The Importance And Work Of The American Bible Society – Dr. John Plake – What is the American Bible Society? What was its role in the history of America and the Founding Fathers? What is its work today? Tune in to learn the answers to these questions and more with Dr. John Plake.
Air Date: 11/01/2021
Guest: Dr. John Plake
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Transcription note: As a courtesy for our listeners’ enjoyment, we are providing a transcription of this podcast. Transcription will be released shortly. However, as this is transcribed from a live talk show, words and sentence structure were not altered to fit grammatical, written norms in order to preserve the integrity of the actual dialogue between the speakers. Additionally, names may be misspelled or we might use an asterisk to indicate a missing word because of the difficulty in understanding the speaker at times. We apologize in advance.
Welcome to the intersection of faith and the culture. So glad you are with us today on WallBuilders Live. WallBuilders, if you’re tuning in for the first time comes from that scripture in Nehemiah that says arise and rebuild the walls that we may no longer be able to approach. Here at WallBuilders, we are rebuilding the foundations, we’re restoring the principles the biblical principles upon which this nation was built. So every topic of the day, we look at it from a biblical, historical, and constitutional perspective.
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Alright, David, and Tim, later in the program from the American Bible Society, Dr. John Plake will be with us. And of course, we got to talk about American Bible Society before we even get to the interview. I mean, this was started by the founding fathers. You know, those atheists and agnostics and deists, ones that didn’t like the Bible or God at all. Why would they start a Bible Society?
Yeah. And why would they endorse the use of the Bible even in schools back in 1782 when the first-ever English language Bible published in America has the endorsement of Congress in the front? And why would you have so many guys like let’s say a James McHenry, and James McHenry, Fort McHenry is named after him, so we think of the War of 1812 and the big flag in the Star-Spangled Banner? And yet that founding father, James McHenry, who was the Secretary of War for both, what we would call the Secretary of Defense for both George Washington and John Adams as president, he starts the Maryland Bible Society. Or why does signer of the Declaration, Benjamin Rush, one of the three most notable signers according to John Adams, he starts the Philadelphia Bible Society?
We just go through so many other Founding Fathers who started Bible Societies. And it’s interesting that Benjamin Rush started the very first one in 1809. And it was to make sure everybody in Philadelphia had Bibles and knew the Bible and read the Bible and applied the Bible. It was a voluntary movement to get Bible to everybody’s hands. And that had taken off so much. But by the time you get to 1816, which is when the American Bible Society was formed, there had been 131 Local Bible Societies formed in America, local or state Bible Societies.
And so the American Bible Society stepped in and said, hey, let’s just have a national movement as well, we’ve got all these local groups and state groups. And so the guys who founded that, you look at that, and well, it’s folks like Elias Boudinot, who was the president of Congress. He’s one of the framers of the Bill of Rights. He’s the guy who signed the peace treaty in the American Revolution. You got John J. original Chief Justice, US Supreme Court, one of the authors of the Federalist Papers, governor of New York. You got Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, a signer of the constitution for South Carolina. He’s a Major General in the American Revolution. You got guys like John Langdon, who’s a signer of the Constitution from New Hampshire, was the governor of New Hampshire, was a general in the revolution. I mean, you just keep going down all these guys. It’s political guys who started the Bible Societies.
Well, yeah, let’s point out, as you’re mentioning, these are leaders of the American Bible Society. We haven’t even gotten into all the other Bible Societies that were founded by Founding Fathers. And so really there’s a lot of disparity when people talk about America being secular and then the actual facts that they would try to support America being secular because those facts are not there.
The facts that are there are the vast majority of Founding Fathers, the vast majority of political leaders in early America were understanding of the necessity of the Bible for our society and civilization to function. Why John Adams could say that “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other” was because America was built to work and function on the principles of Christianity. And if you remove the principles of Christianity, our Constitution, our form of government, our way of life would not function well and wouldn’t last long.
And that’s why the Founding Fathers overwhelmingly encouraged and promoted the use of the Bible. And American Bible Society was certainly the largest Bible Society that was founded and still exists today and so does great things today. But it’s a reflection of the understanding of the founding fathers on the importance and necessity of the Word of God for America.
And by the way, it’s also interesting that in his early meetings, guess where the American Bible Society held many of its early meetings? It’s in the US Capitol building in the hall of the House of Representatives. They went into the House, and that’s where they would hold their annual meetings. And it was guys like John Quincy Adams, really famous guy from the American founding, President of the United States, he would preside over those meetings. He was a member of Congress, and he would preside over this meeting. So I mean, even moving the Bible Societies meetings into the US Capitol into the House of Representatives for your annual meetings, that says a whole lot about what the culture was like and what they thought of the Bible in those days.
