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Bible Q&A: Christian morals and values

Our Bible Q&A series explores the questions you’ve asked us about the Bible.

This article represents the author’s personal view. It accords with Bible Society’s values, but is not intended to express our position as an organisation.


Should Christians impose their biblically-driven morals and values on society, or keep quiet?


The pragmatic answer is that the days when Christians were able to impose anything on anyone are long gone. In our part of the world at least, pluralism and secularism have superseded Christendom. In that regard, we are in a similar place to the first followers of Jesus: a minority movement called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Before you become too nostalgic, though, ask yourself: would I want to return to the days when disagreeing with the Church could land you on the rack or at the stake;  or when powerful people abused the Bible to justify discrimination, oppression and colonialism?

The second issue is that people who love the same Jesus and revere the same Bible don’t always agree on how exactly to translate this into ‘morals and values’. So for example, is care for Creation in the face of the climate crisis ‘biblical’, or is it a red herring distracting some believers from reaching out to the unconverted before God comes to judge and renew the Earth? Or should we take Jesus literally in an age of food banks and world hunger: ‘None of you can be my disciple unless you give up everything you have’ (Luke 16.33)? Or is desire an acceptable emotion? In other words, when Jesus says not to look at a woman covetously, does he mean a married woman or any woman? Or is he warning against reducing another person to their sexual dimension? ‘Biblically-driven morals and values’ are not always easy to define.

Thirdly, it strikes me that New Testament Christians were not into large-scale social reform. They saw the world as dominated by the forces of evil and looked for Jesus to return and establish God’s righteous rule on earth before long. The fact that their hope did not materialise has forced each subsequent generation, including ours, to work out what it means to live with the expectation that God’s kingdom might come before sunset. To try and turn the New Testament into a systematic guide to what morals and values society should adopt at large may not be a useful exercise. The first Christians felt that society was beyond reform, sought to live counter-culturally and preached Christ’s death and resurrection in the run-up to his return.

Having said that, the early Church left us the teachings of Christ, which are timeless and speak into any society. So when we look, say, at the increase in violence on Britain’s streets, the effects of austerity politics on society’s most vulnerable, or the growing acrimony on both sides of the Brexit divide, Christians not only have a right but a duty to point to the healing power of biblical ethics.

Your final question: should we keep quiet? In view of the above, most certainly not. Ultimately, though, we seem to be called to speak less about morals and values and more about grace: life with Christ, life renewed.

Have you got a question about the Bible? Let us know and we’ll do our best to answer it!

This article was written Michael Pfundner, who works in our publishing team.

View more Bible Q&A articles

Author: Michael Pfundner, 18 November 2019

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