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Is God watching?

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First appeared in the CMI-UK/Europe Prayer News, April 2012 (GMT+10)

John Allan

According to by the University of Essex, people are gradually becoming more dishonest.

According to by the University of Essex, people are gradually becoming more dishonest.

From time to time, I’m told that people’s behaviour is no worse than it was fifty years ago. The results of a recent study, undertaken by researchers at the University of Essex, suggest otherwise.1 Based on a survey of 2,000 adults, they concluded:

  • Only 50% now believe that having an extra-marital affair is never justified, compared with 70% a decade ago;
  • Only 20% now consider keeping money found in the street is never justified, compared with 40% a decade ago;
  • Only one in three now condemn lying in their own interests.

According to Professor Paul Whitely, “Gradually people are tending to become more dishonest. They are more willing to tell lies, more willing to tolerate adultery. It’s slow over time, and going on in the background—but pretty evidentially there.” Secularists, of course, will argue that all this has nothing to do with society’s sidelining of Christianity—but this is hard to believe.

Prominent British atheist, A.C. Grayling joked, ‘You can see we no longer really believe in God, because of all the CCTV cameras keeping watch on us.’

In the past, British people were immersed in a predominantly Christian world-view and knew ‘the fear of God’. They were ‘God-conscious’. They knew that God was there, and was watching them. They could say with the Psalmist, “You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways” (Psalm. 139:2, 3). They were taught the Ten Commandments at school or at Sunday school and knew that God had said “You shall not commit adultery” and “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:14, 15). Many would have recited, week by week, the words of the Apostles’ Creed and understood that, one day, Christ will return to “judge the living and the dead.” Today, fewer and fewer have this fear of God and fewer still have a sense that ‘God is watching’. Recently, prominent British atheist, A.C. Grayling joked, “You can see we no longer really believe in God, because of all the CCTV cameras keeping watch on us.”2

Evolution means no accountability

What has happened to change all this? One major factor is surely the growing acceptance of the theory of evolution. Increasingly, people are being told that Darwin’s theory explains where life came from and the ‘big bang’ explains where the universe came from—and that no creator was necessary. They look out of the window and think that they see a world that made itself. Not surprisingly, they are no longer ‘God-conscious’.

Many in the church believe that ‘origins’ is a side issue. If so, why does the Bible begin with the account of creation? And why did the church fathers do likewise? The first line of the Apostles’ Creed reads, “I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth”,3 and the first line of the Nicene Creed, “We believe in one God … maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.”

If we’re just the product of random mutations and natural selection, what’s wrong with adultery or theft or lying?

When constructing a house we must begin with the foundations and, if we neglect these, we risk losing the whole building. Similarly, without the foundation of biblical creation, people will lack a base upon which to build a correct understanding of themselves and world around them. If we’re just the product of random mutations and natural selection, what’s wrong with adultery or theft or lying? If the evolutionary process required millions to die to produce humanity, why shouldn’t dictators like Hitler and Stalin sacrifice millions more to produce the utopian society?

Wandering from the truth

There is a serious warning here for the church too. Jesus made clear that people made great mistakes because they had neglected the first few books of the Bible. He chided the Pharisees, for example, for their faulty understanding of marriage, and pointed them to the book of Genesis as the final authority in this matter (Mark 10:2–9 and Genesis 2:24). The Sadducees were a Jewish sect that denied the resurrection. In refuting them, Jesus referred them to the book of Exodus (Mark 12:18–27 and Exodus 3:6), and told them that they were “badly mistaken”. Along with the Pharisees, they were seriously in error because they had failed to pay proper attention to the first few books of the Bible.

The Psalmist wrote, ‘Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path’ (Psalm 119:105). In order to be fruitful, our thinking, in all areas, must be moulded by God’s word. Since the Bible begins with creation, so should we; and churches that sideline this issue are in grave danger of building on a shaky foundation. Only by holding forth God’s word in all its completeness can the church hope to impact our secular society and effectively shine the light of Christ into the world.

Related Articles

References

  1. Study shows ‘decline in integrity’, MSN News, 25 January 2012; http://news.uk.msn.com. Return to text.
  2. Aitkenhead, D., A.C. Grayling: ‘How can you be a militant atheist? It’s like sleeping furiously’, The Guardian, 3 April 2011; http://www.guardian.co.uk. Return to text.
  3. There are several, slightly different versions of the Apostles’ Creed; this is cited from the Church of England’s Common Worship, 2000. Return to text.

