re idea people. But they’re usually threatening to the existing order and are often ignored, criticized, frustrated or otherwise rejected.
“Eventually, however, people recognize the need for change. That’s when the ‘barbarians’ step in. They’re the ones with the influence to knock heads together, and again the power to implement the changes the prophets suggested earlier. They are often people like Steve Jobs, Ted Turner, or Oprah Winfrey. They conquer territory that some assumed could never be conquered and foster change.
“Following the ‘barbarians’ come the ‘builders’ and the ‘explorers.’ These people take the empire the ‘barbarians’ conquered and begin to build bridges, chart courses and develop systems that enabled the empire to grow and prosper.
“Next, come the ‘administrators.’ This type of person almost always follows, because the ‘builders’ and ‘explorers’ get bored and need someone who enjoys managing a system. They add no new ideas or wealth, but simply keep things running smoothly.
“Eventually, the ‘administrators’ give way to the ‘bureaucrats.’ These folks not only add no new ideas, but they actually suppress innovation and focus their efforts on maintaining control of the empire. Change is too messy or expensive. To keep money flowing, ‘bureaucrats’ tend to concentrate on cost-cutting and re-organizing, milking what’s left of the old ideas. It’s important to note—one of the chief goals of the bureaucrat is to suppress the rise of any new order of prophets.
“The final phase of this downward spiral is the shift from ‘bureaucrats’ to ‘aristocrats.’ They’re the ones who’ve inherited the wealth of the previous generation and occupy themselves with consuming the last benefits from the old ideas. Fortunately, they don’t last very long in a competitive climate because they get bumped off by new ‘barbarians’ who promote the ideas of outside prophets from other places. In short, change will either happened to us, or because of us.