Protests made by preachers in the piping days of peace come back with new meaning and, in the light of current events, they do not longer seem the puritan patter that once they did.
Is there a deeper connection between religion and morality than common thought has been willing to concede? Can one be good and not religious--or religious and not good? If one is both, is it an accidental and fortuitous connection, or a necessary and vital one? and is their separation to be regarded as a dreadful divorce?
Quite plainly, the question is not merely academic [it has been openly debated in American politics the past two decades!]. It is practical in its application to the individual life, and to national life as well. Men often claim to be good without religion. They say: "I know how a decent man should live, and I live like that. But I do not need a weekly diet of worship to do it. I can dispense with sermons and sacraments, prayers and parsons, churches, chants, hymns and amens. I can be decent without religion." [The mass of British people today, and since World War II, bought this idea, that they could be "decent" without religion, which really is not the case, as Britain is now about the most decadent in Europe and the world, plagued top to bottom with indecency (pornography, sex abuse, child abuse, and prostitution), divorce, homosexuality, drunkenness, drugs, immorality, materialism, and uncontrolled hedonism, all which are tearing down the society and destroying its liberties and countless lives. How did this happen? As soon as World War II ended with a victory for the U.S., Britain, and the other allies, the British people by and large, with the clergy taking no responsibility for the trend, abandoned the churches, supposing they could make a decent life without church and attending church and giving honor to God.--Ed.].
Nations make the same claim [in the U.S. Obama campaigned on a premise that "Hope" and positive "Change" for America could come by relying on a single man and a political party's Big Government agenda rather than on individual Christian principles or beliefs or even God and his church--Ed.]. Russia [in Soviet days] affirms that it has a tenderer social conscience than capitalist countries [I have a government booklet put out by Soviets that claims they are leading in caring for the environment or eco-system and the degradation of the world environment by various industries, whereas they were actually behaving as the worst in the world, particularly with nuclear or radioactive wastes being routinely dumped in open air pits and lakes or placed in submarines and containers sunk or submerged in the Arctic where they are now leaking dangerous radioactivity into the whole world hydrologic system!--Ed.] and cares for the underprivileged people in a way unparalleled in lands where religion is not proscribed. The [Nazi party] leaders in Germany would have us believe that it has added to the health and "dynamism" of their nation to imnprison outspoken pastors like Dr. Martin Niemoller and confine religion to a tepid personal piety.
Is it true? Are religion and morality so easily put asunder? [In U.S. presidential campaigns and political discussions, character and the office were recently separated, for the secular-humanist elites decided that a president could be good and effective in office regardless of his personal morals--a most faulty and dangerous error that was very convenient for getting a morally-flawed William Clinton, the known promiscuous adulterer and a liar under oath, into the highest office--Ed.].
In ancient times, and among many peoples, the connection between morality and religion was not close. Indeed, both morality and religion were largely governed by tribal custom [We see this today in Islamic societies, where tribal customs are still observed, no matter how barbaric, such as female circumcision and mutilation.], and the distinction we are seeking to draw hardly existed in the primitive mind. Even among peoples of some ancient culture, like the Babylonians, it can be shown that therre was no necessary connection between the two. The gods had certain rights which had to be safeguarded. By ritual and sacrifice, human respect was shown to the deity [gods which people did not necessarily love but actually feared and even secretly resented for their arbitrary powers and privileges over human beings], but, in ancient religion, the gods were thought of as being far more jealous for their own perogatives than they were concerned in the moral habits of nations, or of individual men. [The gods themselves were scandal-ridden, immoral beings, and could do as they pleased, regardless of morality, being super beings beyond any claims of moral restraint.] I think it has been shown conclusively that the Israelites were the first people to conceive how close the connection was, and they made sin serious the moment they saw that God was holy.
"Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts," said Isaiah. "The sacrifices of God," said David, "are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." "Burnt offerings will not placate God," said Micah. No! Not even thousands of rams or ten thousands of rivers of oil. "What doth the Lord require of lthee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"
Now, it is insight into spiritual truth like that that made the children of Israel the great people they undoubtedly were. They were not great fighters--the Philistines proved that. They were not great farmers--their inability to squeeze from the soil as much as the Canaanites explains the seductiveness of the Baalim [which were heathen fertility gods of the Canaanites, with orgies in the religious ceremonial centers drawing the Israelites in to commit the same immoralities as a sacrifice to these false gods in order to bring bumper crops and harvests.]. They were not great philosophers, as the book of Ecclesiastes [which impresses most readers as a philosophy of pessimism, without positive meaning for their lives] bears witness. But, despite their waywardness and folly, they had among them men of great spiritual insight, and these men saw that the holy God required a holy people. "Religion and morality," said the prophets, "belong together." Mere ceremonies are as nothing to Him. Men must adore Him by the devotion of clean hearts and ordered lives. And, in the midst of our human dilemma, which the passing ages revealed--our utter failure to reach a height that was utterrly necessary--God sent His only begotten Son, and grace was thrown like a bridge across the abyss, and the path to the highest was made possible by union with Christ.
So religion and morality were bound together in the will of God. The way tot he heights, not of mere respectability but of holiness, is only possible by Him. The witness of the New Testament and the claim of Christianity is this: that the higher reaches of morality are only to be achieved by true religion. Henceforth they are joined together and, what God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
But, it is just that the critic intrudes. "I can put them asunder," he says. "I can deny religionh, ignore the churches, and live like the best of you. It is absurd to say that religion and morality belong together, because progressive nations have been atheistic, and some of the best men we have known have not been religious men--Sir Samuel Romilly, Sir Leslie Stephen, Edward Clodd, and many others. There are thousands of men today who hagve nothing to do with religiojn and yet continue to live a high moral life,a nd to retain the respect of the whole community. Does that not prove that religion and morality can be divorced?"
Quite frankly, it does not. And I think we can show why.
Almost everybody alive owes an incalculable debt to Christianity, whether they embrace the faith themselves or not. For two thousand years the ethic of Christ has been percolating into the minds of the masses of people and, however far we may be from realizing His ideals, it is undeniable that His influence has been the most cleansing, ennobling,a nd civilizing force that this world has ever known. The chaos of the times is plainly due to the neglect of His teaching. Had His teaching concerning love been applied, we should not now be at war. Had His teaching concerning brotherhood been heeded, it is doubtful if any innocent and honest person would be hungry. Had His teaching concerning unselfishness been taken to heart, Europe today would not be a continent in arms [this was written in 1940, as Hitler's armies and air forces were poised to take the whole continent by storm and impose Nazi rule and tyranny].
But, even despite this neglect of His teaching, He has exerted such an influence on the world that it is probably no exaggeration to say that, without it, ordered existence wojuld have perished long ago in anarchy and strife. Everybody born into modern civilization owes Him, therefore, an unpayable debt. Though the origin of hospitals goes back to pre-Christian times, it cannot be questioned that Christianity gave an immense impetus to all work for the care and cure of the sick. Schools, orphanages, homes for the aged poor, have all come to birth by the power of His influence [in Confucius, animist, Taoist Chinese society, missionaries brought in orphanages, schools, hospitals, and Christian love lived, that the Chinese religion could not produce and had not produced for thousands of years. As soon as Communists seized control, these wonderful institutions, along with the churches, were mostly destroyed or turned into other uses, thereby impoverishing the society and ruining the progress it had made with them that had enable people to begin living in 19th and 20th century standards of civilization.]
The only holidays the poor had for centuries were begotten by Him, and are still enjoyed at the festivals of His Church: Christmas, Easter, and Whitsun require Christ to explain them. When serfdom held the world in thrall, and the poor had no class conciousness, they would have had no holidays at all but for His influence. Today we call them bank holidays [in Britain and Canada and Commonwealth countries], but bank holidays were not instituted until 1871. These holidays are Christian festivals, and are meaningless apart from Him.
The belated emancipation of women was not delayed by any word of Jesus: they were never inferior with Him [they are still regarded as inferior in Islam to men]. National hattred He condemned. Slavery proved incompatible with His t ealching. As His apostle said: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus."
