Dick Van Dyke on The Impact The Bible Has in His Life

Photo by Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons

Dick Van Dyke on The Impact The Bible Has in His Life

By Movieguide® Staff

Note: This story is part of our Faith in Hollywood series. For similar stories, click here.

“The Bible takes the scare out of living and puts purpose, joy and faith in its place,” Dick Van Dyke opined in 1966 about The Good Book.

The actor and comedian may be known for his roles in THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, MARY POPPINS and CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG, but he holds The Word of God to be of utmost importance in his life and career.

In fact, Van Dyke will defend the Bible until his dying breath and did so in an article for Guideposts. In the article, Van Dyke describes an interaction with a teenager when Van Dyke asked him how he felt about the Bible.

“Now I don’t know whether this pessimistic statement is right or not, but I do know this: a lot of people—old as well as young—never open a Bible because they let their preconceptions scare them off,” Van Dyke wrote.

Van Dyke addressed each of the concerns the teenager voiced, writing:

Take the objections my young friend had: the writing is old-fashioned, he said. Well, I suppose that’s true, if you’re talking about the King James Version. After all, it was written more than 300 years ago. But the Bible has been translated many times before and since.

J. B. Phillips’ rendering of the New Testament, done within the last 20 years, is one of my personal favorites: it’s as contemporary in style as a current best-seller.

And his idea that the Bible is full of bearded old men: think about that one for a moment. How old was David when he went out against Goliath armed with nothing but a sling? Fourteen? Fifteen? How old was Samson when he astonished his countrymen with feats of strength? Seventeen? Eighteen?

The New Testament too: remember the young men who wanted Jesus to heal their sick friend? When they found themselves blocked by a crowd, they climbed up on the roof, broke a hole in the ceiling and lowered their friend’s bed with a rope. Who but teenagers would have thought of that?

And as for the notion that the Bible is full of negatives, that’s mostly nonsense too. The Bible is a handbook for living. And so it does contain rules—rules hammered out over the centuries on the anvil of human experience.

There’s tragedy, sure, and violence and all the great clashing human emotions: courage and cowardice, greed and selflessness, hatred, jealousy, pride, anger … all the ingredients that go into any great love story or great action story.

And out of these ingredients the men who wrote the Bible drew conclusions about what works and what doesn’t work in human affairs. That’s why the Bible, far from being something to run from, is a book to live by.

Anyone who does try to live by the Bible sooner or later comes across a text that seems designed especially for him. For me it’s that tremendous question in Matthew 16:26: What does it profit a man if be gain the whole world but lose his own soul?

As an actor, Van Dyke says it’s this last point that really hits home.

“Actors are often faced with this dilemma because they do in a sense ‘gain the whole world’ when success comes to them, but in the process they risk losing their own souls, their own hard core of personal values, as perhaps no other group does,” Van Dyke writes. “That’s why I repeat those words to myself just about every day of my life. But it’s not enough just to find a relevant quote, latch onto that, and let the rest go. I believe the whole Bible is important to each of us, and that from its daily reading a certain priceless and otherwise unobtainable something enters our lives.”

He continues: “If I had to say what it is in my case, I think I’d say that Bible-reading gives me a sense of God working in history, gradually unfolding a plan for His most complex creation—mankind. And, of course, as I read I try to measure myself against the outlines of that plan and see where I fit.”

The 95-year-old actor still holds to the Bible as Truth and boldly shares about his faith when given the chance.

Van Dyke appeared in the Movieguide® Award-nominated movie MARY POPPINS RETURNS.