Fish and other animals can be caught using a bait, and so can the electorate. This trick is well known to politicians and they maximize their opportunities to make use of it. Because of poverty, the baits in a Nation like Nigeria are numerous. Some votes are bought with rice, some with money, while some can be bought with sympathy, whether ethnic, tribal or gender. Different strokes for different folks. And these are done whether the politician is well meaning or not.
For the folks in the academia, Dr. Jonathan has to get them with whatever they deem important, and so he launched a campaign tagged “Bring back the Book”. Thousands of students from 23 secondary schools including two universities besieged the ultra-modern EXPO Hall, Eko Hotel, Lagos, where President Goodluck Jonathan took the battle for sustainable reading culture to them. “Bring Back The Book Campaign” launched by President Jonathan on Monday December 27, 2010, also attracted several literary giants, poets, publishers and writers… Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, was with the president in the morning during the reading session with pupils.[i]
President Jonathan said “I have invited you together to begin a serious discussion in order to bring back the book. I decided to publish because I want to promote a reading culture and accountable governance”.[ii]
Also commenting at the event was a renowned poet, Ofeimun who “said that reading is an equaliser of all people.” “Great nations are built by great minds and great minds are nurtured by books.” The renowned poet called for the revival of local government libraries which should be well stocked with good books. He recommended a version of the United States Library of Congress for Nigeria. He said “It’s the first time a national leader will be identified with the reading culture even when cynics are saying it is not possible. A new approach to confront the situation.” He decried the disheartening state of our reading culture.[iii]
This is a generation of short messaging because people do not have the patience to read long passages anymore. Why read a book when I can watch a movie about it? That’s our generation. And so, we read only the books we need in order to earn good grades so as to get ahead in life. And doing that even requires extra work which many even try and fail at. Hence, we have a generation of narrow thinkers who know little or nothing beyond their area of academic study. One wonders sometimes whether common sense in the 21st century covers the same areas of knowledge as of times past. We’d rather spend six hours watching TV than spend two hours reading a book we’d write no exam on.
And so the directors and movie producers of Hollywood and the other “woods” have control of the mind of many in the world today. Simply because we put the book away and surrendered our imagination to them.
Jonathan’s “Bring Back the Book” campaign brings back to mind a medieval story of a man, Martin Luther, who led a revolution to “Bring Back the Book”. While one day examining the books in the library of the university, Luther discovered a Latin Bible. Such a book he had never before seen. He was ignorant even of its existence. He had heard portions of the Gospels and Epistles, which were read to the people at public worship, and he supposed that these were the entire Bible. Now, for the first time, he looked upon the whole of God’s word. With mingled awe and wonder he turned the sacred pages; with quickened pulse and throbbing heart he read for himself the words of life, pausing now and then to exclaim: “O that God would give me such a book for myself!… He had ever feared to offend God, but now the deep conviction of his condition as a sinner took hold upon him as never before.[iv]
Luther lived at a time when the teachings of the Bible, even in the church had been replaced by man’s dogma because the book had been taken away from the ordinary man. Himself a priest was seeing the whole bible for the first time. As a result of this discovery, “Luther saw the danger of exalting human theories above the word of God. He fearlessly attacked the speculative infidelity of the schoolmen and opposed the philosophy and theology which had so long held a controlling influence upon the people. He denounced such studies as not only worthless but pernicious, and sought to turn the minds of his hearers from the sophistries of philosophers and theologians to the eternal truths set forth by prophets and apostles.”[v] Luther fought for this cause of bringing back the book at the risk of his own life and indeed many of the lives of those who followed his teachings were lost. But he held tenaciously to his resolve to bring back the book.
Of course he succeeded. A testimony of his success today is America. A nation whose founding fathers built on the principles of the Book which Luther sought to bring back. A nation which today has kicked out the book. Luther led a revolution which was brought forward by other Christian reformers giving birth to much of the protestant churches of today and in effect allowing for the rise of every other kind of church.
Luther and other reformers championed the principle of Sola Sriptura which taught that Christians must “maintain the Bible and the Bible only, as the standard of all doctrines and the basis of all reforms”. This means that any teaching inconsistent with that of Scripture is false, no matter its source. The Bible was their constitution. But Christianity today is witnessing a polarization where the teachings of the scripture have been undermined and a culture of permissiveness pervades the Christian church. Satan today is achieving what he could not achieve by force through another means—polarization.
Someone has prophesied concerning our time when he said “the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching; but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim. 4:4). The preaching of righteousness, holiness and adherence to biblical injunctions has been kicked out of the church and replaced by the preaching of a God who will bless you financially or spiritually regardless of your lifestyle; just pray and all is well. When the bible has said that: “He who turns away his ear from listening to the law, even his prayer is an abomination.” (Prov. 28:9).
