During the Persian Gulf War, there was a country song released that became very popular. There was a connection between the song and the war effort, but the message of the song has a meaning that directly and pragmatically links faith in God to how we choose to live. In ancient Israel God told the people to live by a very rigid system which regulated most aspects of life. The old law was so legalistic and demanding that even the Bible describes it as being imperfect (Romans 8:3; Hebrews 8:4-24). The teachings of Jesus Christ freed man from the legalistic system of do's and don'ts, and worked on attitudes and the basic causes of man's actions and relationships. In addition to that, the Christian system operated on the basis of grace. Nothing man has done or could do made him worthy of God's love and/or salvation, but God so loved the world, that he sent his only begotten Son, that all should be saved and inherit eternal life (John 3:16).
The problem of all standards of living lies in how to get men and women to follow the standards. In Old Testament times, it was a reward/punishment system that was directly connected to daily activity. In Deuteronomy 28, God explained how the system worked. First, God spelled out all of the good things that would come the Israelites' way if they would follow God's commands. They were told from verses 1-14 that, if they would follow God's rules, they would have peace, health, good crops, good weather, freedom, and long lives. God then told them that if they did not follow God's rules, they would have sickness, war, captivity, drought, failed crops, and virtually every calamity imaginable. For 53 verses, God went on and on about all the terrible things that would happen if they rejected God's rules.
Even a marginal student of the Bible knows that this did not work. In spite of repeated catastrophes that took place, every time the Israelites left the system God had given them, they continued to fail to live by the promised, proven system they had been given. All of us who have raised teenagers have had similar experiences. Being told the destructive nature of an act and the negative consequences of engaging in an act are not absolute deterrents. In the case of the Israelites, their falling away from God's system seemed to occur when they got comfortable. When the going was rough and they were at risk, they seemed to do better than when there was no pressure and things seemed to be pretty secure. My experience is that children also seem to do better when things are not too comfortable. Children basking in luxuries seem to have a harder time than kids who have to work for all they have if everything else is equal.
Western culture seems to be following the same paths we have described. During the two world wars and depression, people seemed to value the family, morals, the values of their ancestors, and God. As the threat of foreign domination has lessened and life has become more comfortable and seemingly more secure, there has been a major drift away from these things. The Church is viewed as less relevant, God is a distant possibility at best, and the notion of war or foreign domination is not seriously entertained. Like the Israelites of old, our culture is teetering on the brink of disaster, and we suggest that the song title that heads this article is our only real solution. Let us take some modern problems and look at the root-cause and solutions to them.
The United States has spent 5 trillion dollars on welfare since 1965. As welfare spending has increased 800%, the number of major felonies per capita has roughly tripled since 1960. Senator Phil Gramm once commented that "if social spending stopped crime, America would be the safest country in the world." Poverty is not the cause of crime. People as a whole were poorer in the past than today, but crime was not higher in the past. Poorer nations do not have higher crime rates than the United States. Crime rates dropped during the Great Depression and in the recession of 1982. (Data from Imprimis, October, 1995, vol. 24, no. 10)
Patrick Fagan, of the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC, has listed
four stages in the life of a violent criminal:
Fagan elaborates on each of these stages, but the basic recurring problem is the lack of an intact family.
With the continued rise in divorce and the growth of single parent family units, we can expect a continued rise in violence and crime. There is an enormous need for Christians to teach and work to establish and strengthen the family. So many men and women are raising a child alone because their mate did not have a commitment to the family. Churches have tended to treat the symptom instead of the root cause. Emphasis on God's plan for man, woman, and child must be emphasized, taught, and worked toward as a major effort of Christians.
I once had an old Scottish gentleman who was watching American tourists buy stuffed Loch Ness Monsters say to me, "Are all Americans this gullible?" We shared all the crazy things we see people buy into with no sensible investigation--Loch Ness, Big Foot, UFOs, Astroprojection, ghosts, human combustion, aliens, the hollow earth, Martian invasions, cure-alls, nutrition gimmicks, aura cures, etc. Why is it that seemingly intelligent, rational, well educated people will allow someone to talk them into killing themselves? Why will people spend their life savings to travel to see something that does not exist or to use a claimed medical cure that can hurt them at worst and do nothing to help them at best?
There is an inverse connection between weirdness and Christianity. Even back in Old Testament times, people were warned to have nothing to do with sorcery of any kind (Leviticus 19:26-31; Deuteronomy 18:9-14). In the New Testament, there were similar warnings about false prophets, and people were told to "try every spirit" (1 John 4:1). If people regard Christ as the only authority in their lives and the Bible as the only code for living, then most of the items of weirdness will not even be considered. My experience has been that, in general, the deeper a person is into weirdness, the further they are from Christ. A spirit-filled life motivated and powered by Christ's teachings will have no room for ghosts, aliens, monsters, and destructive spirits of any kind. Once again: if we stand for Christ and Him alone, we will not follow a cult leader because only Christ can be trusted. No where has the truth of "you've got to stand for something or you'll fall for anything" been more obvious than in the weirdness that is permeating the world in which we live.
What does the Church stand for? Is there anything the Church stands for that the world does not? Do we know why we do what we do and is there any unique message we have for our friends and neighbors? Many congregations have continued to speak out strongly and by their actions for the nuclear family, for God's plan for sexual conduct, for obedience to God's commands, for relief to the pain of hunger, death, and alienation. Other congregations have retreated to the world of entertainment and how to keep people coming, how to placate the forces of the world without offending anyone, how to build an edifice that will attract visitors, and how to satisfy those who feel that their role or lifestyle is not being addressed by the congregation in a positive enough way. This latter group is having the same struggle with the political, social, and educational makeup of our culture so the Church becomes an invisible part of the whole of society.
The Church cannot just move from one infinite issue that can never really be solved to the next. A stand must be taken that speaks to the real needs of the world. We cannot stand for everything and anything. We have to stand for God's will for men, women, and children, the home, and man's proper relationship and obedience to God. Solid citizens in the Kingdom of God do not fall for anything because they know where the Truth is and they have something the world desperately needs.
Back to Contents Does God Exist?, Jan/Feb98.