Foundations of society

My what changes in the values of people have happened in my lifetime! There has been various forms of social decay and corruption of People’s view of themselves, their denial of truth, right & wrong, and so much that fragments the family. It can be very discouraging. In some communities, people are literally living day to day in fear of violence and vandalism in the streets, in cities that when I was young, didn’t have these problems. In Psalm 11:3 (NIV 1984), it says “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” What are the foundations of society, and what happens when they are breaking or at least under great strain? Much that makes for a stable society comes out of the Judeo-Christian world-view. The foundations of society are built from certain categories of issues that you could think of as building blocks.

What are those building blocks? The Family, the government, the economy, a healthcare system, and education might be considered starting points. These are very general categories and you might think that since there are various forms of each of them, then multiple forms of each of them may be acceptable or what you might call livable for people. But all possible systems do not give the same results or the same degree of livability for people. I would say that it is when they are built on and implemented by principles flowing out of a Judeo-Christian world-view that they are more livable for people. The person living in the society actually does not necessarily have to be aware of how the building blocks came out of Christian principles. But people who are leaders leading others to tear down the building blocks and restructure society are often aware of the connection to Judeo-Christian principles.

I will start with education, but I’m going to define “education” to include public primary and secondary schools, and public universities. I will also include the media and the internet in education since we all get so much information from the media and the internet. There are many ways of communicating and providing information, but what matters for my purpose here is the world-view or philosophy behind the presentation of the information. In science education, there is a philosophy that has often been called secular humanism, where man makes his own rules and depends on his own intellect and ingenuity. Science, historically, back in the 1600’s and 1700’s started explaining many things about the world and about life using scientific methods. The scientific method was so successful that science came to be treated in society as having authority. Sometimes that authority was seen as extending beyond just scientific questions. This happens for example if someone claims that evolution cannot be questioned because there is so much science backing it up. Science never has authority to tell people they can’t question a theory about our origins. But some think science can do this because of all the ways we have benefitted from it or because of what they believe about the science. This sense of “authority” where science makes claims about what everyone should believe, is sometimes called Modernism. Modernism makes claims about what’s true, and it also claims to be an authority for society to depend on. So the implication is that you cannot question certain ideas because they come from well-established ideas in science. We do depend on science in ways and science has indeed accomplished a lot that we benefit from. But many people would agree that science should not claim authority outside of science, such as in morals and beliefs.

Biblical Creation and its implications, compared to atheistic evolution

A contrary view to Modernism came along that is referred to as Postmodernism. Postmodernism says that no one has the right to claim to have the absolute truth. By the same token no one can claim to be an absolute authority over all people. So Postmodernism reacts against claims of “finding the truth” or being an authority for society. This also goes against religious claims. In Postmodernism, you are never really going out “finding the truth”, instead you are “choosing a narrative” to believe or to promote. So what happens in society is that individuals views are determined by the groups or cultural background around them. Postmodernism always downplays the choices of the individual because it tends to treat it almost as if our choices are not real choices. We are just being influenced by the pressures and influences around us. The large mainstream media organizations very much seem to take a postmodernist approach very often. The arguments made do not emphasize facts too much in Postmodernism. It is more a matter of which cultural group wins the competition between ideas.

I would also say that Postmodernism does not deal well with the concept of law or with what is involved in forensic science. Laws must be enforced in order to be useful in society. If there is a fire that burns down a building, the investigators don’t care what kind of “narrative” people believe who were affected by the fire. Some people would suffer financial losses or maybe physical harm due to the fire. If the fire was due to arson, the beliefs of the guilty party do not matter. It is the evidence that matters. It is not a “narrative” that someone is guilty of a crime, it is a legal definition. Legal definitions of crimes have to be based on facts and behavior or they are not enforceable. A Postmodernist person tends to not understand the significance of facts. The beauty of facts is that they pierce through human biases and possibly false interpretations and point to the truth. We often do not have perfect knowledge of all the facts, but legal due process in the courts is intended to handle this fairly. Following the law is not a competition between groups with different narratives. There must be the authority of law so that proper standards can be enforced fairly. Law has its basis in morality, and morality has its basis in the existence of a Creator-God who made us with purpose.

What does a Biblical view tell us? First, in the Biblical view human beings are fallen or corrupted by a sinful nature that affects everything we think and do. As a result, our moral judgment and reason are flawed. We have a great tendancy to disobey God. But the Creator-God who made us has revealed truth in the Bible and he does not treat us as unredeemable, even though we cannot overcome our sin problem on our own. From a Biblical perspective, science works in discovering order in the world because the Creator put the order there and made us to be capable of discovering it. We are intended to discover it so that we can put it to practical use and learn meaningful things from it. Biblically, there is an absolute authority, but we cannot be that authority because we are flawed. It is the God of the Bible. From a Biblical perspective we are indeed influenced by the culture around us but that does not mean we are slaves to it. We have choice. God has given us the power of choice. He also makes us responsible for our own behavior and our choices. There are eternal consequences of the moral choices we make. So a person can grow up in a certain culture or with a particular world-view and totally change to a different belief if they choose to.

