By Reuben Archer Torrey
An old and favorite objection to the Bible on the part of unbelievers is that there are in it "chapters that reek with obscenity from beginning to end."
That there are chapters in the Bible which describe scenes that cannot be wisely dealt with in a mixed audience we have no desire to deny; but these chapters are not obscene. To speak in the plainest terms of sin, even the vilest of sins, in order to expose its loathsomeness and in order to picture man as he really is, is not obscenity. It is purity in one of its highest forms. Whether the story of sin is obscene or not depends entirely upon how it is told and for what purpose it is told. If the story is told in order to make a jest of sin, or in order to minimize or excuse sin, it is obscene. If the story is told in order to make men hate sin, to show men the hideousness of sin, to induce them to give sin as wide a berth as possible, and to show their need of redemption, it is not obscene but morally wholesome. Now this is precisely the way in which sin is pictured in the Bible. It is true that adultery and similar offenses against purity are mentioned by name without any attempt at mincing words. Revolting deeds of this character are plainly described, and their awful results related; but everything is so told as to make one recoil from these horrid and disgusting sins. Beyond a doubt many have been kept back from the practice of these sins by the plain things the Bible has said about them. Many others who have already fallen into these sins have been led by the Bible stories to see their enormity and their frightful consequences, and have thus been led to forsake them by what the Bible says about them. I am not speculating about this, but speak from large observation of men and women who have been tempted to these sins and have been held back by the Bible utterances regarding them, and also from wide experience with others who have fallen and have been lifted up and saved by the truth on these subjects contained in the Bible.
It is said, "There is much in the Bible that is not fit to read in public," and this is brought forward as if it were an argument against the Bible. But it is a foolish argument. There are many passages in the very best and most valuable medical works that are not fit to be read in public, they are not even fit for a father to read to his children; but he would be a fool who would cut these passages out of these medical works on that account; and he is equally a fool who objects to the Bible because there are passages in it which are invaluable in their place, but which were not intended for and are not adapted to public reading. The Bible is in part a book of moral anatomy and spiritual therapeutics, and it would be a great defect in the book, in fact an indication that it was not from God, if it did not deal with these frightful facts about man as he is and with the method of healing for these foul moral diseases.
I, for one, thank God that these passages are in the Bible. There are things that every boy and girl needs to know at a comparatively early age about some forms of sin, and loathsome sin. Many boys and girls have dropped into these forms of sin before they realized their character simply because they were not warned against them. Ignorance about them is a misfortune. I know of no better way for them to become acquainted with the effects of these sins that they need to know about than to read what the Bible had to say about them.
Instead of finding fault with the Bible for these things in it, we ought to praise God for putting them there. For example, there are things in Romans 1 that one cannot dwell upon in detail in public address. But these verses have been of greatest value in dealing with the heathen, and they have saved many a man in so-called Christian lands from the loathsome sins that are there exposed and denounced.
An objector to the Bible stated that parts of it consist of history and the narration of facts that cannot be mentioned in the presence of a modest woman without exciting discomfort. He questioned whether a woman should read in her room what she would dislike hearing at her dining table. This is considered a logical argument against the Bible. When one looks carefully at it and considers it, it is seen to be utterly foolish. Most assuredly a woman should be permitted to read in her room what she would not discuss at her dining table. Every wise woman does it. I know of books most desirable for every woman to read, which if they were read at the table would cause her to wish to rise and leave the room in embarrassment. There are many things that men and women ought to think about, and must think about, in private that they would not discuss in public. There are books on the proper conduct of women in the most sacred relation of life, a relation as holy as any, which can be entered into the presence of a holy God with no question of His approval, but which does not call for public discussion. It is strange that intelligent men and women should use arguments so childish as this.
The Bible is a pure book as evidenced by the fact that it is not a favorite book in places of wickedness. On the other hand, authors that try to show that the Bible is an obscene book and that endeavor to keep people from reading it are admired by those who seek excuse for their sinful practices.
The infidel objectors to the Bible as an "obscene book" constantly betray their insincerity and hypocrisy. Colonel Ingersoll, in one passage where he dwelt upon this subject, objected to the Bible for telling vile deeds "without a touch of humor." In other words, he did not object to telling stories of vice if only a joke was made of this sin. Thank God, that is exactly what the Bible does not do--make a joke of sin! It makes sin hideous. Men who are obscene in their own hearts object to the Bible as being an obscene book.
Some of those who make the most of the so-called obscenity of the Book are themselves notorious as tellers of obscene stories.
One of the men who led the attack on the Bible on the ground of its obscenity was retained by publishers of obscene literature to defend their case.
Another man, who was a leader in his city in attacking the Bible, challenging Christians to read in public certain portions of Scripture that were said to be immoral, was shortly afterward found dead by his own hand in a Boston hotel side by side with a young woman who was not his wife.
A man who said, "I protest against the Bible being placed in the hands of the young because its pages reek with filth," and who did not wish people to read these "vile portions" of Scripture lest their minds be defiled, took care to give a list of the passages that he did not wish read and asked his readers to "look them up." Can anything exceed the hypocrisy of that?
In one city where I was holding meetings a man would interrupt a service by calling out about portions of the Scripture that he regarded as improper and immoral. I learned he himself had been arrested and convicted for publishing obscene literature. The truth is, these men hate the Bible. They hate it because it denounces sin and makes them uneasy in sin.
To sum it all up, there are in the Bible descriptions of sins that cannot wisely be read in every public assembly, but these descriptions of sin are morally most wholesome in the places where God, the Author of the Book, manifestly intends them to be read. The child who is brought up to read the Bible as a whole, from Genesis to Revelation, will come to know in the very best way possible what a child ought to know very early in life if he is to be safeguarded against the perils that surround our modern life on every hand. A child who is brought up upon a constant, thorough, continuous reading of the whole Bible is more likely than any other child to be free from the vices that are undermining the mental, moral and physical strength of our boys and girls, young men and young women. But the child who is brought up on infidel literature and conversation is easy prey for temptations of all kinds, as is the one who, through neglect of the Bible, is left in ignorance of the awful pitfalls of life.