Greg Laurie is a well-known preacher from Southern California who has written over 70 books, and has led a ministry for decades that includes an annual crusade that aims to draw thousands in an effort to win them to Christianity. Last week Laurie had a column published by the LA Times in response to a controversy that bizarrely erupted over his church’s advertisements of this year’s crusade.
On billboards announcing the event, Laurie’s hand was seen holding a Bible in the air. The image was reminiscent of the late Billy Graham (a man Laurie considers his mentor) who would regularly hold God’s Word in the air while making his sermon’s most significant points. But this isn’t Billy Graham’s America anymore – and certainly not in California.
According to Laurie’s column,
A real estate company that owns one of the most popular malls in Southern California said it received multiple complaints from people who found the image of the Bible offensive, and at least one “serious threat.” The Bible disturbed people so much that one local business felt forced to remove the ads completely.
Notice this isn’t any specific doctrine, it’s not the proclamation of any particular truth. It’s merely the image of a Bible in a preacher’s hand. And this is now deemed offensive and a “serious threat” to progressive culture. How should we respond to this?
First, we shouldn’t be surprised. America’s prosperity has made us increasingly less dependent and less grateful for God’s goodness to us. Over decades, our wealth has fostered an arrogant sense of pride and entitlement that entices us to trust our own will rather than His.
In such a culture, it is logical that the Bible will become seen as a restrictive book of regulations and expectations that conflict with our own natural desires. When that occurs, man will respond either by ignoring the Bible, reinventing the Bible to fit what we want it to say, or hating and maligning the Bible. So whenever we see any of these very popular practices these days, we should be anything but shocked.
Secondly though, I think it is clear that believers should not shy away from “controversies” of this nature. We should embrace them and relish them as an opportunity to proclaim the truth. I think that’s what Laurie was attempting to do in this column and I commend him for it, even if I would counsel a slightly different approach.
Laurie spent the majority of his space trying to answer the question why the Bible has become “so offensive” in our country. He appealed to readers to recognize the profound impact the Bible has had on our civilization throughout history. He noted the importance of Scripture in colonial universities, how it led to the compassion of the Salvation Army, and noble actions of both the abolitionists and civil rights activists like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
He talked about its continued prevalence in our society – from hotels to homes, and how we use it for credibility in our most significant oaths and promises. And he stressed how the Bible has positively changed so many people’s lives.
Listen: absolutely none of that is inaccurate or wrong. Everything Laurie said was true and it hurts nothing to remind people of those things. I’m just not sure it answers the question why the Bible is so offensive to people these days. One of the commenters noticed, complaining,
“Uh. The story did not deliver on the headline. The writer never did deal with the idea that the Bible is offensive.”
The commenter is right, and I don’t think as Christians we should avoid telling the truth or acknowledging to those who hate the Bible that we understand why they do.
The Bible is offensive because God is holy and we are not.
It’s truly that simple. And that’s why if I might be so bold, I would suggest that as Christians we should spend less time trying to explain to people why the Bible shouldn’t be offensive to them, but instead spend our time telling them why the Bible is going to be offensive to them, and why that’s precisely what they (and we) need.