Well, and the work of American Bible Society continues to be incredibly important and influence the culture in positive ways. We say it on the program all the time, if we don’t have Bibles in the culture, if we as Christians aren’t reading God’s word and getting that instruction for our life and our application and how our government works, then we’re not going to save the nation. And so it’s vitally important what they’re doing. And Dr. John Plake from the American Bible Society will be with us when we return. Stay with us, you’re listening to WallBuilders Live.
This is Tim Barton from WallBuilders with another moment from American history. America is a special and unique nation. The average length for a Constitution in other countries is only 17 years. But we’ve had ours for over two centuries. And our 4% of the world’s population produces 24% of the world’s gross domestic product. And every year, we produce more inventions and technology than the other 96% of the world combined.
In 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville of France came to America, travelled the country, and in his famous book, “Democracy in America” reported, “The position of the Americans is therefore quite exceptional, and it may be believed that no democratic people will ever be placed in a similar one. This is the origin of the phrase ‘American Exceptionalism’ and affirms that America is unique because of the distinctive ideas on which we had been based, including inalienable rights, individualism, limited government, and the importance of religion and morality.”
For more information about American Exceptionalism, go to wallbuilders.com
Have you ever wanted to learn more about the United States Constitution, but just felt like man, the classes are boring, or it’s just that old language from 200 years ago, or I don’t know where to start? People want to know, but it gets frustrating because you don’t know where to look for truth about the constitution either.
Well, we’ve got a special program for you available now called Constitution Alive! With David Barton and Rick Green. And it’s actually a teaching done on the Constitution at Independence Hall in the very room where the constitution was framed. We take you both to Philadelphia, the cradle of liberty and Independence Hall and to the WallBuilders’ library, where David Barton brings the history to life to teach the original intent of our Founding Fathers.
We call it the Quickstart Guide to the Constitution, because in just a few hours through these videos, you will learn the citizen’s guide to America’s constitution, you’ll learn what you need to do to help save our constitutional republic. It’s fun, it’s entertaining, and it’s going to inspire you to do your part to preserve freedom for future generations. It’s called Constitution Alive with David Barton and Rick Green. You can find out more information on our website now at wallbuilders.com.
Welcome back to WallBuilders Live. Thanks for staying with us today. Dr. John Plake is with us from American Bible Society. Dr. Plake, thanks for your time today.
Thank you so much for having me on the show today.
Well, I wish it was positive news we were talking about. The good news is there are some positive solutions to the problem. But boy, this latest data that you all released at American Bible Society showing how few in Gen Z have a biblical worldview, or as you describe it are Bible-centered tells us we’ve got our work cut out for us.
Well, you know, as we look at this emerging adult generation in America, they are going through some big, big changes. They’re kind of moving through this transition from being teenagers to being young adults more in charge of their own lives. And they really do have an opportunity to decide how they’re going to think about their own faith, and how they’re going to sustain their faith in the days that are ahead.
And what I think the data shows us is that they’re in the midst of transition. And it’s a great opportunity for those of us who are in the church, those of us whose lives have been really transformed by the Bible to reach out to them and help them understand how to connect to God’s Word, how to hear God’s voice through Scripture. And so I’m a little more hopeful about it because I’ve seen other generations go through this same kind of transition.
You guys got very specific about what you call, “a Bible user”, and about half of American adults, you said, are Bible users in some way, shape, or form, and I get you to define that just a second, but only a third of Gen Z, so, big difference there for sure. So what does it mean to be “a Bible user”?
Well, you know, ideally, we would love for everyone to be reading the Bible every day or most days of the week. But when we talk about being “a Bible user”, what we really mean is just someone who says that on their own, outside of a big church service, they’re reaching for the Bible, at least three or four times a year or more. And that’s a pretty low bar. But there are many Americans about 3 out of 10 who say realistically they never use the Bible. But about half of Americans say, well, they reach for the Bible at least sometimes. And what we want to see is that as people grow and mature that they realize the Bible has wisdom for them and has great resources for them. Even though it’s an ancient book, it’s filled with wisdom that still applies today.
Well, it’s the very reason for the American Bible Society. And Dr. Plake, I apologize for not asking you about that first, just to remind us about this organization literally founded by some of our Founding Fathers, and you guys are continuing to carry on that work. I should have started there. So give us kind of an elevator pitch on what American Bible Society is and what you all are doing for our listeners that aren’t familiar with you?
