I have often wondered–quietly and usually to myself–what would happen if we could edit the Bible.
After all, textbooks get edited and publishers bring out new and improved versions that are more in tune with how things are, instead of how things were.
Wouldn’t it be good if some ecumenical committee could go through the Old Testament and take out all the language about stoning people to death for breaking various rules?
In fact the author would like to see wholesale revision of the bible, to make it “more in tune with how things are”.
But what do we mean by “how things are” in modern America? Isn’t that an appeal to the climate of the times? To the values espoused by those who control the media agenda? Is it not, in fact, the product of a sustained campaign of social manipulation unparalleled in human history? Indeed it is.
Such a suggestion is a call for the bible to be edited to reflect the wishes of the winners of that civil war, what is sometimes called the “culture wars”. The winners are the people who wanted fornication in place of chastity, for instance. It is hard to see that these are people who have any respect for the bible; rather these are people who would seek to use it to impose their own wishes.
All this stirred a memory of William Shirer’s Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, and his description of the Nazification of the state Lutheran church. If my memory serves me correctly, a Nazi demanded the abandonment of the Old Testament, with its tales of goat-thieves and cattle herders, and the revision of the New Testament “in accordance with the principles of National Socialism”. The latter phrase meant that the New Testament should be edited to restore some pretended “original version” in which Jesus was not a Jew, and the church did not have Jewish roots.
Trying to find that quote, I stumbled across the Google Books preview of Susannah Heschel, The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany. I have read a few pages, and I think that I had better get hold of the book. It illustrates brilliantly how a state controlled church can be corrupted by a political establishment that holds it in contempt, and the sort of antics that the establishment’s fellow travellers get up to. If we look past the fact that this is Nazis who want to bash Jews, and replace them with the kind of person who seeks to normalise unnatural vice, we find so many similarities.
And of course the specific cause is unimportant. It could be any cause. But the objective is always the same:
Christianity was not to be banned nor the churches outlawed; rather, as the historian Ernst Piper writes, Nazi strategy was to control the churches and lead to “a steadily advancing process of delegitimization and disassociation, of undermining and repression” that would undercut the church’s moral authority and position of respect.
We may look at the demands made today upon churches, with the backing of the state. At the moment there is the demand to appoint women priests and bishops, to appoint gays to similar positions, to endorse vice of every sort. In this, do we not see the same process?
Those who make these demands of the church hold the church in contempt. They laugh as churchmen solemnly attempt to square the circle between the bible and demands made only because they are opposed to the bible. The fellow-travellers cause chaos as they force their demands through by a mixture of incessant dirty politics, backed by allies controlling the power of appointment, and a constant media atmosphere in their favour; and the establishment enjoys the chaos in an organisation that would otherwise opposite their policies.
Nor should we omit the constant drip-drip of “dirty vicar” stories, and the “church endorses child abuse” stories which somehow never apply the same rules to schools or Boy Scout groups. The urge to damn the whole organisation by association gives the game away.
You can serve God or the world. Ultimately all of us must decide which we intend to do.
It is easy, perhaps, to condemn the fellow traveller, if we are not in any way tempted to do the same. Let us not become proud. The devil has other temptations lined up for us!
The history of the church is made up of such struggles. The devil, the author of all this, does not care if any particular struggle is won or lost, so long as Christians are prevented from preaching the gospel. The worldly and contaminated archbishop is a constant figure in church history.
But he can only matter to us, if we let him. We must not focus on such things. Where two or three are gathered together, there is Christ. He is who we must focus on.
UPDATE: I have found in a snippet part of the quote from Shirer that I recall.
…the Old Testament “with its tales of cattle merchants and pimps” and the revision of the New Testament, with the teaching of Jesus made “to conform entirely with the demands of National Socialism …
The same quote, in a somewhat different form, is referenced to p.237 in a web page, although in what edition is not indicated. But clearly the author has read the same material that I did:
On November 13, 1933, the day after the German people had overwhelmingly backed Hitler in a national plebiscite, the ‘German Christians’ staged a massive rally in the Sportspalast in Berlin. A Dr. Reinhard Krause, the Berlin district leader of the sect, proposed the abandonment of the Old Testament, ‘with its tales of cattle merchants and pimps’ and the revision of the New Testament with the teaching of Jesus ‘corresponding entirely with the demands of National Socialism.’ Resolutions were drawn up demanding ‘One People, One Reich, One Faith,’ requiring all pastors to take an oath of allegiance to Hitler and insisting that all churches institute the Aryan paragraph and exclude converted Jews…
This latter form is repeated around the web in various places.
-  Heschel, p.9 ↩