In short, one would have to say that it is hard to determine what standard if any is America’s standard in this new century. The standard of pleasure has been a guiding rule for many over the last several decades. This is somewhat like the epicureans of Acts 17:18: they looked for pleasure and primarily physical/sexual pleasure. To these individuals of the first century the standard of good was what makes one feel good, and history records that this philosophy lead to hedonism of every kind. Both illicit heterosexual activity and perversion and homosexuality along with sodomy were well known and practiced in the Roman empire. It reminds us somewhat of today with some people. Many religious people used family history as a standard. They said, “We are Abraham’s seed” (John 8:33), but that had no sway on the Master for he responded that those who commit sin are children of sin. The Lord told them that if they were Abraham’s seed they would receive His word (v. 37) and do the works of Abraham (v. 39). Many first century Christians left all to follow Jesus. So the standard of history and family is not acceptable to Christ. Some today are quick to talk of history and family and even church buildings (property) as reasons to stay in error. A family history alone will not get the job done: Remember there are good traditions (II Thess. 2:15), the traditions of God and his apostles.
So, what is America’s standard? Some say rule of law, and we ask, “From where did the laws originate?” Though many politicians and revisionist historians have attempted to move us (U.S.) in a secular direction, the founding fathers spoke often of God and His divine providence. George Washington called for prayer as the continental congress struggled with a new constitution for this nation. Was that secular or asking for divine intervention? At this point many become critics and cite that Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were deists. They were wrong in their deism but right to believe in God. Some remind us that our founding fathers were immoral, and in some cases I’m sure it’s true. But that does not erase the fact that they looked to the Bible for guidance in what is a right and wrong standard! The congress still opens every session with a prayer; the Senate the same, and the crier of the Supreme Court opens every session exalting God. The Lincoln Memorial displays some of the speeches of President Abraham Lincoln. They are full of biblical references and references to God. Seems to me like Lincoln had a standard. If he did not, then by what standard or rule did he determine that slavery was wrong? Let the secularist answer that question.
The fact is that our founding fathers looked to a standard of law, moral law, in the founding and setup of this great nation.
The church many times reflects the world around her. While some of this is understandable by the human makeup of the membership of the church, she is not to conform to the world (Rom. 12:1, 2). The church at Corinth in the New Testament times is well known for this problem. God’s standard is not conforming, but transforming. We are to transform ourselves by the renewing of our minds and thus transform the world through evangelism. When members of the Lord’s church start down the path of conforming, there is no standard. That’s where many congregations are today. They have conformed in doctrine. They ask “Can we really know the truth?” Jesus said clearly we can know truth (John 8:32). Open fellowship has been a tremendous problem with many of the larger congregations, and with many preachers who are desirous of keeping a prestigious schedule of lectureships and gospel meetings. It is not uncommon to hear about congregations of the church of Christ accepting denominational baptism. As we have written openly throughout recent years, youth programs have been using mechanical instruments of music in times of worship and praise. No longer is fellowship with denominationalism frowned upon. It is encouraged. Youth are encouraged to participate in interdenominational groups like Young Life, and Fellowship of Christian Athletes, to name a couple. What is the problem? Our brethren, in some cases, have given up the standard. And as I can see it, they give up the standard for increased numbers and community popularity (II Tim. 3:4). That is to say no standard, even in the church.
What is America’s standard? Well, it is my hope that what some of the talking heads on TV are saying is true. I hope it is true that a renewed search for an objective moral standard is taking place. Without a standard anything goes. Homosexual marriage, divorce, abortion, theft, lying – you name it – without a standard there are no boundaries. Let’s commit for the New Year to be energized in our service to the Lord. A great day of renewal and obedience could be within our reach.
-David Hill, President of Tennessee Bible College