Well, thank you. You know, American Bible Society is one of the oldest nonprofit organizations in America. It was literally founded on the steps of City Hall in New York City in 1816 by some folks you might have heard of, John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Elias Boudinot, who was president of the US Continental Congress and many other leaders. It was really in response to a research study that had taken place over the course of a couple of years. It wasn’t done by surveys.
But they got on horseback and went out to the great American West, in those days, that was the Louisiana Purchase. And what they discovered was that in places where the church was thriving, and where the Bible was available, people were just doing better. And that’s still the case today, where the Bible is available, and people are picking it up and where they’re connecting to a vibrant Christian community, they’re just doing better overall. We work in a lot of ways all around the world and have for over 200 years making sure the Bible is translated and available to everybody who wants it in a language in a format that they can understand and afford.
We’ve been working with the United States military very closely providing Bibles and Scripture resources to them since about 1817 when we provided Bibles to the crew of the USS John Adams. And beyond that, we’re working to make sure that people who have experienced trauma and traumatic experiences that have really shaken their lives that they can find comfort and hope through God’s word. And there are many other ways that we’re making sure that everybody everywhere who wants the message of the Bible, they can have it.
Wow, you also have, if I understand, right, you all are doing a new project in Philadelphia right across from Independence Hall?
Thanks for reminding me of that. You’re right. You know, just this week we’re doing a big grand opening for the Faith and Liberty Discovery Center. It is on America’s most historic square mile. It’s right across the street from Independence Hall, right across the street from the Liberty Bell in the United States Constitution Center.
And basically, it tells the story of how the Bible helped to shape the founding American experiment, but also changemakers throughout American history who have wrestled with the claims, and the contributions of Scripture. And they’ve helped to shape many of our leaders that you would know very well from our Founding Fathers through Greek civil rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others that you may not have heard of. If you’re in Philadelphia, you just have to stop by and visit the Faith and Liberty Discovery Center. And I know you will be amazed.
I got to tell you, Dr. Plake, I can’t emphasize enough for our listeners how important that piece is. I mean, all of it obviously important as our founders knew, if Bibles didn’t abound, then we would lose liberty, we needed it to permeate our culture without question. But I have just been heartbroken over the last few years that these historical places like Philadelphia have lost the story of America and lost the role of the Bible in America.
And so whether it’s the Bible museum that opened in DC, or what you guys have done here right across, and that’s what I love about it, that it’s right there in the heart of this Cradle of Liberty and I’ve always loved Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell and go there. Often I am thrilled that you all are opening this because that gets the story told, and there is no more important part of the American story than what you’re telling.
So I’m thrilled with what you’re doing, praying for great success and just tons of visitors. Not just people like us that believe this as visitors but people that have no idea and that by walking through that Center there that you’re doing and walking through that history and learning those things, I’m just praying for revival to be sparked from it. So thank you, thank you, thank you for what you’ve done.
I know that took some vision and a lot of fundraising and a lot of effort and years of hard work to get to this point where you’re open to it. But God bless you all for that. I know that wasn’t the topic of our show today. But I’m just excited about what you’re doing.
Hey, that’s alright. Anytime you want to talk about the Faith and Liberty Discovery Center, I am happy to talk about it. You know, America was really founded on three great documents. We have the Declaration of Independence that talks about freedom. And we have the United States Constitution that lays out a framework for justice. But we often forget that the Bible was an underlying framework for faith, and faith is what guides liberty toward justice. And so we’re so grateful to have the opportunity to make that case in one of America’s great cities of Philadelphia. The city has been great to us. And they’re wonderful hosts. And I hope that all of your listeners when they come to Philadelphia, they’ll make it a point to stop by Independence Hall and visit the Faith and Liberty Discovery Center.
Amen. Love it, love it. Love it. Well, you know, back to Gen Z before I let you go, and just the disturbing numbers that we’re seeing, the solution is to get the truth in front of them, right? I mean, to get Bibles in their hands, to get even like these museums, I mean that’s literally the living Bible as you walk through there and get that story. So what do you all recommend for parents that are concerned that their own kids have not gotten that biblical foundation? And often we as parents look back and go, I wish I’d done this better or different, or whatever it might be. What do you recommend to parents to try to get their kids back into God’s word?
