Why is England burning?
Few will have missed the shocking reports of the riots seen recently throughout England. Gangs of young adults and teenagers have been on the rampage, smashing windows, looting shops, and burning cars and warehouses. Even large deployments of police have been unable to contain them.
Many have been asking why all this is happening. Some reply that it is due to deep anger and frustration amongst youth, who feel they have no future, no possibility of getting a job and no stake in society. Others claim it is simply rebellion against authority and wanton criminality. Conservatives point to the disruption of family life, the promotion of single motherhood, the lack of discipline in schools and the ‘rights culture’. Liberals blame the lack of equality in society and say the answer lies in providing the young with more opportunities and better education. While there is some truth in all these views, they all fail to address the deeper issues and the true root cause of Britain’s moral and social decline.
What is happening in England is the inevitable consequence of a nation rejecting God and His Word. Instead of believing what God has said, people readily believe the modern academics and politicians, who assure us that the Bible is no more than a book of myths and that we can forge a better society based on secularism. Accepting this view has led to there being no final authority, no absolute basis for morality and no clarity about who or what we are.
When I was at school in the 1960s and 1970s, the Christian thinking and values of previous generations were still evident. General behaviour, truthfulness and respect were still considered more important than academic or material success. This was based on the view that we were made in the image of God, and good character was necessary to preserve this. Children who were brought up properly were understood to have better prospects of a stable, useful and fulfilling life. Back then, many parents and teachers understood that they had God-given authority and God-given responsibility to raise children rightly. They generally heeded the exhortation of Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the well spring of life”, and many were diligent in instructing their young charges in wholesome living. In society at large, responsibilities were emphasized rather than rights, reflecting Christ’s teaching in the Sermon on the Mount that the blessed are not those demanding their rights, but the poor in spirit, who understand that in their Creator’s eyes, they have no ‘rights’ (Matt 5:3).1 The doctrine of original sin made clear that children were not born good; they needed to be taught right from wrong, and the discipline we received instilled a sense that wrong-doing had consequences.
In contrast to all this, much of today’s educational system places little if any value on such biblical ideas. This is not surprising; if even many church leaders claim Genesis is not real history, then original sin is but a myth. In fact, it is quite likely that the ‘progressive’ educationist will take a different view simply because they think that, if the Bible teaches something, it is probably wrong. The teachers know that they themselves lie, and the head teacher lies—so why should they expect their pupils not to lie? Indeed, a recent New Scientist article actually argued, from an evolutionary standpoint, that lying in our personal, professional and social lives is a strategy for survival! The objective of education is no longer to equip young people to serve in the community, but to maximize their ‘potential for self-fulfillment’. The great heroes of the modern age are not those who have sacrificially given themselves for others, but those who have fought for themselves and their ‘rights’. Humanists, in defiance of the true history in Genesis 3, assert the doctrine of the intrinsic goodness of humanity and see no need to teach right and wrong. The logical consequence of the ‘evolutionisation’ of society over the last century has been to undermine the truth and authority of the Bible, inevitably leading to the relentless undermining of all vestiges of the worldview based on Christianity. In many schools, it is frowned upon or even forbidden to teach morality as it is considered inappropriate for adults to impose their views on children. Moreover, disciplining them is said to be wrong because it infringes their ‘human rights’.
In the secular view, crime is more of an aberration rather than a moral failing (a view, incidentally, shared by Charles Darwin who wrote that, “wickedness is no more a man’s fault than bodily disease.”)2 Criminals need to be treated rather than punished, we’re told. The UK’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced on television that the perpetrators of all this looting and arson over the last few days would “face the full force of the law.” This, of course, is not true as all vandals and thieves know. They are far more likely to get a caution or receive a suspended sentence. Moreover, shop owners will have to take great care when confronting those seeking to destroy their property, lest the police deem the shop owners’ actions ‘disproportionate’ and arrest them. Children know that they can swear and hurl abuse at their teachers, and it is very unlikely that anything very bad will happen to them—indeed, if anything at all. What reason, then, do they have to respect God or any other authority?
God provided the answers from the beginning
At a time when many ordinary people are in shock over the level of social unrest and the devastation wreaked in England’s cities, there’s a deep irony that seems lost on the majority. That is, the answers to the problems that have given rise to the latest riots can be found in the book of the Bible which secularists most disparage—Genesis. This tells us that each one of us was created by God and for God.3 Hence, whether we are employed or unemployed, rich or poor, we can know a clear sense of purpose—life need never be meaningless.
Genesis tells us that we are made in the image of God (Gen 1:26, 27). Hence, whether we are educated or uneducated, one of the ‘in crowd’ or a loner, we can know that we have value. Despite all our sinfulness, and our being objects of wrath, the image of God in us is faint but still visible, and on account of God’s amazing grace, we are the objects of God’s love (John 3:16).
Genesis also makes it clear that God is the lawgiver (Gen 2:16, 17) and that there is absolute truth and absolute morality. It insists that God is judge and that there are serious consequences when we disobey Him (Gen 3:17). It also gives us hope, as it teaches the compassion and mercy of God: no sooner had man sinned, God promised a saviour (Gen 3:15).
A stark warning
The warnings in the Bible about the consequences of ignoring God are sobering. In the days of Noah, the whole world had become so wicked that “every inclination of the thoughts of his [man’s] heart was only evil all the time” (Gen 6:5)—the ugliness and gross immorality of society today is somewhat reminiscent of that bygone age. The ‘justification’ provided by evolutionary ‘science’ for rejecting the truth and authority of God’s Word brings to mind the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 1:21–23 that “their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.” Further in the chapter (vv. 28,29), Paul describes those who “did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God” as having “become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity”. Unless the British people turn back to God soon, the latest riots may well turn out to be just a foretaste of what’s to come.
- I know of only one exception to this, that being the right of those who receive Christ to become children of God (John 1:12). [The Creator-ordained “unalienable rights” forming part of the US Declaration of Independence are in fact restraints on human sin, and not in the same category as the humanist ‘rights’ demanded today. The ‘right’ to life, for example, flows out of the commandment not to murder—Ed.] Return to text.
- Darwin, C, Old and USELESS Notes about the moral sense & some metaphysical points written about the year 1837 & earlier, p. 409; accessed at darwin-online.org.uk 12 August 2011. Return to text.
- See also Colossians 1:15–16 which makes clear that “All things were created through [Christ] and for [Christ]”. Return to text.