Applying the Bible to morality

The yearning for happiness, the desire to achieve a fully satisfying life, is forever deeply rooted in the human heart. The realization of this desire depends mainly on our behaviour, which agrees, but sometimes clashes with that of others. In which way is it possible to arrive at an effective decision regarding the just behaviour that leads individuals, communities and entire nations towards a successful life, in other words, towards happiness?

For Christians Holy Scripture is not only a source of revelation on which to ground one’s faith, it is also an indispensable reference point for morality. They are convinced that in the bible they can find indications and norms of right behaviour to attain fullness of life.

Such a conviction encounters various objections. The first difficulty is the instinctive refusal of norms, obligations and commandments within the human person, particularly strong in our own days. Equally cogent in contemporary society is the desire to attain full happiness together with unlimited liberty, that is, freedom to act in accordance with one’s whims, without the constraint of any norms. For some people such an unlimited freedom is in fact essential for the attainment of true happiness. Within this frame of mind human dignity itself demands that it not be subjected to externally imposed norms: each human person should freely and autonomously decide for himself what he deems just and acceptable. Hence the normative complex present in the Scriptures, the development of Tradition and the Magisterium of the Church that interprets and actualizes these norms appear as obstacles to happiness of which we must free ourselves.

A second difficulty derives from Sacred Scripture itself: biblical writings were redacted at least nineteen hundred years ago and belong to distant epochs in which life conditions were very different from those of today. Many actual situations and problems were completely unknown in these writings and therefore one may think that they can offer no appropriate answers to these problems. Consequently even if the fundamental value of the bible as an inspired text is acknowledged some people retain a strong sceptical attitude and maintain that Scripture is of no use for offering solutions to the numerous problems of our times. Present humanity is confronted every day with delicate moral problems continually presented by the sciences and by globalization; even convinced believers have the impression that many of our past certainties have been annulled; just think about such themes as violence, terrorism, war, immigration, distribution of wealth , respect for natural resources, life, work, sexuality, genetic research, the family and community life. Faced by such complex problems one is tempted to marginalize, totally or partially, Sacred Scripture. In this case too, though for a variety of motives, the sacred text is laid aside and solutions to the grave and urgent problems of today are sought elsewhere. — from The Bible and Morality: Biblical Roots of Christian Conduct