Thursday, August 2, 2007

Thinking Like a Christian, Week 6: Sociology

How Should Society be Structured?

Individuals are important to God, and so also is society. God has ordained institutions within society, and has taught us about our place and responsibilities within them. Christian and secular sociologists have major differences in their thoughts on these matters.

The majority of secular sociologists view man as little more than an "evolving sexual animal," without soul or spirit. They believe that society determines man's consciousness and actions, and that man has little or no responsibility for his actions. While biblical ideas about original sin, the Fall, marriage, and the family are discounted as little better than myths, ideas such as sexual freedom, classless societies, and "non-traditional" families are promoted.

This is not what the Christian should believe. The Bible teaches us that man is created in God's image (Gen. 1:26-27), that man has the freedom to choose between right and wrong, and that man can shape society by his choices. The Bible also teaches that man must face the consequences of his decisions (the most momentous example being found in Genesis 3), and this certainly includes those decisions which impact society. Furthermore, the Bible teaches that man is a guilty sinner. Sin alienates man from God and causes problems in his other, earthly relationships.

In short, Christian sociologists attempt to understand society in light of man's free will and the consequences of his freely choosing to turn from God.

The Bible also teaches us that man has worth. Indeed, the fact that God provided for, and offers to us, His saving grace, is enough to demonstrate to us that we are valuable in His sight. Because mankind possesses free will and its consequent responsibilities, man is significant. This makes man different from the animals (yet another difference between Christian and secular viewpoints). Every individual is valuable and capable of making important contributions to society; in fact, the individual is more important than institutions or society.

Man is a social being. This is not only important to understand, but it is the good, natural, created order of things (Gen. 2:18-24). Sin causes alienation in human relationships. Society, though less important than its constituent individuals, is still important for the reason that man is a social being. Societies have collective responsibility for their decisions and attitudes. Individuals and society are both valuable. Man does not stand alone, nor is he a cog in an unfeeling social machine.

God has ordained three primary social institutions: The family, the church, and the state. (It can also be argued that labor is a social institution, for God has clearly ordained labor as something man should do [Gen. 2:14, 2 Thess. 3:10]; regardless, labor will be addressed in detail in Week 9: Economics.) All of society is relevant to God's plan for mankind. This lesson primarily deals with the family and the church; the state is covered in Week 8: Politics.

Marriage and the family are ordained by God (Gen. 2:23-25). Together, they form the fundamental institution of society. It is critically important that husbands and wives be lawfully married and committed to each other for life, and that the family be following God's values and God's order for it (e.g., Eph. 5:22-6:4). The family environment must be one which promotes spiritual and mental growth (not just physical or social). It is widely observed that the overall condition of marriage and families in a society is a good barometer of the state of the society. This does not bode well for us here in the United States, for there is a war in our midst—a war in which the forces of Satan want to tear apart our biblical "family values" and replace them with viewpoints that demean marriage, families, and what the Bible teaches. All of us must be aware of, and be willing to fight, the anti-family and anti-Bible teachings that pervade our society!

The church also has a role in the society. Certainly, it must proclaim the truth about sin and salvation. It must also be a living demonstration of community and Christian love among believers. "Love thy neighbor as thyself" is much more meaningful when the world can see examples of it. The church also exists to edify believers, helping them to become better members of society. All of these things will have the direct result of making our society better.
"By regarding every member and aspect of society as responsible, the Christian sociologist naturally expects each institution in society to focus on governing its own realm of interest properly and to allow other institutions the same freedom." David Noebel, Thinking Like a Christian, p. 97.

"It is God's will that there shall be labour, marriage, government, and church in the world; and it is His will that all these, each in its own way, shall be through Christ, directed towards Christ, and in Christ....This means that there can be no retreating from a 'secular' into a 'spiritual' sphere." Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics, p. 207.

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