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The Subtle Art of Canceling the Bible

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Surely, in our modern society of religious freedom, no one would dare to ban the Bible—would they?

The Bible has been a powerful force shaping modern civilization. To be sure, it is increasingly ignored, and very few even try to put its principles fully and truly into practice; the real meaning of Scripture is avoided, disavowed, and rationalized away by so many. Yet, even though imperfectly followed, no other single book has been more influential in the building of modern civilization. Many cultures that have never accepted the Bible have indirectly accepted some of its principles as they have imported ideas from the West. The Bible has informed our thoughts on economics and finance, government, race relations, sexual ethics, family structure, individual responsibility, social obligations, and a host of additional facets of our civilization. Even in our increasingly secularized society, it continues to inform our thinking.

So, if anyone wanted to restructure civilization—to rewrite the norms of human interaction and self-understanding—they would need to remove the Bible from its place of public influence. But even as our society grows progressively ignorant of the Bible’s words, such a task is easier said than done. With its ideas interwoven into the fabric of Western culture, time has shown the Bible to be a hard book to keep down.

There have been direct assaults, of course. In 1963, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that school-led reading of the Bible in a religious context was unconstitutional. Many centuries before, in the Middle Ages, Roman Catholic leaders initiated persecutions to prevent the translation of the Bible into the common languages of the people, favoring Latin to guard against those who saw glaring differences between the teachings of that church and the clear words of Scripture.

Yet, despite prohibitions and persecutions, the Bible to this day remains the most printed book in the world. According to Wycliffe Bible Translators, as of October 2020 the entire Bible had been translated into 704 languages.

How to Cancel an “Uncancelable” Book

In most of the developed world, outright banning of the world’s most popular book is unthinkable—for now. The pretense of religious freedom ensures that actual prohibition of Scripture would seem the height of religious intolerance, even in secular-minded cultures where the Bible is rarely read and its values are scorned. For the moment, censorship of Scripture would be unacceptable to most civilized people.

Still, self-appointed transformers want nothing to stand in the way of the changes they desire to inflict on our world. Not popular sentiment. Not logic. Not God. And certainly not a book.

Enter “cancel culture”—the popular term for the growing tendency of modern society to self-censor individuals who espouse unpopular or socially disfavored viewpoints. Cancel culture has poisoned many college campuses—places supposedly devoted to rational and impartial discussion—where speakers are increasingly shouted down or uninvited based on student reaction and professors have faced demotion or outright dismissal for expressing points of view deemed offensive. In fact, cancel culture has cost actors, journalists, politicians, scientists, teachers, and many others their jobs.

Truly, there can be no doubt that we are entering a time of astonishing willingness to censor and ban content in nations that, until recently, were considered examples of the value of free and unhindered information.

In this oppressive environment, many see opportunity: One need not ban the Bible itself—one need only purge from acceptable public discourse the individual elements of a biblical worldview. You don’t need to ban the book if you can ban the ideas within the book.

Those who would recast society in their own image have adapted. Cancel culture is coming for the Bible, one idea at a time.

Canceling Biblical Ideas About Abortion

One biblical principle increasingly under attack is that of life in the womb. Scripture is clear that human life is not animal life, but is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26). The famous biblical statement concerning measured and equitable punishment of crimes—“life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth”—is declared by God in the context of a man injuring a pregnant woman and causing harm or loss of life to her unborn child (Exodus 21:22–25). And God speaks on multiple occasions of how He considers life in the womb a living human being and takes personal credit for the creation of that individual (e.g., Job 31:15; Psalm 139:13–14; Jeremiah 1:5).

Increasingly, those who hold to this biblical view of the life in the womb are finding it harder to express that view publicly.

In 2018, U.S. Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn sought to publish campaign advertisements on Facebook highlighting her anti-abortion position. Initially, Facebook refused to run those ads, resulting in accusations of political censorship. Facebook later apologized, stating through official channels that their removal of these campaign ads had been a mistake, but others have had similar experiences followed by no apologies at all.

The popular “Women’s March” in Washington, D.C. draws thousands of feminists from all over the United States seeking to press for what they see as rights and legislation that will benefit women. But they would not allow some feminists to be included—namely, pro-life feminists who believe in a biblical concept of children in the womb. As the situation was described in the Atlantic in January 2019:

Pro-life women have also been excluded from the national march. Although a number of self-described pro-life feminist groups signed up to be sponsors and march alongside the original Women’s March, they were removed from the march’s official list of supporters because of their anti-abortion views.

As the article in the Atlantic goes on to highlight, the exclusion is ironic, since women lead many of the most politically powerful pro-life organizations. Yet, in the eyes of Women’s March organizers, the necessity of rejecting anyone espousing biblical principles concerning life in the womb trumps all other concerns—regardless of all other “pro-women” ideas with which they may agree. To them, belief that the unborn child must be respected as a human being made in the image of God is cause enough for one to be rejected as a sponsor of the march.

