The Bible and Western Culture

In his national bestseller, From Dawn to Decadence:  500 Years of Western Cultural Life, Jacques Barzun describes the impact of the reformers' efforts in translating the Bible into the common tongues: 
The results for Protestants were remarkable. To start with, it gave whole populations a common background of knowledge, a common culture in the high sense of the term...
The Bible was a whole literature, a library. It was an anthology of poetry and short stories. It taught history, biography, philosophy, political science, psychology, hygiene, and sociology (statistical at that), in addition to cosmogony, ethics, and theology. What gives the Bible so strong a hold on the minds that once grow familiar with  its contents is its dramatic reporting of human affairs. For all its piety, it presents a worldly panorama, and with particulars so varied that it is hard to think of a domestic or social situation without a biblical example to match and turn to moral ends.
With the Bible most often the only book in the house, kept in a place of honor, and with its first blank page containing the family records--names, dates of birth, marriage, and death--came the practice of family prayers three or four times a day, besides grace at meals. It was natural that if father or grandfather read a story from scripture to the assembled clan, servants included, the feelings aroused should be summed up in the Lord's Prayer or some other appropriate to the moment. When secularism came to prevail, Bible reading disappeared among the majority, and with it the background of ideas and allusion common to all. In this role, the only ecumenical replacement one can think of is the daily newspaper's comic strip. (From Dawn to Decadence:  500 Years of Western Cultural Life, pp.27-28)

Comments

marty wald said…
"...decadence is a very great evil. Decadence is manifested at a critical point: parents do not have the stamina of converting the next generation to their own aims and ends. Decadence is the disease of liberalism today." The consequence is the barbarization of the younger generation. Since they are not made heirs of the past and its faith, they become the barbarians of the present. "The only energy that can fight this evil is faith. Faith, properly speaking, never is a belief in things of the past, but of the future. Lack of faith is a synonym for decadence..." From "The Escatology of Death."

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