Are we becoming more righteous?

By andy on Monday, October 18, 2010 - 7:13 pm

I just wrote this email to a good friend of mine and Biblical genius, James-Michael Smith. It seemed well thought out enough (and I rarely have these moments) that I figured I would repost this as a blog to open discussion for everyone.

This is an idea for a really conceptual, in-depth blog piece. If anyone can pull it together, you could.

I went to Forest Hill yesterday and David Chadwick recited several statistics about marriage and divorce, and morality. Some of it sounded right, and the audience was mostly amazed and nodded. But, some of the stats were hard to believe for me.

• 53% of Promise Keepers visit porn sites weekly
• 33% of Promise Keeper pastors visit porn sites monthly
• 1/3 of committed Christians don’t believe Satan exists
• 1/3 of Christians believe Jesus sinned while on Earth
• 40% believe they have no responsibility to share their faith
• 41% believe that the Koran and the Book of Mormon are all different expressions of the same God
• Committed Christians give away 2% of their income.

It reminded me of the below page of charts (Divine Law Rejected) I received in Sunday school while in high school. As I have always been a numbers guy, these charts always stayed with me, and I’ve kept this piece of paper for now nearly 20 years. The charts basically try to depict how horrible the world has gotten since abortion was legalized in the US.

A few weeks ago I watched “Freakonomics, the movie”. In the movie there was a section on how abortion is a key factor in the reduction of crime in the last decade. This made me think of my chart again. Ok, crime is down, but at what cost? Where are we today? Where are we in respect to the rest of the world? Where are we morally in respect to our ancestors?

Are we getting dumber? Has divorce increased? Are we a less religious society?

I’m not doubting the rise/fall of these moral indicators. I just wonder where we as a society in 2010 stack up against world history morally. I recall your stories of the pagan worshipers having to have sex in the temples to appease the rain gods, or something to that affect. That seemed really bad to me.

If we give an arbitrary weight to moral corruption (sleeping with prostitutes to appease the rain gods would probably be a 6.5), would it be possible to take these graphs and extrapolate backwards of where we stand against the sexual deviants of 1000 BC? Would the graph show that we are much more morally sound as a society today? Or would it show that we really haven’t changed much?

Are there any indicators in history that we can say “Ah, see after Moses/David/Jonah/Jesus/Paul/Martin Luther/Billy Graham there was a severe drop in crime, sexual immorality, etc.” ?? I understand it would be completely arbitrary, but I think it’s a good exercise to stake claim of where we stand in society.

It seems painting the world in a dark light is a very good way for pastors to make a point, and give the congregation a reason why they should repent. But, I’m curious if in the grand scheme of all time, is the world all that bad?

More importantly, are we (humans) becoming more righteous? Or less righteous? I think this is a very important question to ask. …Did God’s plan of sending Christ to Earth work?

To me, it seems that politics and old habits of fire-and-brimstone styled sermons skew the goodness of what God has done. I mean, aren’t there millions more of faithful believers today than there were in the time of Noah, Moses, Paul? Since the death of Christ, hasn’t the population of “heaven” (or those awaiting the new Jerusalem) exponentially grown? Has not Earth become more righteous?

A bunch of questions, I know. But, was wondering if you thought it would be a worthwhile exercise to quantify.

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  • Comments (7)

    Category: Christian

    7 Comments

    Comment from andy

    Posted on Monday, 18 October 2010 at 7:16 pm

    I was joking about appeasing the rain gods being a 6.5. It’s probably a 7.2. ;)

    Comment from Taylor Mokris

    Posted on Monday, 18 October 2010 at 7:59 pm

    Very interesting. Please share James response if you could.