Canceling the Bible on Creation

In March 2021, Dr. Joshua Swamidass wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, “A Compromise on Creationism,” that seemed, on the surface, to extend a laurel branch to educational institutions that teach the idea that God created life on planet Earth. But a closer reading reveals the opposite intent. Swamidass recommends that schools teaching any form of creationism that “deviates from national norms” should “prominently disclose” the presence of such instruction on transcripts and materials to ensure that those classes are not allowed to contribute toward recognized science degrees.

To be sure, there are mistaken theories of “creationism” that ignore both biblical and scientific facts. For more information on this, we recommend our free booklet Evolution and Creation: What Both Sides Miss, available from any of the Regional Offices listed on page 4 of this magazine. However, too often the phrase “deviates from national norms” means “does not embrace evolution as the origin of life.”

Indeed, many have seen their careers damaged for recognizing that there is significant scientific evidence for intelligent design behind the origin and diversity of life—a position too close to the Bible’s description of God to be allowed to go “uncanceled.”

For example, when it came to light that microbiologist Scott Minnich—who has performed experiments that lend credence to intelligent design theories—was going to testify on behalf of intelligent design in court, his university president drafted a letter sent to all faculty, staff, and students, stating that only evolution is “appropriate to be taught in our bio-physical sciences.” The letter implied that disagreeing with evolution is only possible through philosophical and religious concerns—contradicting Dr. Minnich’s own research—and effectively banned any comments to the contrary from the university’s science classes.

Dr. Minnich is hardly alone. Double-Ph.D. biologist Richard Sternberg faced professional persecution for allowing the publication of a peer-reviewed paper friendly to the idea of intelligent design. Distinguished paleontologist Dr. Günter Bechly was pressured to resign from his museum position—after a 17-year career and a vast number of publications—when he expressed public support for the idea that scientific evidence points to an intelligent origin to life. These stories and more are documented at the website FreeScience.today. The theme of all their messages is the same: Even a hint of biblical ideas of life’s origins and diversity and disagreement with the dogma of evolution is enough to be canceled.

Canceling the Bible on Amazon

For some time, one could purchase Ryan T. Anderson’s 2018 book When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment on the website of global power-merchant Amazon. Yet the book has now been banned from the site—and when Amazon’s share of the retail e-commerce market in the United States has grown to approach 50 percent, such a ban has quite an impact on sales!

In a response to inquiries by four United States senators, Amazon explained that it was banning from sale all books that “frame LGBTQ+ identity as a mental illness.” Yet, one would be hard pressed to read the book and find any such statement from the author. Anderson does focus very directly on the question of how to best help those suffering from confusion over their gender, arguing that studies show body-altering surgeries and a life of hormone treatments produce negative outcomes. In particular, the book makes a case against “transitioning” children this way, especially since gender confusion often resolves itself as children age—in fact, estimates of the number of children who experience “gender dysphoria” and eventually simply grow out of it, without intervention of any kind, range from 80 to 95 percent.

But the biblical teaching of Jesus Christ that, from the beginning of creation, God “made them male and female” (Mark 10:6; cf. Genesis 1:27) is a high-value target on the hit list of those who would re-engineer society. Suggestions that, instead of being an aspect of creation actively planned by God as an inherent—and binary—part of our design, “sex” and “gender” exist on a “spectrum” as malleable characteristics that humanity is free to redefine as desired are the dogmas of the day, and the Bible’s teachings stand in the way of those dogmas. So, backed by scientific studies or not, those teachings are increasingly pushed out of the marketplace of ideas—and, in Amazon’s case, our literal marketplaces.

Canceling the Bible in Congress

Beyond the private and corporate realm, desire to cancel the Bible has invaded our systems of government. Over the years, the fight to cancel any semblance of the Bible within government has deepened in intensity and broadened in scope—and has become far more explicit.

In January 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives changed its ruling document to “honor all gender identities by changing pronouns and familial relationships in the House rules to be gender neutral”—ensuring the House Rules and Manual would no longer use terms like father, mother, son, or daughter. On February 25, as the House was debating expanding the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” Representative Greg Steube from Florida read from Deuteronomy 22:5 concerning God’s desire to maintain distinctions between men and women. Representative Jerry Nadler responded, “Mr. Steube, what any religious tradition describes as God’s will is no concern of this Congress.”

Of course, the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution has long maintained that the American government has no right to establish a national religion. And, frankly, longtime readers of this magazine will understand our skepticism about any worldly government’s ability to properly understand Scripture. Still, Rep. Nadler’s statement is a bold declaration that the Bible and the will of God have no place in the halls of government.

A perhaps more dramatic illustration of the growing desire to exclude biblical concepts from government came in 2018 with the U.S. Senate confirmation hearings of the then-nominee for Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo. Prompted by comments made by Mr. Pompeo in 2015 when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex “marriage,” Senator Cory Booker grilled the nominee about his views on homosexuality, asking, “Is being gay a perversion?” and “Do you believe gay sex is a perversion, yes or no?” In 2019, Sen. Booker similarly quizzed a nominee to the D.C. Circuit Court, asking, “Are gay relationships in your opinion immoral?” and “Do you believe they are a sin?” In a nation whose Constitution bans religious tests for those wishing to serve in public office, this line of questioning was a concern for some—yet seen as the “right call” by others.

