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In the days following 9/11, I was interviewed by a number of newspapers and magazines. The journalists wanted to know how something so horrible, so unthinkable, could take place not only in the United States of America, but in New York City? They just couldn’t comprehend the wickedness, the capacity of someone who could kill thousands of people and lose their own lives in the process. I reminded them that not only was there a God, but there was a devil, and that mankind was not basically good as we often hear, but that mankind is basically bad. In fact, the Bible teaches that mankind is sinful to the very core. People were shocked by this.
Our churches were packed like never before in the aftermath of this horrific attack. I remember well Sunday, Sept. 16, 2001, at the church where I pastor. It was the largest single attendance we have ever had in the history of the church. It was my hope and prayer that it would be a spark that would ultimately lead to a revival that would sweep our nation. But that has not happened. In fact, something quite surprising has taken place since 9/11.
A survey conducted by the Barna Research Group in Ventura, Calif., revealed that instead of a return to God after the attacks, there has been a resurgence of moral relativism. This survey found that in the wake of 9/11, a mere 22 percent of a sample group of Americans told Barna’s researchers they still believed in absolute moral truth. That is compared with 38 percent in January 2000. That is saying more people believed there was such a thing as evil before 9/11 than now. It would seem that more people would believe there is evil and more people would believe mankind is basically bad when they saw it demonstrated in such a dramatic way. But the opposite has occurred.
Moral relativism, which is basically the lack of moral absolutes, is more widespread than we may think. According to moral relativism, your truth is your truth, and my truth is my truth. And just because something is true to you doesn’t necessarily mean that it is true to me. In other words, there is no right or wrong.
This view would say that it is not right for us as the West, as the United States, to say that the actions of another nation are wrong. Who are we to say what is right and wrong? Moral relativism teaches that we are all products of the evolutionary process, and there is no God, there is no devil, and there is no evil. Instead, we make our own luck, we create our own faith, and we are all basically good inside. If we do something bad, then it is not our fault because we are victims of our upbringing or environment. Moral relativism teaches there are no absolutes; it is the freedom from all restraint.
What I find interesting is that if you disagree with this viewpoint, then you are insensitive. If you have the audacity to say that you believe there is right and wrong or there is good and evil, then you are classified as insensitive, intolerant, bigoted and narrow-minded. If you dare to quote the Bible and say it is the source of truth, then you will be accused of pushing your puritanical belief system and values on someone else.
Although moral relativism has actually gained ground, the percentage of people who say they pray regularly since 9/11 has gone from 84 to 85 percent. On one hand, more people are saying there is no such thing as right and wrong, good and evil, and there is no God or devil. But on the other hand, we pray more than we did before.
Barna’s survey also found that Americans’ “personal commitment to Christ” remained stable at 68 percent and even increased among the youngest group from 58 to 61 percent. That may seem good, but actually I think it is relatively bad. These same people, when polled, did not believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to God, nor did they believe that the devil is real. Rather, they classified him as a mere metaphor. This essentially tells me that people are creating a whole new god, a god who doesn’t believe in right or wrong and doesn’t give us standards to live by. In essence, they have created a god in their own image.
Let me say something that might be controversial, but it is basic, biblical Christianity: Jesus Christ is the only way to God. All roads don’t lead to a relationship with God, and all religions don’t teach the same thing.
Someone who says she believes in God, believes she should pray, but doesn’t think Jesus is the only way cannot be a Christian. If you are a true Christian, then you have to believe the Bible. The very idea of being a Christian and knowing God comes from the Bible. We don’t make up the rules as we go.
I can’t go out on the streets today and say, “I have made up a new rule. I think that it is OK for me to drive 120 miles per hour. I believe it is OK for me to walk into a store and take whatever I want. It is mine for the taking.” I can believe these things, but soon I will have a new prison ministry. There are rules. There are absolutes. And whether I believe in them or not, those rules are still true.
Therefore I can’t come to the Bible and say, “I like this, and I like that, but I am not so sure I agree with this part of the Bible.” It is a package deal. We take it the way God gives it. False belief systems and false religions will keep us from God and not bring us to Him.
What concerns me is there are more people today who say they believe, but they don’t believe what the Bible says. I think that is why this country is in the state that it is in today and why there is no regard for human life.
The basis of morality is belief, and the basis of belief is the Bible. That gives us the absolute truth on which we can base our faith. And when we don’t have this belief, then we have chaos.