You know, I think there’s a myth in American parenting. And I’ve worked with a lot of Christian college and university students and their parents over the years. And one of the things that I’ve heard from them is, hey, when my kids get to be a certain age, when they’re 17, or 18, or 19, they’ve got it, right; they can just figure out their faith on their own. But what college and university students and emerging adults tell us again and again is they actually don’t have it all figured out. And they don’t necessarily need their parents or their grandparents to tell them what to do. But they do need their parents and grandparents and their older friends to come alongside them and help them understand how they decided about the Bible’s role in their life.
I think one of the fascinating statistics that came out of this study was just the level of uncertainty among Gen Z youth. So we look at these kind of 15 to 17 year olds, and we compare them to slightly older 18 to 23 year, 24 year olds and up, what we discovered is the youngest group, Gen Z youth just aren’t sure whether the Bible’s teachings are essential to sustaining some key American ideals, like democracy, justice and liberty. Those things we talk about at Faith and Liberty Discovery Center, they just don’t know.
And by the time they get to being adults, they get into college, and then out of college, they’ve mostly decided. So, this is that uncertain moment. It’s a moment of decision. Like the prophet said, there are multitudes in the valley of decision. And I think that’s what this generation is. They’re in the valley of decision. They’re trying to understand does the Bible have something for me in the 21st century? Can it help guide me and give strength and hope to my life? And I think there are millions and millions of Americans who would stand up and say, yes, the Bible has something for you and we need to be pointing the way.
That’s good. So good. American.bibles, is that the best website send people to?
They can go to American.bibles. If they want to download the report for themselves, they can visit stateofthebible.org. The report’s free and you can download. The latest chapter is actually about how people who are deeply committed to the Bible make the most wonderful neighbors, we call that chapter “Good Neighbors”. And there’s going to be more on the Bible in the American church and a big summary a year in review coming up in December. So, lots more to come from “State of the Bible” this year. And I’d encourage you to just stop by the website, put in your email address, and get your free report. And there’s so much more to learn.
Well, I’m going to encourage them to do even more because I know it takes dollars to do all that you all are doing. So I encourage people while you’re there, make that one-time contribution or sign up for a monthly contribution, whether it’s the center that’s been built in Philadelphia, and I don’t even know how to put a number on how many Bibles you all distribute every year. I’m sure you know that one. What’s a ballpark number of how many Bibles you’re distributing these days?
You know, I’ll tell you just about one project. One project that we’ve been working on has been working to get a million Bibles into Cuba. They accomplished that goal. And now they’re going for their second million into Cuba. Million Bible Project going on in Latin America, and the Caribbean. There’s another Million Bible Project, maybe even a 3 million Bible project going on in Africa. There’s so many places in the world where people would stand in line for days just to get their own copy of God’s Word. And when you visit Americanbible.org, or American.bible, any of those locations, there’ll be a place for you can give and find that your contribution is going to be matched by other generous donors so that God’s Word can be put into the hands of people who need it.
Yeah, there you go. Organization with incredible history, incredible results, amazing things God’s doing through your organization right now. So God bless you. Keep up the great work. Folks, hit those websites today, donate, get on the email list. Be encouraged by what’s happening, be encouraged by all these incredible testimonies that you’ll see on those websites as well. Dr. Plake, thank you so much. Man, appreciate you coming on today.
Thank you for the invitation. God bless you as well.
Stay with us, folks. We’ll be right back with David and Tim Barton.
Hey, guys, we want to let you know about a new resource we have at WallBuilders called The American Story. For so many years, people have asked us to do a history book to help tell more of the story that’s just not known or not told today.
And we would say very providentially in the midst of all of the new attacks coming out against America, whether it be from things like the 1619 project that say America is evil, and everything in America was built off slavery, which is certainly not true or things, like even the Black Lives Matter movement, the organization itself, not out the statement Black Lives Matter, but the organization that says we’re against everything that America was built on, and this is part of the Marxist ideology. There’s so many things attacking America.
Well, is America worth defending? What is the true story of America? We actually have written and told that story starting with Christopher Columbus, going roughly through Abraham Lincoln, we tell the story of America not as the story of a perfect nation of a perfect people. But the story of how God used these imperfect people and did great things through this nation. It’s a story you want to check out, wallbuilders.com, The American Story.
We’re back here on WallBuilders Live. Thanks for staying with us. Thanks to Dr. John Plake and the American Bible Society for all that they do. So, guys, there’s some good news and some bad news in that survey. The important thing is what we do with that information at this point.
