The Destruction of a Nation
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:1-7).
The recently elected president and both political parties have focused attention on the need to improve education. [Comment refers to the election of 2000.] Though they all recognize the danger of the lack of knowledge, few are aware that God warned that lack of specific knowledge brought destruction to Israel. Even fewer recognize the same pattern in our land. No serious reader of the Bible can escape the striking similarity between the decline and destruction of the Hebrew nation and present direction of the American nation.
When Israel entered the Promised Land they had experienced enough tyranny. It was the king who “knew not Joseph” nor Joseph’s God who brought the oppression and slavery that made them willing to embark on, what seemed to the natural mind, an unreasonable journey. They had only the promise of God and the leadership of God’s spokesman. As long as Israel followed the law of God they needed no king. They had no central government. The unit of government was the family and the local community.
But when they forgot God and His blessings and “every man did that which was right in his own eyes,” they wanted a king in order to be like other nations. God permitted that arrangement, and as long as those kings walked with God they enjoyed the blessings of God. But soon, being like other nations was more than having a king. That likeness to other nations soon brought in pagan gods, a culture contrary to the Word of God, and gross immorality. The failure of their leaders to follow God brought the suffering of high taxation, loss of freedom, tyranny, enslavement by their own government, drought, foreign domination, and eventual invasion and destruction.
Early settlers of the United States came because they wanted freedom to worship, to own land, to escape the bondage of an oppressive financial system, to live under the laws of God, to escape military domination. As long as they honored God, they needed no dominating central government. They enjoyed the blessing of God as no other since Israel under David and Solomon. The governmental units were the family and the local community. When this nation turned from honoring God and His morality, it started down the road that leads to destruction.
The Lack of Knowledge of God
People Lack Knowledge of God’s Identity
Contemporary Americans have the same problem as the Pharaoh of the Exodus. “Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice? . . . I know not the LORD. . . .” (Ex.5:2). They want a religion that does not identify one God but recognizes a multiplicity of gods.
Representatives of 125 world religions assembled in Chicago for the 1993 Parliament of World Religions. An eyewitness described the scene: “A liberal Presbyterian professor in his long black robe; a Buddhist priest in his orange one; a Catholic cardinal in his royal purple splendor; the high priestess of the goddess Isis in her white robe and pointed headdress—all stood together in celebration of their spiritual unity” (Peter R. Jones, “Gospel Truth–Pagan Lies,” www.spirit-wars.com, 1999).
Many environmental activists abandon recognition of the Most High and promote the worship of nature, the environment, and mother earth. They follow those of the past “who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator” (Rom 1:25).
One wonders, “When Americans see ‘In God We Trust’ on our money, to which ‘god’ do they think it refers?” When George Barna reports, “Atheists are a thing of the past. Ninety-seven per cent of Americans believe in God,” one questions, “Which God?” (This and subsequent references to George Barna are excerpted from Barna Reports Online, Barna Research Group.)
People Lack Knowledge of God’s Nature
Under the guise of charismatic Christianity, the God of the Bible has been redefined and reduced to the god (gods) of Eastern mysticism. Hindu and Buddhist concepts dominate popular thinking even though their proponents deny and are often unaware of their source. Their ideas often influence Bible believers.
The “Faith Theology” movement reduces God to the level of man and exalts man to the level of a god. Kenneth Copeland, the media star of the movement, presents a finite God of human proportions. According to Copeland, God is someone “very much like you and me.” He gives him a height of 6’2” or 6’3”, a weight of about 200 pounds, and a hand span of nine inches (Kenneth Copeland, “Spirit, Soul and Body I” [tape], side 1).
People Lack Knowledge of God’s Character
Of the 97 percent of Americans who believe in God, according to Barna, “ninety percent of these believe God loves them.” Today’s popular view of God limits Him to that one aspect of His character. God’s holiness, righteous demands, and judgment are unknown in much of post-modern religion. Spurgeon noted a similar phenomenon over a century ago as a “downgrade” of religion swept England:
By some means or other, first the ministers, and then the Churches, got on “the down grade,” and in some cases, the descent was rapid, and in all, very disastrous. . . . [Ministers] commonly became less earnest and less simple in their preaching . . . and dwelt more on the moral teachings of the New Testament, than on the great central truths of revelation. Natural theology frequently took the place which the great truths of the gospel ought to have held, and the sermons became more and more Christ’s [love]. Corresponding results in the character and life, first of the preachers and then of the people, were only too plainly apparent (C. H. Spurgeon. “Downgrade,” Sword and Trowel, March 1887).