The church has been an umbrella for all manner of teachings which Christ himself would find strange. Jesus who quoted extensively from the old testament and especially from the book of Deuteronomy (a repetition of the law) is today said to have nullified the old testament and the law and in turn establish an era of grace. This is said quoting and misinterpreting portions of apostle Paul’s writings that appears to say what the teachers want to teach, while they neglect the other ones which clarifies his position. The same Apostle Paul also made statements such as “Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law. (Rom. 3:31).” He also said “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom. 6:1, 2). Rhetorical questions they are.
The Book is a combination of 66 books written over a period of 1,500 years with striking unison despite the different eras in which its writers lived. If the Book must be brought back, it must be brought back in wholeness and not in pieces. Because the same God inspired them all, and he does not change. (cf. Mal. 3:6).
The Bible, by some, has been reduced to a book of wise sayings or suggestions which one can decide to follow or not; to some, it’s just a book where principles of business success, leadership tips or academic success tips can be found. Some see the Bible as just another textbook which can be proven wrong. But what does the Bile say of itself? All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16, 17). The Bible needs to be restored to its right position as the non-negotiable Word of the Lord which cannot be broken.
The Author of the Book who inspired its writers is One and therefore the Book cannot be divided into pieces. If what is said on the first page goes down well with you because it approves of what you like doing, you must also conform yourself to whatever it says on every other page which may rebuke something else which you like to do. Whoever will get the best out of the Book must be consistent.
On how to get the best from reading the word of god, White counsels thus:
There are many things apparently difficult or obscure, which God will make plain and simple to those who thus seek an understanding of them. But without the guidance of the Holy Spirit we shall be continually liable to wrest the Scriptures or to misinterpret them. There is much reading of the Bible that is without profit and in many cases a positive injury. When the word of God is opened without reverence and without prayer; when the thoughts and affections are not fixed upon God, or in harmony with His will, the mind is clouded with doubts; and in the very study of the Bible, skepticism strengthens. The enemy takes control of the thoughts, and he suggests interpretations that are not correct. Whenever men are not in word and deed seeking to be in harmony with God, then, however learned they may be, they are liable to err in their understanding of Scripture, and it is not safe to trust to their explanations.[vi]
The Holy Spirit is the author of the Book, and in our quest to Bring Back the Book and restore it to its right position, we need the infilling of the author of the Book.
The world needs the book more than ever before. A departure from the Book by a nation which was founded on principles found in the Book has found the book being replaced by guns and drugs and murder in the schools and public places where it was kicked out from. Because, when there is a lack of the knowledge of God, the people, even God’s people perish. (cf. Hosea 4:6). Prophet Isaiah says “Therefore My people go into exile for their lack of knowledge; and their honorable men are famished, and their multitude is parched with thirst.” (Isa. 5:13). A lack of knowledge of the book is costly; therefore, we need to Bring Back the Book and restore it to its right place.
In bringing back the Book, we must “maintain the Bible, and the Bible only, as the standard of all doctrines, and the basis of all reforms. The opinions of learned men, the deductions of science, the creeds or decisions of ecclesiastical councils, as numerous and discordant as are the churches which they represent, the voice of the majority,— not one or all of these should be regarded as evidence for or against any point of religious faith. Before accepting any doctrine or precept, we should demand a plain “Thus saith the Lord” in its support.”[vii] The psalmist corroborates this when he said “I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts.” (Ps. 119:99, 100).
The knowledge and authority of the Book cannot be replaced with prayer or emotions or music or ecstatic feelings; all these must be subordinate to the authority of the Bible—the Book. As sung in the words “I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path.” (Ps. 119:104).
And neither can the authority of the Book be replaced with a popular opinion. Many today test God by His approval of Homosexuality and make statements like “I would not serve a God that does not approve of homosexuality”. I serve a God who, through the Book, despises homosexuality (cf. Rom. 1:24-28) but loves homosexuals and wishes that they, like every other sinner, come to repentance. (cf. John 3:16; 2 Pet. 3:9). But if God in His Word approves of homosexuality, I have no cultural or spiritual excuse to disapprove of the act and the actors because every other form of authority is second place to the Book.
When Christ was tempted, He refused to show Satan superiority by a show of supernatural prowess, he simply showed us an example by revealing the power of what was written in the Book. Repeatedly, three times, His response to the devil was “It is written” (Matt. 4:4, 7, 10). If we will triumph over the wiles of the enemy, there’s no greater power than the Book. We must bring back the Book.
The Post modern world in which we live today is confused about the existence of truth. But Satan is not confused about it neither am I. He knows that the truth is the Word of God by which we must test every other thing that parades itself as truth. Bringing back the Book means bringing back truth.
[iv] Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy. Pg. 122
[v] Ibid, pg. 126
[vi] Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, pg 119
[vii] Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, pg 595