Yeah, and one of the things you said, Rick, I thought was really good, people have no idea of the influence of Bible in America. That’s true. We used to know that. We don’t know that even most Christians today don’t have a clue of the influence of the Bible nor how extensive that Bible influence was. One of the things that we’re doing that is coming out for Thanksgiving time is looking back to how the Bible shaped so much what we have in the American culture today.
Unlike the 1619 project that says Jamestown is what defined America, but much more influential than Jamestown is what happened with the Bible and the pilgrims and the Puritans and how the Bible shaped what we have with the free market system, what we have with public education, what we have with criminal justice policies, due process, etc. So much came out of the Bible.
Yeah, unquestionably, much more of America was shaped by the principles of the Word of God than by people neglecting the principles of the Word of God, right, which is kind of what you alluded to the Jamestown. People say, but America is bad because of Jamestown. Well, Jamestown was a colony that was professing Christian. They were Anglicans. They were founded on Christian values and for Christian ideals. They just didn’t follow the Bible very well. They don’t read, study, or apply the Bible. Contrast that with Plymouth, people who did study and read and apply the Bible in everything they did.
And so much of the public policy of the things we have in America to this day can date back to some of those early settlers who were basing their life, their principles, and their colony on the Word of God. And you know, as it was mentioned in the interview, unfortunately, there’s a lot of Americans who are neglecting the teachings of the Bible, who’re neglecting the reading of the Word of God. And so we’re losing some of those things in culture.
We talked about it often where people look in America, and we identify so many problems in America. And the reality is most problems in America are very solvable with very simple solutions. When you restore the family unit, right, that actually would solve incredible amount of problems in America. If you had a mom and dad raising kids, and being responsible for kids, investing in those kids, if you had the principles of the Word of God if churches started teaching the basic biblical truth again, and if all of a sudden if truth existed again, right, well, if truth existed, all of a sudden you have male and female, which is in the Bible. If truth existed, we would know what marriage was.
If we could just recover some very basic things like the church being the church, teaching and reading the Word of God, studying the Word of God, family unit being restored, a lot of these problems would be resolved. And this is where the American Bible Society is pointing people back to the ultimate answer and solution for culture in the Word of God. Which also guys, that makes me kind of excited for this new facility they’re opening up to help show some of those details.
Obviously, we do a lot of WallBuilders trying to help show those details. We have a museum and people periodically come and visit and we get to show them some of the artifacts and tell the stories. But one of the things we often talk about is in Texas, really probably the only negative, maybe there’s two or three negatives to living in Texas, there’s not many, but one of the negatives for people to love history is we’re just not in a place where there’s a lot of cool history back to early America as opposed to like Pennsylvania where there’s so much cool history on the East Coast in Pennsylvania and many other places as well; so much rich history and heritage from America especially in connection to faith and the Bible’s influence in America. So I’m excited for what they’re going to do and excited to go actually kind of see how they unfold this in the stories they tell.
Yeah. And with that, Tim, you know what they’re doing at that Faith and Liberty Discovery Center is going to be so cool. But I think one of the big problems we have in America today is we’ve let outside people define what the Bible talks about. And so many people think it is just a book for spiritual salvation, how to get to heaven, I can do that, check that off, and I’m done with the Bible. That’s not the case.
The Bible not only tells you how to get to heaven, it tells you how to live in this earth with all the amazing policies you can imagine. You go back to even Israel when it was founded as a nation, God gave them 613 laws that took them from being a nation of slaves for 400 years into being the premier nation in that ancient time. So God’s word deals with every conceivable public policy issue you can think of, if not in specifics, at least in principles. And hopefully, that Faith and Liberty Discovery Center will help people get reacquainted with how practical the Bible is and how much it did shape what we enjoy in our institutions in America today.
It truly does have all the answers. And as Tim was saying, what a neat thing to be able to go to Philadelphia and absorb a lot of that history, go see the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, and then right there, get to go to that American Bible Society Museum and see that very important part of our history, really the secret sauce to why everything that happened at Independence Hall ended up paying off so well for hundreds of years and for so many hundreds of millions of people. The secret sauce is found right there in God’s Word. That’s where we get all the real answers and we need to rediscover that if we want to restore our nation.
Very thankful for what they’re doing at the American Bible Society, encourage you to check that out. We’ll have links today at our website, wallbuilderslive.com. Thanks so much for listening to WallBuilders Live.
I appreciate your program you have certainly inspired me concerning the founding Fathers and the Constitution and how the Bible plays a big part!!