AMERICA’S PROBLEM IS SPIRITUAL – III
by Bob Wheeler
The end result of secularization is social chaos. As moral restraints are removed social disorder ensues.
The apostle Paul puts it like this: “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting . . .” (Rom.1:28; NKJV). It is important to observe here the cause-and-effect relationships. The root cause is our attempt to exclude God from our knowledge – to exclude Him from our worldview. This results in God “giving them over to a debased mind.” The word translated “debased” literally means “rejected after testing.” Because we excluded God from our thinking, God abandons us to our own devices. We have become “rejects,” as it were. The result is that we “do those things which are not fitting,” or proper. Our behavior is inappropriate.
How so? Paul goes on to say that they were “being filled with all unrighteousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness . . .” (v. 29). This describes their general attitude and their complete abandonment to it: they are “filled” with “all” of it. People habitually do what is wrong (“unrighteousness,” “wickedness,” “maliciousness”) because their controlling desire for sex, material possessions, and whatever. This, in turn, results in oppression and conflict: “murder, strife, deceit.”
The result is a whole list of what we euphemistically call “anti-social behavior”: these people are “whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents” (v. 30). They hurt each other by word and deed. There is even rebellion against parental authority.
Finally, there is the complete absence of any redeeming social qualities. They are “undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful” (v. 31). Even in some pagan societies there is a recognition that honesty and compassion are positive qualities to be admired and encouraged. But not in a society in an advanced state of moral decline. There comes to be a jaded, cynical outlook on life, in which people are more or less expected to be dishonest and crooked. Everyone is out to “game the system.”
Paul concludes by stating that the members of a pagan society, “knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them” (v. 32). It is one thing to practice one’s misdeeds in secret; it is another thing to celebrate misconduct openly and to reward it publicly. When society as a whole commends evil behavior, it has sunk to the lower level of depravity.
It is important here to note that Paul is not talking only about the sins of individuals, but about the mores of society as a whole. Individually, as human beings, we are all “totally depraved.” We have inherited from our parents a natural bias toward sin; and no matter how outwardly respectable we may seem to be to others, inwardly we are almost completely controlled by self-interest. We often do the right things for the wrong reasons, responding to social pressure rather than to conscience.
But a human society as a whole will adopt certain norms and standards, depending on the local culture. It will reward certain forms of behavior and punish others. But as a given nation becomes powerful and prosperous it will have a tendency to question its earlier values and standards. It becomes more “tolerant,” “diverse,” and “inclusive.” The lessening of moral restraint, however, results in social disintegration.
Modern western society has traveled down this well-worn path. Built on a foundation of Judeo-Christian morality, it listened to the siren song of such prominent atheists as Marx and Darwin, Freud and Nietzsche. The mainline Protestant denominations tried to find a middle ground by adopting a liberal theology. The sexual revolution, radical feminism and the “New Morality” ensued. Eventually the highest court in the land gave legal sanction to abortion and sodomy. We have become a thoroughly corrupt society, “knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.”
At the bottom of it, then, America’s problem is spiritual, and cannot be solved through the political process. It is not so much this candidate or that, but an entire population that has lost its moral bearings and cannot tell good from evil. America’s social problems are the result of its religious apostasy. The answer to the problem, then, is not to vote for this, that or the other candidate – it is spiritual revival within the church. The churches which profess to know the truth must humble themselves before God, confess their sins, and seek His blessing on their ministries. The reason we are not seeing results is because the presence and power of the Holy Spirit are largely absent. We need a fresh visitation of the Spirit, a fresh awareness of eternal reality, a genuine, heartfelt love for God and for our fellow man. It is only when the church is what it ought to be that there will be any hope for America.