A Tragic Exchange

Randy Shaylor

“Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil. . . .” (Isaiah 5:20)

Only by living the life of a hermit can one escape the fact that Americans have abandoned truth as a standard of life and as a spiritual and philosophical ideal. Whether it is called disingenuousness, prevarication, or spin, the lie dominates public life. Advertisers make any statement about a product that they believe will sell. Politicians alter and misrepresent facts. They construct any tale that they think the public will accept. Religious leaders not only rise to the defense of purveyors of falsehood, but are often guilty of the same offense.

How different this is from the ideals of those who founded this nation. Some of the “founding fathers” were genuine believers. Samuel Adams was a devout Christian: “First of all, I . . . rely upon the merits of Jesus Christ for a pardon of all my sins” (Federalist Digest). The Last Will and Testament of Patrick Henry read: “This is all the inheritance I give to my dear family. The religion of Christ will give them one which will make them rich indeed.”

Even those who did not share this personal faith held Bible-based principles of moral conduct.

It is a great importance to set a resolution, not to be shaken, never to tell an untruth. There is no vice so mean, so pitiful, so contemptible and he who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual, he tells lies without attending to it, and truths without the world’s believing him. This falsehood of the tongue leads to that of the heart, and in time depraves all its good dispositions (Thomas Jefferson, Federalist Digest).

Truth as a moral absolute is found only in the Word of God. This absolute is possible only by the working of “the God of truth” in the spirit of the man.

No term is more familiar and none more difficult of definition. … Truth in man is in response to truth in God, and is to be acquired on the basis of a gift from God. This gift comes by way of teaching and also by way of the working of the Divine Spirit in the life of man. … As related to God in origin and obligation, man is bound morally to see and respond to all the demands of his relations to God and to the order in which he lives under God. … Truth is not merely in utterance, nor is it only response to a specific command or word, but lies in the response of the will and life to the essential obligations of one’s being (William Owen Carver, International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Electronic. Biblesoft, 1996).

Truth Renounced

If the world of Washington, Jefferson, and Hamilton seems to us somehow both more liberal and more strict than our own, and our own world seems strangely disordered and violent compared to theirs, I think it is because we have slowly allowed moral relativism to dominate every aspect of our thought and speech (Representative Dick Armey).

In the summer of 1967, I took a course at the University of Georgia called Techniques of Educational Research. In the opening session the professor began by asking the question, “What is research?” A number of students gave definitions, none of which met the criteria of this professor, who was the author of the textbook used in this class and in many similar classes in other educational institutions. Having had similar courses in seminary and at another secular university, I forgot the adage, “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” I tried to formulate an acceptable definition. It went something like this: Research is an examination of the theories and evidence related to a particular problem with the goal of determining the facts and arriving at the truth of a matter. The professor abruptly turned to the chalkboard and in large letters wrote the word “truth.” For the next two hours he led the class in a discussion ridiculing the idea that there can be any objective truth.

Such was the attitude of college educators 30 years ago and I am convinced has been for much of this century. The idea that there is no objective truth was instilled in elementary and secondary teachers who passed it along to the population at large.

The denial of objective truth is a dangerous thing. The abandonment of truth prompted a leading New Evangelical to write,

Who would have expected that some of the most secularized cities, such as Los Angeles and Amsterdam, would have become hosts to a growing array of bizarre cults, many of which reek of primitive superstition? Who would have thought that after two awful world wars and subsequent conflicts, Western thought would still be indulging in the myth of inevitable progress with a devotion that makes most believers look like pikers? When we believe in nothing, we open the doors to believing anything (David F. Wells, No Place for Truth, or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology. Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1993, p. 9, emphasis added).

Truth Replaced

There can be no moral or spiritual vacuum. Truth abandoned will be replaced by “untruth.” The epistle to the Romans (1:20 ff.) reminds us that there are severe consequences to abandonment of God’s revelation. Men change “the truth of God into a lie.” The result in society is “vile affections” and that which is “against nature.”