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Readers’ comments
Chandrasekaran M., Australia, 8 May 2012

When fear of God is thrown away, it is replaced by fear of CCTV ie fear of police. Fear of police or the rule of law that police enforce do not put good values and morals into people lives who do not fear God When CCTV or police is not around, lawlessness becomes less restrained.

UK riots in Aug 2011 involving many young people are a result of throwing away the fear of God. Politicians think tough law and punishment are answers to change people character.

Being passionate anti-Darwinian when it comes to morality and politics and being passionate when it comes to science do not provide a standard for morality and politics.

LYNNETTE G., United States, 8 May 2012

Awesome! May Yahushua the Mashiah bless & prosper this ministry!!!!!!!

Mark E., Australia, 9 May 2012

Without a doubt, more and more, those sinful things once done in private are being unashamedly carried out in public, even in broad daylight. The Sydney Mardi Gras is now one of the largest public displays of depravity expressed in this country. And it is patronised by the police, charities and many main line churches in the name of tolerance and unity in diversity. We have collectively wandered so far away from our 'common sense' and moral decency, that we should not be surprised by the sheer depravity and immorality displayed by our future generation - the 15-20 yr olds. They wilfully destroy public assets, openly consume drugs and command the streets at night. I do despair for our country's future but see that the times are heading towards the consummation of all things. Nevertheless, the work of those called by the Lord is great and the harvest is ripe. Still, "Come Lord Jesus, Come."

Stephen H., United States, 11 May 2012

The English John Locke, having destroyed the concept of the Divine Right of Kings, where the King was considered above the law, nevertheless decided to, in his second treatise of government, give a reason for government that was NOT the law of the Jungle or might makes right, by saying that God put us on this earth to LIVE, and we have no moral right to kill ourselves, so LIFE ought to be sacred and innocent life is to be prefered and we, not having a right to kill ourselves, cannot give such a right to another nor the companion "inalienable" or "unalienable" rights of Liberty, and Possessions. In that we, were we to be the sovereign over our own property, and life and possessions, have absolute authority over our things, in a sin cursed world, may not have the strength to protect our own against another. Thus we have a government or pact to bring in others to help protect our things from a determined usurper of rights, where we have someone to manage the force of the community, namely my right arm with a weapon, along with my neighbors. In America, being of this British mind, the founders considered a chained down government fragile in this point that it, in order to give us much liberty (the freedom to do that which is right in the sight of God), depended on the people to be self disciplined, looking over our shoulders at an all seeing God, and not around the corner for some constabulary. So until a nation has a large constituency of righteous citizens, our Republic concept can never be exported to other nations who lack such (unless primed through an extensive missionary effort).

B. W., United States, 17 May 2012

Atheism does not entail amorality - Emmanuel Kant was very harsh to Christianity but proposed a moral code far more advanced than any that had ever come before it, Christian Ethics included. Likewise, Taoist/Confucionist ethics are more rigorous than Christian ones but they traditionally don't include any notion of God, Heaven, or Hell - one follows the moral path simply because it is the right path.

The problem isn't that God isn't watching and CCTV cameras are. It's that we need someone to be watching us at all. Ethics are what we do when nobody is going to catch us. God just always catches you, so there's no incentive to be dishonest. While this may be good from a practical standpoint it has a fundamental problem. If ethics are what we do when nobody is watching, and God is always there just waiting to dole out divine justice, then we are can't ever make a true ethical choice; nothing is a dilemma because you can't ever get away with a misdeed. Nobody would do wrong, but nobody can show their true character either.

God is an imperfect solution for the same reason that CCTV is an imperfect solution. Voltaire may be right in that if God doesn't exist we'd need to invent Him, but the world would be better if we were the kind of people that didn't need Him at all.

Dominic Statham responds

You say, "God is an imperfect solution." I would reply that he is the only solution. The Bible teaches that humanity is too corrupt to be improved. The old self must be put to death and a new man be created in his place. So, those who accept Christ's salvation are united with him in his death and then reborn through his resurrection (Romans 6). As the apostle Paul put it, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." (Galatians 2:20).

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