In The Church in Transition, Tim Conder talks about some of the ways that we devalue Scripture and limit its voice. One of them is what he calls moralism.
Moralism reduces the Bible to moral lessons and imperatives, robbing Scripture of its narrative quality. So much of the Bible is the scandalous story of humans asserting their own agendas or trying to accomplish God's agenda apart from God…they include few moral lessons that can be simply incorporated into our decision-making.
He offers this example, from one of the most clearly theocentric books in the Bible (a theocentric book that never explicitly mentions God):
The story of Esther offers a great example of the damage we can do to the Scriptures if we try to read them simply as a moral directive. During the Jewish nation's captivity under the Persians, a beautiful Jewish woman named Esther is placed under King Xerxes' harem and eventually becomes queen. Her status and favor with the king allows her not only to stave off a planned genocide of her people, but also to punish the people who plotted the destruction of Jews. This amazing story graphically portrays the sovereignty of God despite the greed and immorality of humanity.
But if we read it as a morality tale, we might draw the following lessons:
- Join a harem and things will go better for you and for those around you!
- If you are physically beautiful, you can rule the world. If not, better luck next time!
- Manipulation works – ask for favors the right way and you'll get your way!
- When you finally get the upper hand, use it as an iron fist and take revenge on those who have threatened you.
He concludes, "Moralism dehumanizes the characters of the Bible, blindly canonizes many of them into sainthood, and directs our attention away from the only hero of the Scriptures – God."