    Comment from JM

    Posted on Tuesday, 19 October 2010 at 12:15 pm

    Andy,
    My first thought in reading this was that when we discuss sociological factors on such a broad scale, the easiest thing to do is oversimplify. The charts are, in my opinion, a great example of this. They don’t take into account basic things like the coming of age of the Baby Boomer generation (which happened at the time they mark as “Divine Law Rejected”, coincidentally). They also don’t include the many things that fly in the face of their agenda, such as the MASSIVE decline in Jim Crowe laws, lynchings, etc.!

    I argue this point in my article http://www.examiner.com/methodist-in-national/are-things-getting-worse-and-worse

    For every evil in society that rises, you can find a good that also rises proportionally. Also, we must not fall into the folk-theology trap of seeing America as somehow in Covenant with God as a nation. That was Biblical Israel’s position, but with the arrival of Jesus and the inauguration of the New Covenant, no nation since (including modern Israel!) is in Covenant relationship with God in the Old Testament sense of things. So there wasn’t a point in America’s history where we “rejected Divine Law” because from the very beginning we rejected it. If you don’t believe this, just ask your Native American friends.

    Taking prayer out of schools was nothing more than the removal of a vernier of moralistic civil religion from a secular nation’s secular schools. Those same “prayer filled” schools also had to be FORCED to let black children attend by the secular government just a few years prior, remember. (This ALWAYS seems to get overlooked by the “good ol’ days” crowd…)

    The one thing that hasn’t changed in all of history is human nature. We’re not worse than at any other point in history, nor are we any better. We’ve just found new and different ways to allow Sin to exercise its dominion in the world, while removing older ways it used in the past. Sin is still sin. Greed is still greed. Idolatry is still idolatry. But Jesus is still Lord–and that is what will never change.

    According to Him, we’ll always be a field full of both wheat AND weeds…until the Lord of the harvest reaps and separates the two once and for all.

    My 2 shekels,
    JM

    Comment from Angie Moseley

    Posted on Tuesday, 19 October 2010 at 9:51 pm

    “The one thing that hasn’t changed in all of history is human nature. We’re not worse than at any other point in history, nor are we any better. We’ve just found new and different ways to allow Sin to exercise its dominion in the world, while removing older ways it used in the past. Sin is still sin. Greed is still greed. Idolatry is still idolatry. But Jesus is still Lord–and that is what will never change.

    According to Him, we’ll always be a field full of both wheat AND weeds…until the Lord of the harvest reaps and separates the two once and for all.”

    My thoughts exactly… well almost exactly just worded more eloquently than I would have! Oh how I look more and more forward to that day! Great discussion Andy! Can’t wait to see if you get more responses!

    Comment from andy

    Posted on Wednesday, 20 October 2010 at 7:01 am

    Some good discussion over on the Facebook thread, here – http://on.fb.me/bV7k8K

    Comment from AK-47

    Posted on Wednesday, 20 October 2010 at 4:47 pm

    Andy – sorry I didn’t get to this yesterday. I think JM’s points were well stated. In fact, his last two paragraphs encompass my first thought after reading this, which is, what does it mean to be righteous?

    As a nation are we more righteous? So to answer this question, where is the measuring stick or basis for judgment? It seems answering this question outside of a transcendent frame of reference becomes humanistic, but within the transcendent frame of reference we are declared righteous by the atoning work of Christ on the cross. The Father looks at us and see us as He sees His Son – righteous. I thought JM’s point regarding racism and prayer was well stated. Did prayer really make us more righteous? Well, no not really.

    Now – I do think this nation has increasingly lost reverence for God. There was a time, while even coated in legalism, where this nation revered God more. Reverence for God did indeed provide some sort of moral accountability. That moral accountability is being withered away. This, however, is not something that is particular to the US either.

    Human beings are broken and in need of having a right standing before God. He makes us righteous.

    Comment from andy

    Posted on Wednesday, 20 October 2010 at 9:39 pm

    AK,

    I love the insight, brother. When we are able to have God the Father looks at us through the lens of Christ, he sees us as righteous.

    I need to pin that to my lapel.

    Sorry, comments are closed for the moment.

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