One can find no greater evidence that truth has been replaced than metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia. Drive its streets. Peruse the church section of the Yellow Pages. The invasion of false religion and paganism is readily apparent: three Hindu temples (one of which rivals the splendor of some in Asia); a Krishna Consciousness Society; three Buddhist centers and at least one temple occupying a former Baptist church; a Baha’i Faith center in a former Baptist church; three Metropolitan Community (homosexual) Churches; an Eckankar Center; numerous cults; Islamic centers and mosques too numerous to catalog; and a Unification (“Moonie”) Church. Television outlets air primarily “prosperity gospel” churches with at least three claiming more than 20,000 members and worshipping in buildings seating more than 5000. Wicca covens meet in several sections of the city. On any weekend, at several intersections traffic will be interrupted by solicitors with buckets begging funds for their anonymous “mission organization” (cult).

Atlanta is a religious city, but its religion is no longer Biblical religion. The devastating effect can be seen in its crime statistics. It leads the nation in crimes of violence. Rarely can one turn on the news broadcast without learning of another shooting. In the spring and summer of 1999, national attention focused on school shootings and random killings. Its “gay rights” parade and its concessions to the homosexual movement rival San Francisco’s.

Atlanta is not an isolated example. Similar evidence of the paganization of America exists all across the country. The United States Army has now officially recognized witchcraft as a religion and has appointed “chaplains” to oversee the pagan ceremonies at five bases. A Pentagon spokesman said that at least 100 witches form a Wicca coven at Fort Hood in Texas. Roger Scruton unequivocally states, “That which the Pilgrim fathers found most horrendous—witchcraft—is the latest, and one of the most successful, among the pagan cults now colonizing America” (“Bibles and Broomsticks: The Rise of Neo-paganism,” National Review, September 27, 1999).

“The descent to hell is easy,” observed C. S. Lewis, “and those who begin by worshipping power soon worship evil.” The ultimate enemy of truth is Satanic, not flesh-and-blood (Eph. 6:12), so it follows that the ultimate goal of renouncing and replacing truth is more sinister than mere ideological dominance. “[O]ur enemies have made it an object, to eradicate from the minds of the people in general a sense of true religion and virtue, in hopes thereby the more easily to carry their point of enslaving them” (Samuel Adams, Federalist Digest).

Truth Recovered

“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove [expose] them” (Eph. 5:11). William Cullen Bryant stated, “Truth, crushed to earth, shall rise again.” This is true only when there is a return to the source of truth. The observations of Roger Scruton deserve our attention.

America was founded by Christian Puritans, who had a deep aversion to idolatry, popery, and magic. The hardships and dangers of their predicament made them cling to their religion as the one thing that justified the perilous pilgrimage to the New World. And from time to time they would tremble before the thought that paganism lay not only around them, but within, where it was all the more dangerous because hidden from view. …

Constant immigration has diversified the religious inheritance of the United States. Nevertheless the country remained until recently predominantly Christian, with a continuing aversion to pagan cults and superstitions, and a trust in the Bible as the common inheritance of the Judeo-Christian faiths. Indeed the United States has been held together more effectively by its Bible culture than by its Constitution: for the Bible has shaped the language, the morality, and the aspirations of ordinary Americans and provided them with a common frame of reference. …

[W]itchcraft has a singular appeal to modern Americans, increasing numbers of whom are brought up without any knowledge of a sacred text and without the language and the concepts of the Judeo-Christian tradition. The idea that religion might be a matter of obedience and example strikes them as weird; the idea that it is a matter of the self and its empowerment connects immediately with the surrounding secular culture. …

For the moment the Wiccans speak only of peace and love and finding oneself. But without a doctrine or a text to protect them, they may soon find themselves opening the door to the Devil. Those old Puritans were wrong about many things; but they were not entirely wrong about witchcraft (“Bibles and Broomsticks, The Rise of Neo-paganism,” pp. 44, 45).

America has made a tragic exchange, abandoning truth to follow the lie. As never before conditions in America cry out for the absolute, objective truth found only in the Living Word of God, Jesus Christ, and the written Word of God, the Holy Bible.

At the time of original publication, Dr. Randolph Shaylor was the pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Riverdale, Georgia, and is a co-author of the book, From the Mind of God to the Mind of Man: A Layman’s Guide to How We Got Our Bible (Ambassador- Emerald International, 1999).

(Originally published in FrontLine • November/December 1999. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)