A number of years ago, an area newspaper published a survey wanting to know “what you think about sin.” The survey asked “which…do you consider sinful?” and listed such things as drinking alcohol, using tobacco, dancing, cursing, not going to church, being homosexual, etc. The paper also asked readers to rank the Ten Commandments in order of importance and the “seven deadly sins” in order of sinfulness, along with a question: “What is sin?”
As I read the “Sin Survey,” I wondered if some people would actually use the results of the survey as a guideline to determine their own conduct. That may appear farfetched, but people have been using that approach for years — emulating what they think the majority are doing. I also wondered what standard most people would use to measure sinfulness or to rank a sin’s severity. How many would consider the Bible their source and final authority?
Our society continues a steady departure from and indifference to the Biblical foundation of laws and morality. Nine Supreme Court Justices can decide five to four what is legally “right” and “wrong” without precedent or appeal to any higher authority and their ruling becomes the law of the land. Even church organizations are deciding “right” and “wrong” by majority vote rather than by the Word of God. This applies not only where Scripture does not give explicit direction, but even where the Bible speaks clearly, a majority can overrule. This is not new. Twenty years ago, a committee of a major denomination stated that “the historical distance between twentieth century Christians and first century Christians is too great for us ‘to borrow…their conclusions [meaning what is written in the Bible] about human sexuality’” (quoted in Christianity Today, 5/27/91, p.15).
This kind of thinking began much earlier than twenty years ago. Francis Schaeffer wrote in How Should We Then Live: “In the days of a more Christian culture, a lone individual with the Bible could judge and warn society, regardless of the majority vote, because there was an absolute by which to judge. There was an absolute for both morals and law. But to the extent that the Christian consensus is gone, this absolute is gone as a social force” [(Fleming H. Revell, 1976), p. 250]. When majority vote rather than appeal to the Bible as the authoritative Word of God determines morality and law, then it can become “right” to kill unwanted or defective babies, old people, the incurable, engage in any kind of sexual practice or do anything else the majority who are given the power, decide.
I said all the above to say that the drift of the church away from the Bible as the authoritative word of God has a negative impact on world evangelization. It is a basic reason that missionaries and mission agencies struggle to find the financial support to take the gospel to the world. Jesus spoke clearly about the responsibility He left for His Church to “make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:18-20), but many who claim the name of Christ disregard the authority of His word. Since the Word is not absolute, diversity, tolerance, inclusiveness and relativism lead “Christians” to reject the truth Jesus spoke in John 14:6: “‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.’” Why evangelize the world for Jesus if other religions have the way, the truth and the life? When people deny one truth of the Bible, the rest gradually erodes away in their minds.
Christians give other reasons for not making known the gospel message of the crucified, buried and resurrected Savior who paid the death penalty for the sins of the world. Let me then add another question to the “sin survey”: Not to be involved in making Jesus Christ’s disciples of all the nations – is that a sin?
H. Milton Wilder
Missionary Pastoral Care