Is the Bible Old-fashioned and Hopelessly Out-dated?

Have you ever had a friend share the following sentiment?

People tell me that if I want to know God, I must come to know him as he revealed himself in the Bible. But I have tried reading the Bible and the more I read, the more confused and discouraged I get. I wonder if it is worth going on.

It is like I live in a different world. The world of the Bible seems strange, primitive and barbaric to me. It is full of stories that happened thousands of years ago in the middle-eastern world. Some of the stories are interesting, but I don’t see what they have to do with me.

I don’t see the relevance of the Bible’s teaching to our advanced age of science. And the morality of the Bible, especially sexual morality, seems old-fashioned and hopelessly out-of-date. I feel basically excluded from the world of the Bible and the God of the Bible. Honestly, reading the Bible just makes me more depressed.

Many of us may have had these same thoughts. How can we respond to these honest concerns that have caused many to give up hope of ever knowing God personally?

It is true that our world differs greatly from the Bible world in terms of history, technology, and culture. The historical period of the Bible is a long way from our contemporary world.

However, when you look more closely, you see that the underlying moral problems that existed thousands of years ago are essentially the same as today. In fact, the human dilemma is remarkably the same today as it was in the first century -- selfishness, greed, lust for power, favoritism, taking advantage of the poor and oppressed. Jesus spoke out against all of these things. You may recall the parable of the rich fool where Jesus said, “Be on your guard against every kind of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).

In this sense, the Bible is a very modern, honest book and very relevant to our deepest needs and longings. All of our modern science and technology has not changed our basic moral condition in the least. It has not provided a solution to the deepest needs of people. Jesus dealt with our common human condition by taking it to the cross and dealing with the very core of our sin sickness, providing forgiveness and peace with God, and freedom from the slavery of selfishness.

More importantly, the link between the two worlds is God himself. The God they knew in Bible times is the same God that we can truly know today, because God does not change. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The apostle James declares, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). God’s essential nature does not change. God’s character and his purposes do not change. He is still the God of love and justice, truth and mercy, all-powerful and completely good. We can know him as fully and truly as the people of the Bible knew him.

Jesus said, “And this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

About the Author
National Theological Consultant
Dan Denk formerly served as the National Theological Director. He and his wife live in Grand Rapids, MI and have four married children, all of whom challenge his theological views on a regular basis. Dan has been with InterVarsity since 1978. He is a life-long follower of that great 20th century theologian, Bob Dylan.