The Lack of Knowledge of God’s Word
Barna’s research also found that “Americans are very opinionated on matters of faith. . . . [Eighty-five percent] consider their religious faith very important to their life, and generally feel strongly about their religious beliefs.”
Yet these and other surveys demonstrate a marked ignorance of the Bible of which people are unaware.
Overall, 60% of all adults agree that “the Bible is totally accurate in all that it teaches.” Yet, people’s knowledge of the content actually taught in the Bible leaves much to be desired. . . . One of the most startling findings was that only 3 of the 1002 adults interviewed— less than three-tenths of one percent—had both a firm and biblically consistent opinion for all 14 of the items [surveyed]. . . . In one recent survey we found that almost nine out of ten adults believe they know all of the basic teachings of Christianity very well. But when you explore what they think the Bible actually teaches, as we did in this study, many theological inconsistencies and inaccuracies emerge. Unfortunately, correcting people’s mistaken assumptions about Bible content is made nearly impossible by their self-assurance about their beliefs. Even if they are exposed to good Bible teaching they typically fail to absorb that input because they think they already know it all. Changing the errant theological positions of millions of Americans is a very tough assignment.
Public ignorance of and opposition to Bible knowledge is illustrated by letters to editors similar to this one:
Should public schools teach the Bible? Good heavens, no! . . .biblical history is simply not up to today’s standard for historiography: How many teachers would be able to handle the cruelties; bad treatment of women; mass killings allegedly ordered, committed, or approved by God; discrepancies and contradictions in the Scriptures; and the vulgarity, sex, and preposterous passages in the Bible? Bible study is best left to preachers and Sunday school teachers who are already experts in sanitizing it (The Atlanta Journal Constitution, Saturday, March 11, 2000).
Such ignorance of the Bible’s true teaching led two German lawyers to write German Family Minister Christine Bergmann asking her to officially classify the Bible as dangerous for children because of its violent content. The Holy Book contains passages of “a gruesomeness difficult to exceed” which are glorified as the will of God, Bavarian lawyers Christian Sailer and Gert-Joachim Hetzel said in their submission to the minister on behalf of “some parents of minors.” It preaches genocide, racism, enmity towards Jews, gruesome executions for adulterers and homosexuals, the murder of one’s own children and many other perversities. The book should therefore be kept on the “not for children” list so long as the “bloodthirsty and human rights-violating passages” were not removed (Independent Online, www.iol.co.za/html/frame_news.php, August 1, 2000).
As long as people remain ignorant of the Bible’s actual teaching, public attitudes toward God’s Word will be shaped by such ideas. This lack of knowledge can only lead to destruction.
Lack of Knowledge of God’s Worship
Contemporary professing Christians have forgotten, or never learned, what constitutes true worship. An emphasis on worshipping “in spirit” frequently ignores the second requirement, “in truth” (John 4:23, 24). “In spirit” has been redefined as an emotional experience. A giant sign along Interstate 85 north of Spartanburg, South Carolina, urges, “Come Experience Jesus.” Another along Interstate 20 east of Conyers, Georgia, advertises “The Church in the Now.”
Many churches no longer call their music directors Ministers of Music but Ministers of Worship. Seminaries have changed the designation of church music to “worship.” Praise is viewed as participation in exuberant, emotional, physically expressive music. Prayer, Bible reading, Bible exposition, and proclamation of the gospel are relegated to a minor role in the service. Church auditoriums become “worship centers,” and church buildings become Christian enters or fellowship centers. Contemporary “worship” often minimizes preaching of the Word.
Lack of Knowledge of God’s Will
Barna observed, “With all this spirituality, one would expect social harmony and moral excellence. Strangely, the very opposite is the case! . . . A lot of people attend church services, but relatively few have a deep commitment to their church, to personal ministry and to spiritual maturity. People hear a lot of religious teaching and buy millions of religious books, but there is as much theological confusion as understanding.”
“Spiritual” America has become a world leader in pornography, juvenile crime, abortion, divorce, cohabitation, adultery, family breakdown, radical feminism, and militant homosexuality. In contrast to the contemporary lifestyle, God, in passages such as Galatians 1:4, Ephesians 6:6, and 1 Thessalonians 4:3, sets forth His will for moral cleanliness. If so many people believe in God, why do we see such social and personal disintegration?
At the time of original publication, Dr. Randolph Shaylor pastored Antioch Baptist Church in Riverdale, Georgia.
(Originally published in FrontLine • March/April 2001. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)