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The Bible: just a ‘spiritual’ book?

In the wider world, the Bible – and religious faith in general – is sometimes dismissed as a ‘private’ thing, designed to feed someone's personal spiritual life but with no wider relevance. 

But Christians understand the Bible to have not only personal and religious meaning, but political and social significance too.

Biblical scholars have become increasingly aware of political undercurrents within the Bible. The law of Moses, for example, contained both civil and religious law.

The books of Kings are themselves political chronicles. Even Jesus chose politics as his pet theme, often speaking about ‘the kingdom of God’.

How or whether the political aspects of the Bible should apply today is a matter of hot debate. Some politicians go so far as to use the Bible to support specific policy positions.

Other politicians look to the Bible for broad principles, rather than complete, flat-pack solutions. Those on the political right may emphasise certain biblical values such as the need for personal accountability, a strong family structure and a robust judicial system. Those on the left may prefer to talk about the biblical values of personal freedom, the importance of helping those in need and of stewardship of the environment.

Wider still, Christians often look to the Bible for guidance on how they should personally respond to pressing social issues, such as fair trade, gun crime, third world debt, ethical business and an ageing society.

The more we read and understand the Bible, the more we realise that it isn't just a book for individuals, or even for the Church. It offers a guide for societies, too, with penetrating insights into how we should treat each other and the best ways of flourishing together.

Author: Bible Society, 14 October 2021

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