5 Ways Our Culture Is Rejecting Biblical Morality
As our culture moves further from biblical morality, we are increasingly rejecting eternal truths revealed in the Bible. Can this downward slide be reversed?
As we look at society today, in 2020, we see a cultural landscape that has veered further and further from any semblance of biblically based morality. The slide into secularism—the idea that humanity can define morality apart from any divine spiritual guidance—has accelerated rapidly in the last two decades.
As we consider where the cultures of the Western nations (particularly the English-speaking nations and the democracies of Western Europe) are today, we must consider the words spoken by two prophets who lived over 2,500 years ago.
The prophet Jeremiah, who prophesied not only to ancient Judah but also to nations far off into his future, recorded this prophetic message from God:
“Hear, O earth! Behold, I will certainly bring calamity on this people—the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not heeded My words nor My law, but rejected it” (Jeremiah 6:19).
The prophet Hosea, who prophesied to both ancient and modern Israel, delivered these words from God:
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.
“The more they increased, the more they sinned against Me; I will change their glory into shame” (Hosea 4:6-7).
Don’t just read over those prophecies and move on without giving them focused thought. Consider what exactly God was saying through these prophets:
- “They have not heeded My words nor My law.”
- “You have rejected knowledge.”
- “You have forgotten the law of your God.”
- “They sinned against Me.”
God was warning Israel (ancient and modern) of a total breakdown in morality from top to bottom. That breakdown was based on a national rejection of the laws of God.
Are our nations today making the same mistakes? Consider these five biblical principles and laws that are being openly ignored and rejected by our culture today:
1. “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3).
Of course, this is the first of God’s 10 Commandments. It is a very basic, yet powerful, law: Do not put anything—not a statue, not a picture, not your own ideas, not your own pleasures, not your own desires, not anything—before the true God.
In ancient times, God’s people continually failed to obey this law. Ancient Israel was surrounded by peoples who worshipped statues and images of made-up gods. Those “gods” had many different names—Asherah, Baal, Dagon, Molech, Tammuz, etc.—but they all represented the same thing. They represented human-made affronts to God’s basic law to put nothing before Him.
By rejecting God’s standards of morality, we have, in a sense, placed ourselves in authority over Him.It was a temptation ancient Israel struggled with from the beginning of its nationhood until its fall and captivity. And it was a temptation Israel usually gave in to.
Today, pagan gods aren’t the primary challenge to this law (though they are still a problem). The primary challenge to God’s command to have “no other gods” is ourselves and our stuff. By rejecting God’s standards of morality, we have, in a sense, placed ourselves in authority over Him. We’ve also placed our materialistic pursuits of pleasure over God and His laws.
We live in a culture characterized by men and women who are “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, … lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:2, 4).
To learn more about the sin of idolatry, read about the “Second Commandment.”
2. “Do not kill the innocent and righteous” (Exodus 23:7).
Proverbs 6:16-17 declares that “hands that shed innocent blood” are among the seven things that God hates. God hates violence and the taking of human life—especially innocent life. It is an affront to Him because He is the giver of life and made man in His image and likeness (Genesis 9:6). God desires a culture that honors and protects human life.
From movies, TV shows and video games that glorify violence to the recurring nightmare of mass shootings, the United States is a nation with violence deeply embedded in its culture. Though mass shootings get the most headlines, regular violence on a smaller scale occurs every day. In 2017, according to the CDC, 19,510 people died of homicides (14,542 of those due to firearms).
The practice of abortion also is responsible for the deaths of more than 800,000 innocent babies every year in the U.S. The abortion rate has actually been dropping slightly in recent years (likely due to more effective birth control methods). If you total the number of abortions performed in the United States in just the last decade, well over 9.3 million innocent human lives were denied the right to live due to this practice.
For more insight into the abortion issue, read “Is Abortion Wrong?”
3. “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication” (Galatians 5:19).
These two sins are both infractions of God’s Seventh Commandment forbidding adultery (Exodus 20:14).
In today’s culture, sex outside of marriage (or, as the Bible calls it, fornication) is not considered taboo in the slightest. A 2017 British government study found that 75 percent of British people view premarital sex as “not wrong at all.” Another poll studying Americans found that “seven in 10 Americans deem sex between unmarried men and women morally acceptable.”
What makes that statistic even more striking is that over 70 percent of Americans identify as some sort of Christian. So identifying as a “Christian” does not necessarily mean that people believe in biblical moral standards.
We need to look at the limits God has placed on sex and understand why those limits are the best not only for us, but for our children and society in general.This problem is inseparably linked to the issue of abortion. When you study the issue, you find that 83 percent of women who get abortions are unmarried and 16 percent are separated, divorced or widowed. Married women account for a minuscule number of total abortions. (These statistics come from prochoice.org). The simple fact is that sex outside of marriage is the root cause of abortion.
It’s easy to understand why many religious people try to fight abortion through politics. But limiting or banning abortion will not solve the root of the problem. Abortion is the consequence of this much larger sin that has settled deep into the fabric our culture—sex outside of marriage.
The real solution to the abortion problem is for our peoples to repent of this and to limit sex to marriage (Hebrews 13:4). The problem of unwanted pregnancies that result in abortion cannot be solved by politics, but only by changing the hearts and minds of human beings to see the benefits of God’s laws and committing to obeying them.
We need to look at the limits God has placed on sex and understand why those limits are the best not only for us, but for our children and society in general.
4. “God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27).
