A College president made a public statement not long since, to the effect that the Bible is becoming more obsolete every day, and the significance of the declaration was emphasized by the fact that in the religious press comment on the subject it was generally conceded to be true, so far as the great body of the people are concerned. Further significance attaches to the matter when we remember that within the last twenty-five years, in addition to the revision of the text, numerous modern English translations and other aids to an intelligent reading of the Scriptures have been issued. Important archaeological discoveries have also been made in confirmation of its historical narratives; Bible schools, Chautauquas, etc., have been multiplied, and through these and other means a very large exploitation of the subject has been carried on. All these favoring conditions and agencies would authorize the expectation of an ever-widening and deepening interest in the sacred writings; and if it be true that during these years they have been losing their hold upon the masses, there must be a cause therefor, and it is reasonable to presume that all who regret the facts will be interested in its discovery and removal.
In seeking the reasons for a decrease of interest in the Bible, we may be sure that divine truth retains an unchanging relation to humanity; that it has lost nothing of its ability to nourish, educate, and inspire. It is now as ever the "bread of life." More than this, truth itself can never become trite or uninteresting; it can no more lose its perennial charm than can a rose or the sunset. We are also entirely sure that the world's need remains the same. Truth can never be spared, since it is the panacea for all ills, the substance of all being. If, therefore, the Bible contains the Word of God, and yet is no longer able to command the attention of mankind, then manifestly that Word, the divine truth, must have become hidden; and it is not difficult to see that this is the case. For many very earnest and in a sense very religious people, theological teachings about truth have practically taken the place of truth. These teachings are not being supported by scientific demonstrations in satisfaction of crying human need, and hence, in so far as they have become identified with the Bible, in the thought of men, their passing seems to dethrone the Bible itself. So, too, superstition, fear, reverence for ecclesiastical authority as such, the unquestioning acceptance of tradition, etc., all are certainly passing away, and to the extent that these have affected Scripture interpretation, shaped the human sense of the Word, to that extent regard for the Bible has waned. Sir Oliver Lodge has recently called attention to this subject and emphasized the need of scientific proofs in support of religious propositions if we would have them make a lasting impression upon human thought and life.
Two other facts affecting the situation must be named. The doctrine of verbal inspiration has rendered the book a medley and a confusion to many, who have thus come to think of it as inconsistent, self-contradictory, and therefore unauthoritative; and further, the inability of the majority of those who stand for its teaching to realize the fulfilment of its unequivocal promises of spiritual authority over sin and sickness in this present life, — this has made it seem inadequate to present needs. The absence of those attesting proofs, "the works of healing" upon which Jesus and his disciples relied for the verification of their words, has shorn the book of both reverence and authority in the thought of very many.