Ideas Precede Actions
During the last century, American society has shifted in favor of prioritizing the external. External “things” like poverty, victimization, and even forms of government became viewed as the primary causes of “human failings” — or social ills. Thus, the proposed solutions were to change the “causes” — provide money to the poor, root out “oppressors” of all sorts, and offer “democracy” to replace dictatorships. Though these solutions seemed compassionate, they have done little to solve social ills.
Though we live in a physical world, God gifted us with a reflective intelligence to overcome outside and emotional influences. As early as Adam and Eve’s first children, God challenged Cain in Genesis 3:
“Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” NASB
God blesses, but he never presumes these blessings are necessary to do the right thing. Likewise, he allows suffering, but he never accepts suffering as an excuse for wrong-doing. In fact there is really a reciprocal relationship. God says many of his blessings will follow doing the right thing, and he often relates sufferings with doing the wrong thing. In either case, we are responsible to do the right thing at all external situations.
Both sin and righteousness come out of ideas and intentions of the heart. Thus, to change social ills, we must target forming (and often changing) hearts and minds. The core change needed is to bring people to a place of repentance and relationship with God through Jesus. This turn-around takes a self-centered individual and transforms them toward being an “other-centered” loving individual. In addition to salvation, we must nurture Christ-like character and punish wrong-doing in young and old alike.
Beliefs not only shape character, but they provide the foundational ideas about how nature and societies work. It has been said that the two most destructive forces on earth are sin and ignorance. While the drawing force of God’s love expressed through his plan of salvation cuts at the roots of sin, “learning” is the only remedy for ignorance. We must seek after truth beginning with biblical revelation, and then integrate these truths and principles as we study all other things of life and creation.
Yesterday, I read an article by Frank Turek titled, “Country in a mess? Blame the Church.” How does he rightly blame the Church for our nation’s problems? By describing the retreat of the Church from public life. Disconnected from truth about character, human nature, and the proper workings of the world found in the Bible, secularly minded people have done their best with