Just a few years ago this basic biblical truth—that God created two genders, male and female—was widely accepted as a fact backed up by basic biology. But within the last decade, we’ve witnessed this basic truth being challenged and attacked by those claiming that gender is not binary. A very small segment of society that desires to live outside of the norms of their birth gender have pushed an entire cultural transformation of the meaning of the words sex and gender.
Advocates of the transgender movement hailed the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 15 ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia as a major victory in their fight to redefine sex. The case was centered on a section of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits an employer from firing or refusing to hire an individual based on “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin” (Title VII, emphasis added throughout). Almost everyone agrees that neither the 1964 U.S. Congress nor President Lyndon Johnson interpreted “sex” to mean anything other than whether a person was biologically male or female.
Regardless of how the words sex and marriage are defined by society today, God’s definitions have not changed.But in just under 30 words, Justice Neil Gorsuch, writing the majority opinion, redefined “sex” from the basic meaning it’s held for thousands of years: “We do not hesitate to recognize today a necessary consequence of that legislative choice: An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law” (p. 33).
So the U.S. Supreme Court now has ruled that “sex” also means one’s sexual preference and gender of choice.
This ruling came nearly five years after the landmark 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision, where the Supreme Court redefined the word marriage to include unions between two people of the same sex. (See our analysis of that decision five years ago.)
Regardless of how the words sex and marriage are defined by society today, God’s definitions, which go all the way back to the first book of the Bible, have not changed:
Sex: “Male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27).
Marriage: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).
To learn more, read “Is the Definition of Marriage Really Ours to Change?”
5. “Put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth” (Colossians 3:8).
Our culture is rejecting biblical truths and some of the most basic standards of conduct found in God’s Word. The Bible provides much guidance on how to govern our minds and tongues. God tells us that we are not to be driven by anger (and all that flows from it). Instead, biblical morality teaches us to “give place to wrath” (Romans 12:19)—in other words, replace anger and wrath with positive, uplifting thoughts.
But we live in a world that seems to be increasingly fueled by anger. Anger is rampant everywhere—in television news, social media (especially social media), entertainment, politics, social movements, etc.
Perhaps one of the most discouraging things you can do today is wade into the “comments” section of any news article shared on social media. What you’ll often find is comment after comment of unbridled vitriol and contempt spewed by people against other people. And this anger is not limited to one end of the political spectrum. It exists across the spectrum, from the far left to the far right.
Sin is never solved by angrily multiplying other sins.Tragically, we have seen extreme anger in some U.S. cities through protests that turned violent, destructive and, in some cases, morphed into all-out rioting. Regardless of how legitimate a cause may be, acts of unrestrained anger and violence always lead to more and more suffering and injustice. Sin is never solved by angrily multiplying other sins.
We also see angry and demeaning communication displayed by our national leaders. Instead of engaging in respectful debate and attempts to work together for the good of the people, we find name-calling, mocking, insults and character assassination. And again, this takes place across all parts of the spectrum. It seems as if the virtues of civility and respect are dead—replaced by venomous anger and hatred.
This is not behavior God approves of—regardless of the political cause one claims to represent.
God’s standards of conduct, in all areas of life, remain unchanged and represent a stark contrast to the culture we see around us today:
- “Lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (1 Timothy 2:2).
- “Speak evil of no one, … be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men” (Titus 3:2).
- “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy” (James 3:17).
To learn how anger can be overcome, read “Overcoming Dangerous Emotions: Anger.”
Can our culture be reversed?
If we wanted to, we could add scores and scores of other examples of our culture’s rejection of biblical principles. But the question you may be asking is: What can be done about it?
Ultimately, the solution is simple, yet profoundly vital: repentance. Repentance is recognizing when our ways are wrong, feeling deep remorse, asking for God’s forgiveness, and striving to turn around and live the right way. Nothing short of national repentance is needed to change our culture.
But the sad reality is that national repentance rarely occurs. History shows that when a society degrades into moral depravity, it rarely reverses course.
History shows that when a society degrades into moral depravity, it rarely reverses course.The history of ancient Judah is a case in point. Like the northern kingdom of Israel, Judah’s history was mostly a downward slide into immorality. They did have two major reforming kings, Josiah and Hezekiah, who tried to lead movements of national repentance from the top down. But both attempts to revive national faithfulness to God were short-lived. Simply put: The downward slide into immorality was too ingrained in the lives of the people to be permanently reversed.
We have likely reached that point in our modern nations today—which means national punishment may be the only way to get our attention.
But that doesn’t mean you have reached that point. The Bible shows that individuals—no matter how wicked and corrupt the society around them might be—can reject the corrupting morals of their culture and live differently.
The apostle Paul quoted these words to the Corinthians, who lived in one of the most morally bankrupt cities in the Roman Empire: “Come out from among them and be separate” (2 Corinthians 6:17).
Instead of just going the way of the culture around us, we can come out of it and be spiritually separate, just as:
- Noah came out of his violent pre-Flood world.
- Abram came out of the society of Ur.
- Lot came out of Sodom.
- Daniel remained spiritually separate from the idolatrous and violent Babylon in which he lived.
- Jesus Christ’s disciples came out of a “faithless and perverse generation” (Matthew 17:17).
The list goes on and on of people who lived in evil cultures—but chose to be different.
You can be that person today.
But that’s just part of the story. The ultimate good news is that an even bigger change is coming. Jesus Christ will return to this world to save us from destroying ourselves (spiritually and physically) and to establish an entirely new society and culture—based on God’s immutable, unchangeable law.
The establishment of His Kingdom on earth will reverse the downward moral slide of our world through the eternal truths of God’s law.
The prophet Isaiah wrote of this future time: “Many people shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:3).