The Unbanable BookrnThe Bible, Past and Presentrnby Harold O.J. BrownrnArecent full-page advertisement in the Chicago Tribune,rnwhich no longer calls itself “The World’s Greatest Newspaper,”rnlisted four documents that supposedly are foundational:rnthe Magna Carta, the Treaty of Versailles, the Declaration ofrnIndependence, and the Infiniti Retailer Pledge. These four, accordingrnto the advertiser, Infiniti, are totally trustworthy, because:rn”A promise is a promise.” Unfortunately, at least for thernreader with some knowledge of modern history, the Versaillesrntreaty is hardly an attractive pattern; it was one of the worst documentsrnever foisted on the human race. It violated PresidentrnW’ilson’s Fourteen Points, the pledge gien to the Central Powersrnto obtain the Armistice of 1918; it falsely defined the originsrnof the war and dishonestly fastened the guilt on Germanyrnalone; it plundered the already impoverished Central Europeanrnstates, and it set the stage for the resumption of war in 1939.rnThe Magna Carta produced better results, of course, and so didrnthe Declaration of Independence.rnInfiniti’s advertisement is mentioned here because it showsrnan astonishing lack of historical awareness, both of the documentsrnthat actually have made history, and of the extent tornwhich the promises and pledges the’ made have been fulfilledrnor may yet be fulfilled. This is ignorance not only on the partrnof the Japanese manufacturer, but also on that of the Americanrnadvertising agency and the mostly American prospecti’e purchasers.rnOf course, the Japanese can hardh’ be expected to have anrneasy familiarity with the foundations and fundamental documentsrnof Western civilization, any more than Westerners havernHarold O.J. Brown is the director of The Rockford Institute’srnCenter on ReUgion and Society and teaches theology and ethicsrnat Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. His latest hook is ThernSensate Culture (Word).rnwith those of East Asia. Nevertheless, the advertising agency isrnAmerican. It is a bit surprising to observe its naivete about thernfoundations of its own society. Can the agency really expectrnbuyers to be encouraged by the thought that an Infiniti is asrntrustworthy as the Treaty of Versailles? This advertisement isrnonly one symptom among many of the degree to which modernrnAmericans are cut off from their own spiritual roots. If theyrnsaid, “The Magna Carta, the Stamp Act, and the Ribbentrop-rnMoloto’ treaty,” the advertisement might be no less effective.rnNot eery society quickly forgets the soil out of which it grew;rncultural memories and influences can persist for centuries, evenrnfor millennia. Two thousand years after Homer, tlie Greeks ofrnthe Byzantine Empire knew him and honored his Iliad andrnOdyssey as part of the foundation of their own 1,000-year-oldrnChristian culture. Byzantine Christian civilization was built onrnthe Bible and the Church Fathers, not on Homer or Plato andrnAristotle, but after some initial hostility to its pagan heritage,rnGreek Christian culture learned to cherish it again. In a similarrnway, although the Protestant Reformation rejected the authorityrnof Roman Catholicism, it quickly came to honor and utilizernmuch of what it found in the heritage of the Greek and LatinrnFathers. John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religionrnabounds in citations of the fathers and doctors of the Greek andrnRoman churches. It has remained for Christians of the latern20th century to forget the sources of their religious life almostrnas thoroughly as the general American culture has forgottenrnHomer and almost everyone of merit since him.rnIn contemporary America, historical memory hardly exists;rnhappenings a quarter-century old are treated as epoch-making.rnThe Beatles and Woodstock have been repeatedly remembered,rnrememorialized, and recelebrated, and Elvis Presley hasrna commemorative stamp, but who knows today what happenedrnat Versailles in 1919? If we have so soon forgotten Versailles andrn20/CHRONICLESrnrnrn