Whole segments of society are biased against the Bible. As historian Paul Johnson put it: “It is a striking fact that, at the end of the twentieth century, the vast majority of people in the world still believe in a god…But it cannot be denied, also, that the Promethean spirit, the spirit of those who believe they can do without God—or that they can find substitutes for God—is also strong today, perhaps stronger than ever before” ( The Quest for God, 1996, p. 18).
Prometheus was the mythical Greek figure who, it was claimed, defied the gods by stealing fire from Zeus, the chief god, and giving it to mankind. Johnson defines the “Promethian spirit” as one of men and women believing they “can do without God.” It is a spirit of pride, trust in human wisdom and understanding, and resistance and defiance of things supernatural, including the Bible.
For centuries the Western world accepted the Bible as the inspired Word of God. It stood unquestioned as the foundation of all knowledge, including the sciences. However, scientific advancements and expanding education led to widespread questioning of religious authority and skepticism of Scripture itself.
Historian James Hitchcock described this slow but massive shift: “From the beginning of the European universities in the twelfth century, theology had been the ‘queen of the sciences,’ and religion had been seen as at the center of reality. Now [in the 17th century] thinkers like Descartes [1596-1650] ‘protected’ religion by putting it off to one side…Religion was not openly attacked nor, for the most part, was it disbelieved. It just ceased to be important…
“[But] if the seventeenth century still treated Christianity with respect, the eighteenth century opened a frontal attack on it. The philosophers…were self-proclaimed apostles of an ‘Enlightenment.’ This term implies the existence of prior darkness, largely the result of Christianity, which was equated with superstition and ignorance. In their mental world there was no room for mystery or the supernatural…There was no divine providence or miracles—God did not ‘interfere’ in his creation. Nor did he reveal himself to his people, in the Scriptures or through the church” ( What Is Secular Humanism?, 1982, pp. 36-37).
The growth of such an outlook is echoed by Johnson, who wrote that this attitude has been “growing with dramatic speed over the past 250 years” (p. 18). Skepticism of the Bible as the inspired Word of God accelerated in the 19th century, and critics at universities practically stood in line to question and criticize the Bible on philosophical, theological, historical and textual grounds.
Such thinking heavily influences higher education—including many seminaries that produce theologians and pastors—to this day. Not only do such critics question the Bible, but often they refuse to listen to its defenders and even reject out of hand hard scientific evidence supporting the Scriptures. The net effect is that many profess a belief in a God but don’t really know Him, and in many cases they have fundamental doubts about His Word. Because of such doubt, recognized or not, much of the supposed Christian world is largely unaware of even basic Bible knowledge.
Many people approach the Bible, either knowingly or unknowingly, with a built-in doubt of its veracity. If we really want to know the truth, we should at least temporarily lay aside such skepticism and examine the Bible with an open mind. One wonders how many nonbelievers in God would remain nonbelievers if they read and studied the Scriptures and examined the evidence supporting its accuracy and authenticity.