What Do You Believe About the Bible?

Marvin A. McMickle

What Do You Believe About the Bible?

A professor of humanities at Yale University by the name of Harold Bloom became widely known across as the determiner of what books a truly cultured and educated person should have read. Not surprisingly, his list of books is very long on white and European authors and very limited so far as African-American and other ethnic minorities are concerned. I am prepared to ignore that slight and chalk it up to his being a bit biased in his literary interests.

However, there is one statement about literature made by Professor Bloom I cannot overlook. In the March 12, 2007 issue of Newsweek, Bloom was asked to list what were the five most important books ever written so far as their influence on Western Civilization is concerned. He listed all of the writings of Shakespeare, followed by The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, The Divine Comedy by Dante, Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes and The Iliad by Homer.

Apparently the Bible was included in one of his earlier lists of the five most influential books; but this time around the Bible was dropped from the list. When someone asked him how he could possibly leave the Bible off of his list of the five most important books ever written he answered by saying, "It has gotten all mixed up with questions of belief in what is now an insanely religious country." 1

Imagine that; the Bible is not included in a list of the five most important books in the history of Western civilization because it spends too much time dealing with matters of faith and religion. I mean no disrespect to Professor Bloom or to Chaucer, Cervantes, Homer, Dante or Shakespeare, but when was the last time that you or anybody you know actually read any of those "five most important books"? Maybe you read them when you were in high school or in college; and maybe you have read something by Shakespeare since those days. But are those really the five most important books in Western Civilization to the exclusion of the Bible?

If anybody in this congregation were hospitalized and called the pastor to your bedside, from what book would you hope that I would read? If your mind is troubled and your soul cannot find any peace to which book would you turn? If there was only one book you could take with you through life, would it be something by Shakespeare, or Chaucer or Dante; or would it be something by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John? I really believe that most of what is wrong in our country is the result of backward thinking scholars like Professor Bloom who say, "Our ways of thinking and feeling about ourselves, those we love, those we hate, those we realize are hopelessly 'other' to us - are more shaped by Shakespeare than they are by the experiences of our own lives." 2

I cannot speak for anybody else in this church today, but it is as clear to me as night is from day that there is only one book ever written that truly informs my thoughts and feelings about who we should love and how we should treat the person who is the "other', and that book is the Bible. I may never pick up Don Quixote or The Canterbury Tales again in my life, but not a day goes by in my life that I do not slip a Bible into my pocket and read it throughout the day. I mean no disrespect to the distinguished professor from Yale, but when it comes to his choice of reading material he certainly does not speak for me or for millions of others across this country and around the world.

We need a book that speaks about faith. We need a book that can lift our eyes and our hopes beyond the realities of this present generation. We need a book that has the power to search our hearts and our minds and our values. We need a book that is not dependent upon popularity polls among university professors. And today I have come to lift up that book; it is the Bible. It has God as its author, salvation as its content and its appeal is timeless as it has touched every continent on earth without interruption over the last 3,000 years!

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