If one were to sit down in a cool hour and try to extract in though from the world all the sweetness and love which Christ has put into it, onhe would be left with a very dark picture indeed [Yes, let us imagine a world today, without Christ! You would have no restrain of Christian principles, you have Putin, Chavez, Castro, North Korea and Iran, the corrupt and tyrannical Moslem regimes everywhere spreading their Sharia law and forcing it on people subjected to it, and the Communist Chinese and other communists, with the lawless militias and warlords and tyrants of southern Europe and Africa terrorizing the native populations of their countries with wars, rapine, and tribal genocide and "ethnic cleansing," and the terrorists of militant Islam raging unchecked as well, with the frightened hedonists in Europe bowing to their economic and political blackmail to pay huge, crushing bribes and and make ruinous concessions to Moslem expansionism in European societies].
Seeing that we are all made to some extent by our environment, no man alive 9unless it be some unevangelized Negro from the heart of Africa, or Eskimo from the fro9zen north, or remote Chinaman beyond the reach of the Gospel) can say that he has been utterly uninfluence by our Lord's message, or good without His aid. The vry ideals our critics boast aboutr were shaped by Him. The community which nourished and educated them is, in its best manifestation, the produce of that same holy power.
When we add to this all the secret interior ministries of His grace which work on, even in the hearts of those who deny Him--the counsel of conscience, the warnings against evil, the quickened longing for higher things--and then make a sum of the outside influence and the interior constraint, it is astonishing that men should deny the debt they manifestly owe. And though they ignore or deride Him, the secret services of His race continue still.
Is it not impertinent to put these questions to the boasters who declare their independence of Christ?>
"Who whispered in your ear when you trembled on the edge of sin, and saved you from utter shipwreck? Who pleaded the truth and made reply to every argument of sin? Who built the church you attended and made this land, with all its faults, a sweet land to grow up in? It was Christ--the Christ you affect to despise. All your life you have been indebted to Him, and in ways direct and indirect, you taste His bounty still."
And he was brough up under the most definite of Christian and Evangelical influence, in a home where Christ was put first, and the nobility and high moral quality of his character run back to that. Sir Leslie Stephen is often quoted to similar purpose [it appeared he didn't "need" Christianity to live like a true Christian, in other words]. He was once in Holy Orders [church ministry], and resigned when he became an agnostic. He was a good man without religionh. But his sister said of lthe home in which they grew up together, "To have been my father's child was like having been brought up in a cathedral." The foundations of his character were put in under the definite influence of Christ.
And so with Edward Clodd. Clodd was so much opposed to religion that H.G. Wells [the noted science fiction writer, historian, and skeptic of the 19th century and early 20th century] humorously suggested that he went to sleep at night with a large pistol on his pillow for fear of a revelation, and looked under his bed every evening to make sure that the Deity was not there. He was a good man without religion, but he illustrates the same truth yet againb. His parents were pious Baptists, and brought him up in their dearly loved faith. He came to deride their devotion,b ut the strength of his moral life was drawn from the very source at which he sneered.
No one admires the "self-made" plutocrat [the businessman of great success and wealth] who prefaces his boring accounts of how he succeeded by sahying, "I owe nothing to my parents." Nothing indeed! Flesh of their flesh, and bone of their bone! Who gave him a fit body and a keen mind, a will of iron, and nerves of steel? Who held him to a warm breast, and nurtured him at life's tenderest time?
And it is not dissimilar with those men who were trained in the faith of Christ, nourished in His word, and afterward boast that they can be good without His aid. Their moral stability, their desire for the best, the very frame of their character they owe to Him. Indubitably, their morality, their high ethical standards, are in debt to His religion.
And that is one of the things that has made the wide neglect of religion so serious [a chaplain from Canada who went to minister to trops in World War I in Europe, observed after World War II was fought and won against Germany once again, that faith had radically declined in the troops from one generation to another. 80 per cent or more troops, America and British, knew the Gospel, knew God, in World War I. In World War II, he found only about 50 per cent who were still holding to God and Christ. After that, it was no doubt 25 per cent in the Korean War, and perhaps even 10 per cent in the Vietnam War, if we follow the downward trend in faith he identified. He went as a missionary back to Canada, to the native Indians in the northern forests of Canada, with the Gospel, rather than try to save the urban generations in America and Canada that had abandoned God. Good thing that God did not give up on them, however. He calls them still to Himself!--Ed.].
