The Bible in Today's Culture

A version of this article appeared in The Baptist Courier. Reprinted by permission of the author.

Over 13 million people viewed the premiere of the History Channel's miniseries, The Bible, this March. The cable TV production had twice as many viewers than any program on NBC for February. The final episode was seen by 11.7 million viewers, helping to make the History Channel the top cable network for March. This success had critics stumped because the overwhelming majority had predicted a dismal failure for the series.

The Hollywood Reporter called it "a mishmash of the historical, and the honeyed." It seems Hollywood, and the mainstream media in general, have lost touch with anything even resembling godliness in our society. The networks and movie producers, for the most part, are not supportive of biblical principles, morals, or values.

The condition of our country reflects our loss of a genuine God-consciousness based on Scripture and not on public opinion. According to a recent Barna research report, 77 percent of Americans say the values and morals of America are declining. Why? The number one answer, given by 32 percent of those surveyed, was "because of an absence of Bible reading." In that poll, 46 percent believe the Bible has little impact on American youth and 56 percent believe the Bible has little impact on American society. However, 89 percent own at least one Bible (down from 92 percent in 1993). Even 59 percent of the people who "have no faith or are atheists own a Bible." Sixty-one percent of adults "say they wish they read the Bible more" (down from 67 percent in 2011).

The tremendous response of the public to the miniseries and the Barna research give us some hope. While the Bible does not hold the place of respect and honor it once did in our society, a large number of Americans are still interested in the bestselling book in history. This is good news for evangelicals.

The Bible miniseries on TV contains some inaccuracies and omissions. But something that touches this many people can open the door for conversations that Christians might otherwise never have, especially since 27 percent of non-Christian adults tuned in to at least part of the series. This opportunity could open the door for discussing the Bible, leading to a conversation about the way to salvation. From that a relationship could develop where a disciple of Christ is used to help someone know the truth, experience the new birth, and begin a personal journey of discipleship with God.

A book, A Story of God and All of Us, based on the miniseries and written by husband and wife producers, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, has already become a best seller.

When Jesus was tempted to turn stones into bread, He quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 to Satan, "Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God." Psalm 119:105 says, "Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."

People need direction and meaning. God can give it to them through His Word. When we are given opportunities like a television program that attracts the attention and curiosity of so many, we must respond with great love and share the truth of God with people who are interested. Our opinions will not work. It is the Truth, written and incarnated, that sets people free from the bondage of sin and unbelief. One media critic wrote of the miniseries, "People are hungry for something like this." It may be that more people than we can imagine are open to hear God's truth. Things may not be as bleak as they could be and opportunities may be better than we realize.

James Rudy Gray is certified as a professional counselor by the National Board for Certified Counselors, and is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors. He serves as the editor of The Baptist Courier, the official newspaper of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.

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