Question: "How much influence is the Bible supposed to have on society?"
Answer: In Western nations, America especially, we can see the Bible’s influence on many aspects of society. Everything from our laws to our work ethic to our view of marriage has been molded by a Judeo-Christian worldview. It has always been the case that the Word of God makes a difference in cultures where it is introduced. In first-century Thessalonica, a mob dragged some Christians through the streets shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also” (Acts 17:6, ESV). It is only right that the Bible should have an influence on society, as it has an influence on the individuals within society.
God is the Creator of the world and the humans who inhabit it (Genesis 1). From the very beginning, God designed the world and people to “function” a certain way. When society doesn’t follow the principles that God gives us in the Bible, life simply doesn’t work as well. God’s the only One with the insight into how life functions to our best benefit, and He shares that wisdom with us in His Word. The Bible is described in Hebrews 4:12 as “alive and active.” This means, in part, that the Bible is as applicable and relevant today as it was when it was first written.
Looking back at the early stages of America, it is impossible not to see the influence the Bible had. Our government structure, laws, morality, education, and family values were all founded on principles that came directly from the Bible. The Founding Fathers, Presidents, and foreigners visiting a young America identified the key to the nation’s success as the biblical influence embraced by its society. When a nation honors God, it develops a respect for all of God’s creation. Where there is no honor of God, a society will fail to respect His creation, and people will suffer as a result.
From the beginning, people have had a choice whether to follow God’s way. But choices always carry consequences. The Old Testament history of Israel documents the societal laws and precepts God gave them. When Israel lived by God’s laws, their society functioned well, but when they deviated from God’s design, their society always went downhill. Attempts today to remove the Bible’s influence from society or to marginalize a biblical worldview reveal the pride of mankind that says, “We know better than the One who created us.”
None of this is to say that we should establish a theocracy such as ancient Israel had. God’s purposes in that system of government were for a certain time and place. However, when the Bible is properly understood, its influence on society can only lead to less crime, less divorce, less sloth, and more charity. As John Adams, the second President of the United States, wrote, “Suppose a nation in some distant Region should take the Bible for their only law Book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited! Every member would be obliged in conscience, to temperance, frugality, and industry; to justice, kindness, and charity towards his fellow men; and to piety, love, and reverence toward Almighty God . . . What a Eutopia, what a Paradise would this region be” (Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, Vol. III, p. 9). Scripture says it best: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:12).