An article in GQ magazine written by the editors declared that the Bible is one of 21 books that you don’t need to read. It’s 12th on the list and the description by Jesse Ball begins with the following comment:
The Holy Bible is rated very highly by all the people who supposedly live by it but who in actuality have not read it.
More people live by it that have not read it, and that’s the main reason the Bible is the most significant book in all of history. Its principles have permeated our culture so that even Hollywood can’t avoid its truths. Consider The Shawshank Redemption (1994). After having his cell searched for contraband, Andy strikes up a conversation with the corrupt warden who presents himself as a believer. Their conversation leads to a discussion of their favorite Bible verses. It goes like this:
Guards Hadley and Trout start searching Andy’s cell. Warden Norton keeps his eyes on Andy, looking for a wrong glance or nervous blink. He takes the Bible out of Andy’s hand, [the Bible the warden gave him when he entered Shawshank].
NORTON: I’m pleased to see you reading this. Any favorite passages?
ANDY: Watch ye therefore, for ye know not when the master of the house cometh.
NORTON: Luke. Chapter 13, verse 35. I’ve always liked that one. But I prefer: “I am the light of the world. He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”
ANDY: John. Chapter 8, verse 12.
NORTON: I hear you’re good with numbers. How nice. A man should have a skill.
After finishing tossing Andy’s cell, Warden Norton leaves with his Bible in hand. He reaches through the bars and says, “I’d hate to deprive you of this. Salvation lies within.” Unless you know the ending of the film, the use of the Bible in this scene does not make a great deal of sense. The verses, however, apply to the situation quite well.
In this talk, Gary DeMar makes the point that classic movies are excellent teaching tools for a Christian worldview—for children and adults. Classic movies are often heavily dialogue-based, which provides a necessary counterpoint to the visually stimulating and soundbite-driven modern method of moviemaking. Real life is about real conversations, and classic movies provide a great virtual training ground for thinking and living in the real world of ideas and consequences. Also includes illustrated PDF ebook that helps to reinforce and explain the concepts discussed in the lecture.
Think of The Book of Eli (2010) where the Bible is the center of the story and how in the right hands its principles can be used to rebuild a civilization but in the wrong hands it can become a tyrant’s whip (see Matt. 23).
The remake of True Grit (2010) begins with the first line of Proverbs 28:1: “The wicked flee when none pursueth….”
The rest of that line the Coens leave offscreen, but it’s worth noting because it speaks to the nature of True Grit’s impossibly plucky heroine: “… but the righteous are as bold as a lion.”
You will find the Bible cited in the most unlikely films like the great Christmas film Die Hard (1988): “Just a fly in the ointment, Hans. A monkey in the wrench.” It comes from Ecclesiastes 10:1: “Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour” (KJV). Often times we don’t even know when we are referencing the Bible it’s so part of our language.
· At your wits end (Psalm 107:23–27).
· The blind leading the blind (Matt. 15:14).
· By the skin of my teeth (Job 19:20).
· Casting pearls before swine (Matt. 7:6).
· Eat, drink, and be merry (Luke 12:19; 1 Cor. 15:32).
· Feet of clay (Dan. 2:31–45).
· The land of milk and honey (Ex. 3:1–22).
· A leopard cannot change its spots (Jer. 13:23).
· Like a lamb to the slaughter (Isa. 53:7).
· Go the extra mile (Matt. 5:41).
· A wolf in sheep’s clothing (Matt. 7:15).
· A tree is known by its fruit (Luke 6:43–45).
· A house divided against itself cannot stand (Matt. 12:25–26).
· A millstone around the neck (Luke 17:2).
· The handwriting on the wall (Dan. 5:1–31).
· Cast the first stone (John 8:7).
· Drop in a bucket (Isa 40:15).
· Eye for an eye (Matt. 5:38).
· For everything there is a Season (Eccl. 3). The song “Turn! Turn! Turn!” by the Byrds is based on this chapter.
· Hail Mary (Luke 1:28). Often used in football as a desperation pass play.
