On May 12, 1966, Billy Graham addressed the 150th Annual Meeting of The American Bible Society. Today, 53 years later, his warning about a culture that denies the authority of Scripture is even more urgent.
It has been well over four centuries since William Tyndale was sentenced to death for translating the Bible into English. They heaped heavy logs around the stake. The executioner first strangled him and then burned his dead body at the stake.
We find in Tyndale’s ashes a symbol of the price paid by many heroes of the faith to give us our Bible. Miles Coverdale, who issued the first printed copy of the Scriptures in our language, was banished from England. The moldering bones of pioneer translator John Wycliffe were dug up 31 years after his burial and publicly desecrated.
Thus, when we read the Bible today, we must remember that every page has been preserved through the years by the tears, blood and agony of courageous men and women.
The American Declaration of Independence and Constitution are based on the precepts of this book. Without it there would have been no United States!
One of the greatest tragedies today is that the Bible is available to nearly everyone, but to millions it is a closed book—either because they leave it unread or because they read it without applying its teaching to themselves.
People somehow think that in an age of scientific achievement, this ancient book is out of date. However, I am convinced that the Bible is just as relevant today as it was in the first century.
Our culture is facing a moral crisis. We are not being threatened abroad so much as we are being threatened by immorality at home. We are adrift without answers. No single authority rules our conduct. We are free to be prejudiced or promiscuous, to cheat or chisel.
Nowhere is the moral confusion more apparent than in the area of sexual morality. We are paying a fantastic price for this moral-sexual confusion, and it is getting worse with every passing hour. It threatens the foundations of our society and the security of our nation.
We are rapidly becoming a secularized society, unwittingly accepting the idea that man is simply a physical being—that life on this planet is all there is. This materialism and secularism has captured millions in Western nations. Millions now explain the universe without a reference to God, morality without the Ten Commandments, personality without a soul, the good life without hope of immortality. This is all just blatant secularism and humanism. It means that time encompasses everything—that eternity does not exist—and that material considerations are the only ones that matter.
If God is dead, if moral values are the pitiful superstitions of a previous unenlightened age, if the soul is an illusion, if prayer is a childish folly, if immortality is an idiotic dream, then there is nothing left but this physical existence. The word secular sums up this conception of life.
We see this trend in the social programs that have been instituted by federal, state and local governments. Little mention is made of the moral and spiritual side of life. We are almost totally preoccupied with the things that affect the life of the animal-man. Nothing else matters. “Eat, drink and be merry” is the prevailing slogan of our generation—and all too often the emphasis of many churches.
Look at the tragic consequences of this moral confusion. There are only two ways in which it can express itself. If man is an animal and nothing more, his animal instincts of selfishness, greed, jealousy, lust, rebellion, indulgence and possessiveness must either be allowed to run totally free or they must be controlled by the state. These two principles are at work within our society, and both are gaining ground with a rapidity that makes our hair curl.
The rebellion of youth, the rapid increase in crime, obscene pornography and sexual promiscuity are all done in the name of freedom. This is the consequence of the first alternative.
The second alternative is state control. We see government moving into every area of our lives. Some intellectuals of the country are insisting on almost totalitarian control. They are bent upon planning life, organizing life and establishing the absolutism of the state.
These two philosophies are not enemies of each other; they are actually twin brothers, the offspring of the materialistic view of man and the secularistic view of life and society. Whichever one wins, our way of life is doomed.
There is, however, a third alternative. It is a return to the Bible as the authoritative guide for our national life. It is the acceptance of the moral principles laid down by the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount as the guidelines for every area of our lives.
Our secularistic view of man would have to be abandoned. The emphasis on materialism would have to be replaced by an emphasis on the moral and spiritual nature of man. We would have to embrace wholeheartedly the Christian view of man and life as our forefathers did—and we would have to do it voluntarily!
The primary thrust of the Bible is alien to the secular orientation of our day. The Bible proclaims absolutes at a time when relativism is the prevailing philosophy of the Western World, when ultimate truth is regarded as an impossibility. Relativism tries to assure us that nothing is permanent and eternal—that all things are subject to change. The immoralities of today may be the norm tomorrow.
However, once you start reading the Bible and believing it to be the Word of the Living God, the picture changes. Absolutes become fixed principles by which people guide their course from one generation to another. They are true yesterday, today and forever. They are not subject to prevailing circumstances nor superseded by the latest discoveries of science and theories of sociologists. The absolutes of the Holy Bible give us something on which we can depend and by which we can steer the course of society.
I am convinced that only as we abandon secularism and embrace the Biblical concept of man can the world be saved. Christ said that man shall not live by bread alone (see Matthew 4:4). He said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). He indicated that man was far more than an animal—that man has a mind, a body and a spirit.
Our generation has been living like parasites on the spiritual capital of our predecessors. We have exhausted that capital. We need a great spiritual awakening. We need a return to personal, old-fashioned, Biblical discipline. And we must start by having a personal encounter with a living God, through His Son, Jesus Christ.
A return to the Bible would change the moral tone of our nation. The Bible says: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).
A return to the Bible would strengthen our home life. I receive letters every day from people whose homes were on the brink of disaster but who now thank God that they accepted Jesus Christ before their homes collapsed. One man wrote: “My home was on the rocks, but now that our family has accepted Jesus Christ, it is on the Rock.”
A return to the Bible would reverse the terrifying crime statistics.
A return to the Bible would do more for race relations than any other single thing we could possibly do, if we returned to the Biblical concept of man and the admonition of Christ to love our neighbors as ourselves.
It was after his conversion to Christ that William Wilberforce set about to take the shackles off slavery in England. It was Lincoln’s concept of people, learned from the Bible, that led to a driving passion to free the slaves in the United States. The teaching of this same Bible could take the bigotry, hate and prejudice out of the hearts of people today.
A return to the Bible would put sex in right perspective. The abnormal use of sex is a result of our depraved, sinful nature. It takes that which is holy and drags it into the gutter. It makes a plaything of the most creative, sacred gift God has given us. Nothing can bring sex into its proper place as quickly as a spiritual awakening.
A return to the Bible would give purpose to young people. Students in our universities are crying out for a meaning in life. They want to know their purpose and reason for existence. A spiritual awakening could give young people a cause to live for, a song to sing and a flag to follow.
A return to the Bible would also restore a high sense of destiny to our nation. The men who founded our nation had a high view of what it should be under God. True, some of them were not what they should have been, but at least they believed that faith in God and reverence for Him gave man a dignity he could not otherwise have. They were men who sought the guidance of Almighty God in affairs of the nation. They prayed in times of crisis—and they got answers to their prayers. We have drifted away from that concept, and as a result we are in danger of losing our sense of purpose.
A return to the Bible would also give inner peace and security that people are desperately looking for. How wonderful to hear the words of Christ: “My peace I give to you” (John 14:27).
Just as Christianity began with the dedication of a few in an isolated upper room, so it can be revived by a handful who dare to give Christ all they have. Just as a drop of ink stains a glass of water, so the humblest person in the exercise of his moral choices affects the course of history. When you make a decision to read the Bible daily and to surrender to the Christ revealed in this Book, it could start the trend that could change the direction of a nation.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version.