Back to public education. In science education, I would say the emphasis is still the secular humanist view, which you could also call Modernism and Atheism. Not that every teacher is of these views, but the philosophy behind the typical textbook content is of this perspective. Thus in science, it is still emphasized that man is just a smart animal and there is no basis for a morality that applies to everyone the same. If there is no unchanging basis for morality from being accountable to a Creator, then there would be no basis for unchanging laws either. This also leads to the conclusion that there is no certain knowledge and on issues like the nature of marriage, this is something we humans can redefine if we see fit.

However, in other topic areas, such as in social studies, what students are exposed to today may be more like Postmodernism or it may be a mix of ideas. Today there is less emphasis on logically or critically evaluating ideas. Sometimes it is not considered desirable to learn about multiple points of view so you can make up your own mind what to believe on an issue. This used to be the goal of education in many areas, to be informed so you could then make up your own mind. There used to be more of an emphasis on teaching students critical thinking so that they can come to their own conclusions about beliefs and values. But today often the emphasis in education is more on using social pressures to work toward getting conformity to certain ideas among the students, without students questioning the accepted ideas. The goal sometimes may be more to make students feel a certain way about an issue, not to make them able to understand or explain it. This is very unhealthy in education. There is a growing that parents are finding other kinds of education options as a result of the problems with public education, including private schools, home schooling, and other options. In college, private colleges may have financial challenges but they provide badly needed alternatives. Christian colleges counter these problems about public education but they vary a great deal in how they apply the Bible to education. Sometimes colleges that call themselves Christian really are not very Christian in practice or in doctrine.

What about government? Are there connections between Christianity and the American form of government. This should be clear but it is something students are not really taught much, sadly. Our government has three branches, the Executive, the Congress, and the Judicial. These three make change harder. This came out of the Biblical concept that since people have a fallen sinful nature, political leaders tend to be corrupted and oppressive by being in positions of power. The way congress is structured and the electoral system balances the influences of the states. So there is accountability to the people with no one branch having all the power. But much depends on the character of the leaders who are elected. An important thing about America is that it is ultimately the American people who are sovereign, not the federal government. This does not seem so to the average person, and political leaders lose sight of it too. America is what the American people make it. We have stark contrasts happening today between some cities and other cities in terms of how the Mayors and other leaders manage the local laws and public policy. Today anyone paying attention should be able to see the difference between good leaders and corrupt leaders. There are drastically different ideals and values being implemented in different states and cities today.

In a Biblical view, society is built around the nuclear family, though this does not mean there cannot be single individuals. But there are moral principles around sex that protect both the individual and society from problems caused by abandoning Biblical morality. Thus God’s design is actually for the good of both the individual and the society, properly understood. The difficulties of Biblical morality to people today are because of unhealthy attitudes and ideas that have been learned and too easily accepted in modern society. For many hundreds of years, most people did not question the basic goodness of the nuclear family, or Biblical morality about sex. So living by Biblical morality is not impossible, people did it for a long time in history, in spite of some people falling short of it.

Another important principle from the Bible has profound implications for the value of human beings. It is the doctrine that human beings are uniquely created in the image of God. You could say this includes abilities we have such as having spoken and written languages, our intelligence (compared to animals), our ability to make moral judgments, and our creativity. I like to think that being made in God’s image means we imitate in a finite or limited way qualities that God does in an unlimited way. I would say our personal responsibility comes out of being made in God’s image also. Animals are not moral creatures as we are, from a Biblical view. Also, being made in God’s image means we are of special worth in God’s sight because we are designed to live in a relationship with Him. This relationship is broken until we restore it through faith in Christ. Our being in God’s image also includes our sexual natures. The Bible treats men and women as equals, though we are different. Biblically our goal should be for men and women to treat each other with respect as equals, not that men and women would be treated as if there are no differences. There are created differences that have a good purpose in God’s design for human beings. The traditional nuclear family comes out of God’s design for us and morality. God defines right and wrong, not human beings. Human beings are fallen and we have a tendancy to distort God’s original good design. When families were stable, society was more stable. When families are breaking, society is breaking. This has been a sad thing for me to see in the course of my life.

The matter of being made in God’s image also has many consequences for society. It is part of the reason that many hospitals in America were started partly from funding from churches. There are many hospitals that have “Methodist” in the name for example. Thus, in American history, the Christian view influenced the health care system I think. Why? Because in Christianity, every human individual is of equal worth and is a life worth saving. Science also came out of a Christian worldview historically and so a Christian view influenced many scientific discoveries that have helped us have modern medical knowledge. In economics the worth of the individual as well as the responsibilty of the individual comes to play. Why should people earn a living by working? Because the Bible teaches it is right for us as fallen people living in a fallen world. Working for a living begins in Genesis chapter 3 for Adam and Eve, the first man and woman. The New Testament says, “If a man shall not work, he shall not eat.” This comes from 2 Thessalonians 3:10. It was actually the Apostle Paul explaining how he was trying to live in a manner that set an example for people in the churches that he was planting. So this was a principle for anyone joining the church and coming to faith. Paul lived it even while doing ministry by working making tents to sell. Another important aspect of working for a living is that work is about serving someone else, not just serving yourself. Fallen people like us need to learn the value of serving others.t

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