There’s this from the film Tombstone (1993):
Curly Bill Brocius: Hey Johnny, what did that Mexican mean by “a sick horse is going to get us”?
Johnny Ringo: He was quoting the Bible, Revelations. “Behold the pale horse.” The man who “sat on him was Death… and Hell followed with him.”
Johnny Ringo quotes Revelation (no “s”) 6:8.
The thing of it is, most of these film examples are from a bygone era, and what is remembered is mostly cultural without any connection to the Bible. But even when the Bible was acknowledged or known to deal with a subject, the culture was so permeated with biblical nomenclature that people acted in terms of biblical truth when they didn’t know it.
Consider some of what Martin Luther King, Jr. relied on to make his case against racial injustice in the United States. He often referred to the Bible as in this March 15, 1965, article:
“Let Justice roll down like waters in a mighty stream,” said the Prophet Amos. He was seeking not consensus but the cleansing action of revolutionary change. America has made progress toward freedom, but measured against the goal the road ahead is still long and hard. This could be the worst possible moment for slowing down.
As early as 1955 King appealed to Amos 5:24. Today, the cry for justice rings hollow since there is no ultimate foundation for justice. A materialistic worldview cannot account for justice. MLK, even with his less than orthodox theology and practices, understood this:
To believe that human personality is the result of the fortuitous interplay of atoms and electrons is as absurd as to believe that a monkey by hitting typewriter keys at random will eventually produce a Shakespearean play. Sheer magic! It is much more sensible to say with Sir James Jeans, the physicist, that “the universe seems to be nearer to a great thought than to a great machine,” or with Arthur Balfour, the philosopher, that “we now know too much about matter to be materialists.” Materialism is a weak flame that is blown out by the breath of mature thinking.
Thomas Paine also referred to the Bible in his pamphlet Common Sense to call for the separation from Great Britain. A.J. Ayer remarks that “the first argument that Paine brings against the institution of kingship is scriptural.” Ayer remarks that Paine’s appeal to the Old Testament is curious “in view of the want of respect he was later to show for the Old Testament.” Paine declared that “government by kings was first introduced into the world by the Heathens, from which the children of Israel copied the custom…. As the exalting of one man so greatly above the rest cannot be justified on the equal rights of nature, so neither can it be defended on the authority of scripture; for the will of the Almighty, as declared by Gideon and the prophet Samuel, expressly disapproves of government by kings. All anti-monarchical parts of scripture have been smoothly glossed over in monarchical governments, but they undoubtedly merit the attention of countries which have their governments yet to form. ‘Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s’ is the scriptural doctrine of courts, yet it is no support of monarchical government, for the Jews at that time were without a king, and in a state of vassalage to the Romans.”
Paine has an extended discussion of Judges 8:22–23 where he describes “the King of Heaven” to be Israel’s “proper sovereign.” He then spends several pages quoting, discussing, and making application of the importance of 1 Samuel 8 to the then modern situation. He concludes this section of Common Sense with these words: “In short, monarchy and succession have laid (not this or that kingdom only) by the world in blood and ashes. ’Tis a form of government which the word of God bears testimony against, and blood will attend it.”
It’s been said that if Paine had not appealed to the Bible, he never would have made his case. The same is most likely true of MLK. Today, the use of the Bible as a transformative work would be a hindrance to any call for social reform. It is true, however, that some Democrats still appeal to the Bible because they know there is a remnant of people who are swayed by its authority.
Culture 101 is a much-needed primer on how to live out the Christian worldview. Jesus said to ‘do business’ until He returns, and that means living and working in the world. Christians are sometimes given the idea that only ‘spiritual’ pursuits are worthy of the true Christian, but this is a misguided view. The truly spiritual Christian will have great impact in all areas of life, including business, entertainment, and art.
A.J. Ayer, Thomas Paine (New York: Atheneum, 1988), 40. 40).
American Vision’s mission is to Restore America to its Biblical Foundation—from Genesis to Revelation. American Vision (AV) has been at the heart of worldview study since 1978, providing resources to exhort Christian families and individuals to live by a Biblically based worldview. Visit www.AmericanVision.org for more information, content and resources
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