One of the most common—and frustrating—reasons I hear many Christians offer for not reading their Bibles is, “The Bible’s too hard to understand.” But there are tons of other excuses we make for how we approach (or rather, don’t) the Scriptures. Some pastors have seemingly given up preaching the BIble. Many Christians debate the extent of the Bible’s truthfulness and authority. On and on I could go. But where do these ideas come from, ultimately?
According to J.I. Packer, from no less a source than the Devil himself. I love the way Packer addresses this in his foreword to Knowing Scripture:
If I were the devil (please, no comment), one of my first aims would be to stop folk from digging into the Bible. Knowing that it is the Word of God, teaching people to know and love and serve the God of the Word, I should do all I could to surround it with the spiritual equivalent of pits, thorn hedges and traps, to frighten people off. With smug conceit, no doubt, as if receiving a compliment, I should acknowledge that wise old Jonathan Edwards (1703- 1758) had me absolutely pegged when he wrote:
The devil never would attempt to beget in persons a regard to that divine word which God has given to be the great and standing rule. . . . Would the spirit of error, in order to deceive men, beget in them a high opinion of the infallible rule, and incline them to think much of it, and be very conversant with it? . . . The devil has ever shown a mortal spite and hatred towards that holy book the Bible: he has done all in his power to extinguish that light. . . . He is engaged against the Bible, and hates every word in it.
I should labor every day to prove Edwards’s words true.
How? Well, I should try to distract all clergy from preaching and teaching the Bible, and spread the feeling that to study this ancient book directly is a burdensome extra that modern Christians can forgo without loss. I should broadcast doubts about the truth and relevance and good sense and straightforwardness of the Bible, and if any still insisted on reading it I should lure them into assuming that the benefit of the practice lies in the noble and tranquil feelings evoked by it rather than in noting what Scripture actually says. At all costs I should want to keep them from using their minds in a disciplined way to get the measure of its message.
Want to see the Devil’s schemes work? Don’t read your Bible.