An Atheist “Encourages” Bible Reading
On the surface, an editorial entitled “Why I want all our children to read the King James Bible,” might sound like a good thing. But if the writer behind this bit of seeming encouragement is the noted atheist Richard Dawkins, the reader may want to exercise a certain amount of skepticism as to his motive. Dawkins was prompted to write the article for the British paper The Guardian in response to a proposed plan by the British Secretary of Education, Michael Grove, which would put a King James Bible in every state school in Britain. To sum up Grove’s reasoning for such a plan is best stated in his own words: “The King James Bible has had a profound impact on our culture.”
Dawkins used this proposal (to place a Bible in all the country’s schools) as an occasion to do his customary caustic critique of things sacred. Why, then, would Dawkins want children (or anyone) to read the Bible? His answer: “People who do not know the Bible well have been galled into thinking it is a good guide to morality… The surest way to disabuse yourself of this pernicious falsehood is to read the Bible itself.” He refers to the instances in the Old Testament where God’s people were directed to destroy their enemy and, without any attempt to understand God’s purposes, he adds cynically, “Such wonderful moral lessons: all children should be exposed to them.” He then proceeds to make fun of other examples in the Old Testament by putting the worst construction on them, without trying to understand them or to acknowledge that all people have in them the seed of original sin.
The New Testament does not escape Dawkins’ vitriol either. Here he touches upon the central doctrine of the Christian faith, that God sent His Son into the world to redeem sinful mankind through His suffering and death. Again, Dawkins dismisses this teaching with characteristic sarcasm: “God, the all powerful creator, capable of moving mountains and of begetting a universe with all the laws of physics, couldn’t find a better way to lift the burden of sin than a blood sacrifice.” He calls the Bible “a great work of literature” but “not a moral book,” and says that young people need to know this. As for his negative comments, he claims they are only the tip of “a very large and very nasty iceberg,” which the young readers presumably will discover for themselves.
So much for the vain rantings from a British atheist. Caught up in his own cleverness, he may have outsmarted himself. For what he has not reckoned with is that the Book he so derides, except for what he considers its “literary quality,” is not just any book, but it is the vehicle of the Holy Spirit. Whoever reads this Book, be it for whatever reason, can by the grace of God be made wise unto salvation. Many, like Dawkins, in sinful pride and spiritual blindness refuse to believe. On the other hand, countless others have come to believe the Gospel of Christ, “the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16). So to the children of Great Britain (and of the world) we say: “Read on!”
Learning the Language of Jesus
An Associated Press story in our local newspaper tells of two schools in the Holy Land which are teaching children Aramaic, “in an effort to revive the language Jesus spoke.” One of the schools is in a Palestinian village near Bethlehem, and the other is in an Arab-Israeli village, “nestled in the Galilean hills where Jesus lived and preached.” It is known that at the time of Christ the Aramaic language was spoken throughout Palestine, and therefore it very likely was the language used by the Lord Himself. He spoke in the language of the people so that they might better understand Him.
As might be expected, there has been some opposition to the teaching of Aramaic in these schools. Thus it is reported, “The issue is sensitive to many Arab Muslims and Christians in Israel, who prefer to be identified by their ethnicity, not their faith.” The Aramaic dialect used in the two schools mentioned above is “Syriac,” and this is said to resemble the Galilean dialect that Jesus would have used. One language expert at Hebrew University in Jerusalem said of Jesus and these schoolchildren, “They probably would have understood each other.”
We know that Jesus understands children. What, of course, is most important is that they and all children should learn to understand Him by reading and hearing His Word, for He has said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14).
Migrating Christians—A Possible Blessing
A study by the Pew Forum, tracking the world’s migrating populations, finds that people of the Jewish faith have a 25 percent migration rate, to lead in that category. A distant second in percentage of migration is the Christian population. It is estimated that of the Christians alive today (i.e., those classified as “Christian”) 106 million have switched countries, and their top destination is the United States. Of the foreign-born people living in the U. S., it is estimated that 74 percent (43 million) are Christian. Catholic Mexico rates as the highest “donor” of Christian immigrants to the U. S., but there are many from other countries as well. Buddhists and Hindus rank second and third among immigrants to the U.S., followed by Muslims. The U.S. is also the top choice for immigrants with no religion (4 million) and many of these come from China.
Europe is also a favorite destination for many newcomers, and churches that once had become virtually empty have been given new life. In Denmark, for instance, “once empty church pews ring with children’s voices,” immigrants from Burma and Korea. It is said of Copenhagen that immigrants make up more than half of the church attenders there. As for the country at large, more than 200 migrant Christian churches now dot the landscape. If the effect of Christian migrants upon Denmark is any measuring stick, it would appear that immigration can sometimes bring with it a much needed spiritual “shot in the arm.”
Paul Madson is a retired pastor living in North Mankato, Minnesota.
An Atheist “Encourages” Bible Reading