It seems that many are working to create a world in which the teachings of the Bible are not merely to be kept out of the halls of government, but even out of the privately held beliefs of those who serve there.

The Consequences of Canceling the Bible

Most who seek to ban the teachings of the Bible from public discussion are not actually seeking to ruin the world or destroy civilization. Many have their own vision of a just, fair, and “good” society, and they simply see Scripture as an obstacle in their quest.

But such dreams are, in reality, delusions. While the Bible’s teachings have rarely been fully adopted by any people, the fact is that many foundations of civil society are, indeed, built on principles found in Scripture. However imperfectly they may be applied, those principles are at the heart of what makes our modern world civilized, safe, and sane.

We turn our backs on the Bible at our peril.

The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche is most remembered, perhaps, for famously declaring, “God is dead!” Those three words have often made Nietzsche a popular man in atheistic circles—and the philosopher was certainly, himself, not a believer in God. Yet the context of his infamous declaration is often missed, and his observations of what it means to live in a God-less world are worth noting. Nietzsche recognized that without God, civilization loses any real ground for objective morality and meaning in life; the many values and morals that make civilized life possible—such as honesty, mercy, compassion, and selflessness—no longer have any basis for being considered “values” or “morals” at all. The result is nihilism—the idea that all of existence is senseless, meaningless, and useless.

Nietzsche embraced the coming of nihilism because—like the self-appointed social engineers of our day—he felt that it could be overcome and God-less mankind could somehow discover how to redefine its values in such a way as to reach its ultimate potential.

Of course, Nietzsche never finished his project of reinventing all values, because it is a fool’s quest. The moment we decide we know better than God—that we don’t need Him to determine the “real” values of the world—we find ourselves a ship unanchored in chaos. There is no fantasy utopia beyond the nihilism that comes from casting aside the God of the Bible. There is only a brutal world of meaningless, competing animals, each seeking to simply survive.

The Apostle Paul spoke prophetically of such times in one of his letters to the young evangelist Timothy:

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! (2 Timothy 3:1–5).

Can we admit to ourselves that we see this world growing around us? Brutal. Blasphemous. Unforgiving. Lacking in self-control. Focusing on self and pleasure. Having a form of actual godliness—religion-like passion and zeal—but denying the power of real godliness.

Paul’s prophecy is like a mirror held up to our increasingly Bible-less world. A host of new ideologies—such as identity politics, climate change, social and economic reengineering, sexual and gender anarchy, and critical race theory—are ready to act as new religions, eager to embrace the zealous. Meanwhile, our urban centers increasingly erupt in chaos, and our fellow citizens seem ready to view their neighbors as little more than animals, merely because of differing opinions on a particular politician or the efficacy of vaccines.

We are becoming tribal—and brutal. Just as Alfred Tennyson described nature, the world of man, too, is becoming “red in tooth and claw”—because one does not ban the word of God from civilization without consequences.

The Canceling to Come—and a Restoration!

Happily, in the end, all such efforts will not prevail. The Bible will not be permanently banned, because God Almighty will not be denied a voice. Jesus Christ foretold that, as His return draws near, His message of the coming Kingdom of God will blanket the entire world (Matthew 24:14). That message includes not only the good news of His return, but also the warning that the ways and worldviews of this “perverse generation” (Acts 2:40) will be overcome at His arrival by objective truth, biblical morality, and a renewed reverence for the things of God.

That doesn’t mean the preaching of that message to the world will always be smooth sailing. Quite the opposite! While we currently see resistance to the message of the Bible from many secular quarters, the time will come when the strongest resistance is religious in nature—swelling from a state-sanctioned version of “Christianity” with the whole world under its sway.

The Apostle John wrote of this global religious power and its unholy union with political, economic, and military powers. In a vision of that future—our future—John saw how these world-straddling religious and political entities will speak “great things and blasphemies” against the true God and “make war” against those who live and teach the truths of the Bible (Revelation 13:5–7).

As that time approaches, those who seek to preach the Bible’s truth may increasingly be seen as outlaws, understanding what the Apostle Peter proclaimed for when obligations to God and the laws of man come into conflict: “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

No, Jesus Christ will not be censored—not by secular zealots seeking to shut down any discussion that runs counter to their delusional worldviews, and not by religious behemoths who seek to crush any and all who would dare expose their corruption of the true Christian faith. As in the first century—when Christ’s growing body of followers faced increasing resistance from governments and rulers made uncomfortable by talk of “righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come” (Acts 24:25)—regulations, laws, and restrictions may be thrown in the path of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. But its message will go out.

Canceling the Bible is truly a subtle art, at which many forces in this world excel as unwitting pawns of the devil. But, ultimately, the word of God will not be canceled and the voice of God will not be silenced. All we can tell you, dear readers, is to continue watching this space for the proof.