It seems fantastic to some people to suggest that their personal neglect of spiritual values can have any effect on a nation's life. They doubt, as we have seen, whether it has any effect on their life, but the evidence is all against them. Morality cannot survive its divorce from religion for three generations [An excellent film was recently made,c alled "Time Changers," dealing with this same issue, showing a Christian educator of the 19th century transported to the 21st century to view how things had changed from his time, how good had been divorced from God and the results that now ruled in society in America, and he was totally shocked, since he had held the view that good could be promoted aside from the Word of God; this film is available at TBN's website, and it is a great family film too, but can spur a lot of spiritual discussion in church or Bible study groups too.--Ed.]
A man can ignore his parents' religion while utilizing their moral capital, but his own children and grandchildren will suffer an awful impoverishment. [Two families in New England were studied, one that was religious, with faith in God, the other was not. Their descendants were checked in each generation. The faith-holding family produced uncountable notable citizens, scientists, doctors, educators, public leaders, while the faith-less family degenerated year after year, producing criminals, prostitutes, drunkards, suicides, ruined lives of every kind, exactly what our faithless secular humanist culture is now producing!--Ed.].
Indeed, the bill sometimes comes in sooner than that. Arnold Bennett sneered at the Methodism in which he had been reared, but his respect for accepted moral values seems not to have survived its severance from religion. Sometimes these critics plead intellectual doubts, and say that they have difficulty with the divinity of Christ. It would seem that a number of them have difficulty also with the Ten Commandments. The common neglect of the faith, even in this land, since the Armistice of 1918 [which we have already confirmed by the chaplain's experience we related--Ed.], will take its toll. The tinseled license which has been advocated as "new morality" has made many insensitive to the touch of God, and the eagerness with which certain "advance" teachers have prated of "the rights of wrong" have been willing "to greet the obscene with a cheer" has dimmed the nation's spiritual vision.
Religion is more than a buttress to morality--but it IS that. Our faith is not exhausted as a regulator of conduct--but it IS a regulator of conduct. Without it, morality lacks achieveing dynamic. In days of peace the protestations of the prophet seem morbid and irrelevant, but in time of war even the unwilling are forced to concede the pertinence of what he said [and we shall see this played out as the Muslim terrorist continue their war against America's freedoms, Israel's very existence, and Christianity--Ed.].
And if this be true within the compass of an individual life, it is not less true in the life of nations. Stifle the religion of Christ, deny the pulpit liberty to apply the gospel to social and national questions [such as in today's Britain and America, our govenments' secular humanist move against "hate speech" and "hate crimes" and "extremists," muzzling the preaching about sin and against homosexuality and same-sex "marriage"--Ed.], kill or imprison her pastors [pastors in Canada are already being fined and sent to jail, and pastors in Sweden and Britain who preach against sin are also under government attack in the courts as well, but the worst is the torture and killing of pastors in China, Burma, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, Nepal, India, and other Asian and Middle East countries], and you have wounded the community in a vital place. If nothing is done to stanch the wound, the nation will bleed to death.
[NOW HERE ARE THE DREAD RESULTS OF DIVORCING OR SEPARATING GOOD FROM GOD, AND MORALITY FROM GOD AND HIS WORD!--Ed.]
The manner of its death can be traced. Freedom dies. Opportunism supplants principle. Truth yields place to propaganda. Oppression and bad faith become too common to excite surprise. The right of might becomes axiomatic and a nation belies its noblest past. Liberty of conscience is denied in the land of Luther (as it happened in Germany during both the Nazi and the Soviet tyrannies]. The austerity of the moral law becomes a jest where Kant expounded it [Germany]. Jews are persecuted in the country which gave birth to Henrich Heine, Jacob Mendelssohn, and Albert Einstein [Germany again! but it may as well apply to America too, for we shared the same culture and the achievements of those great men in literature, music, and science, are still greatly influential here, as we well know].
It is only a coincidence that most things preciious b egan to decay when Christian teaching was stifled, or is there evidence here that the moral strength and rectitude depend upon the plain proclamation of the Gospel? An old Book [the timeless Bible, the living and written Word of God] said it long ago: "Righteousness exalted a nation."