What do we mean by relevant? According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word ‘relevant’ is defined as, 'Closely connected or appropriate to what is being done or considered.' Applying this to the question in hand, I want to consider whether the teaching and ideas of scripture have any connection to our modern world.
Many consider it ludicrous to live one's life according to the words of a book written thousands of years ago. The world is an ever-changing place. We are in a constant process of scientific discovery, technological development, philosophical refinement, and moral evolution.
Why should we constrict ourselves to the dogmatism of an ancient religion? After all, biblical teaching has often opposed scientific theory and cultural morality. Would we not do well to dispense with its message, thereby allowing humanity to flourish under our superior knowledge of the world?
"But what about the moral condition of the world? Is modern society more honest and the world more peaceful than it used to be?"
The Unsolvable Problem
Before we hastily write the Bible off, let us consider where secular thinking has brought us. For all our progress, have we arrived where we want to be? For all our advances, is the world today what we hoped for? Have two thousand years of investment in science and philosophy reaped the rewards we expected?
Few would dispute the many material improvements of modern society. Thanks to research and investment, healthcare, communications, transport and many other important features of life have developed immeasurably. But what about the moral condition of the world? Is modern society more honest and the world more peaceful than it used to be? Are we more unified in our understanding of what is true? Have our improved means led to improved ends in the moral condition of humanity?
I think it is evident that the moral state of humanity has seen no improvement. Murder, war, infidelity and oppression have not been erased over time. Has there been a time when people have felt less safe in our cities or when unfaithfulness is marriage has been so prevalent? As well as solving a number of problems, advances in technology have created a whole host more, giving fresh expression to the fallenness of humanity.
What, throughout history, has been the cause of the world’s ills? Many lay the blame at the feet of religion, culture and politics. But these are not the deepest roots. Every act of evil can be traced further back than these conditional factors. Although many might blame religion or politics, the root of evil is in the human heart.
The problem isn’t just ‘back there’ in history, or ‘out there’ in society, but ‘in here’, residing within each one of us. Despite good education and some inbuilt awareness of right and wrong, every one has to confess that we are still guilty of wrongdoing. We have all been responsible for making choices we have come to regret, failing even to live up to our own standards.
I do not think that this is purely theoretical. In practice, we all recognise human wickedness. We lock our cars when they are not in use. Our homes are insured in case of break-ins. We keep online accounts secure with passwords. We tell our children not to talk to strangers. Why? Because we have no confidence in the morality of the society around us – and rightly so.
"What can we conclude from these observations? Growth in technology over the past centuries has been exponential. Improvement of human morality has been non-existent."
With this in mind, can we anticipate a brighter future? Do we think the days will come when the world will be at peace, when we are satisfied with our politicians, when our police force is redundant when we can trust our neighbours and we are free from personal failings and bad habits? There is no evidence that the world is heading towards such a utopia. The answer seems beyond the reach of science, education and law.