Is God watching?
First appeared in the CMI-UK/Europe Prayer News, April 2012 (GMT+10)
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.
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.”
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.
- Study shows ‘decline in integrity’, MSN News, 25 January 2012; http://news.uk.msn.com. Return to text.
- 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.
- 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.