Thursday, February 2, 2012

In God We Trust


Marsha and I are with the CCCU presidents at our annual meeting in Washington, D.C. this week. It is always a helpful time to reconnect with our broad cause of Christian higher education.

With a free couple of hours this week, I visited a new small exhibit in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History where the "Jefferson Bible" has been restored and is now on exhibit. I have always been fascinated with this product of Thomas Jefferson's life.

Created by our nation's third president in 1820, Jefferson's Bible is a book of passages from the New Testament Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, that he cut and pasted in four columns in Greek, Latin, French and English.  

A work of his own hands, he made the book for his own reading and reflection and not as something he ever planned to publish. Only a few in his closest circle even knew about it. The book remained in his family until 1895 when his great-granddaughter sold it to the Smithsonian Institution where it eventually became too fragile to be displayed. In 2011, its restoration was completed and it was returned for display. See it here.  

It seems that the same 'cut and paste' continues to be underway in our culture and in our church. Our nation tries to embrace our heritage but cut away our faith in God. In response, Congress last November had to reaffirm 'In God we Trust' as our national motto. (See Fox News story).

Even within the community of believers, we struggle with what to take from the Holy Scriptures and what to cut away.

One particularly regrettable note about Jefferson's Bible is how it ends. He includes no passages about the resurrection of Christ or the power of His sacrifice over sin.  

After Jefferson's cutting of God's word those parts that he found contrary to reason, Jefferson's Bible ends:

"Now in the place where he was crucified, there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulcher, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus and rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulcher and departed. "

I'm convinced the story didn't end there.