GQ recently posted an article titled, “21 Books You Don’t Have to Read.” It includes many classics such as The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger and The Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway. And it also includes the Bible.
It would be easy to criticize this post. And I will below. But it’s worth pondering some truth in the opening lines of the section on the Bible:
“The Holy Bible is rated very highly by all the people who supposedly live by it but who in actuality have not read it.” Ouch. Sadly, there is some truth in this. It is not lost on the wider world that we Christians often fail to read and live by the words of Scripture.
Rather than responding with anger at GQ for including the Bible in this list, our first response should be one of self-reflection: Do we fail to live what we claim to believe? Do we really read and study Scripture? How can the church mature so that claims like this fall on deaf ears? Let’s remove the plank from our own eye first.
Nevertheless, it really is crazy that the editors of GQ (not a guest writer or an op-ed, by the way)—chose the Bible for this list. After all, the Bible is the most influential book ever written. Period.
Even people who don’t believe the Bible is inspired must honestly recognize it has influenced western civilization more than any literary work in history. Let me say it again, to be sure it sinks in: The Bible has shaped western civilization more than any book ever written. No other book even comes close.
Consider a few examples, which my father and I document in Evidence that Demands a Verdict:
- Government and Law: The Bible has contributed to the development of the democratic process, the three branches of government, and maintaining a system of justice.
- Science and Education: The Bible was not an obstacle to (as many falsely believe) but was a catalyst for the development of science and the rise of higher education.
- Art, Literature, and Music: The Bible has been a fundamental source for nearly every genre of art and literature, and has provided inspiration for innumerable visionaries (e.g., Michelangelo, Bach, Rembrandt) who have elevated the artistic endeavor to its highest form.
- Societal Norms and Values: The Bible has shaped social morality more than any other book. For instance, slavery has existed in nearly every society, yet Christian theology let fervent believers to conclude that slavery was morally reprehensible and therefore required organized action.
These bullet points are only the beginning. Many of the good things in life we take for granted bear the stamp of the Bible, such as marriage, family, names, hospitals, social agencies, freedom, human rights, the work ethic, self-discipline, and more.
Here is the bottom line: No one can truly be an educated person in the West today (and beyond) without reading the Bible. As great as many of the other books are on GQ’s list, they are arguably dispensable. But not the Bible.
Instead of reading the Bible, GQ suggests people read The Notebook, The Proof, The Third Lie by Agota Kristof. This may be a great book. I haven’t read it. But I doubt anyone will be talking about it in a short time. But I guarantee people will be reading, discussing and studying the Bible. That will never change.