Merely prescribing character does not create it. Scripture tells us that the human personality is depraved and therefore tends not to do the right thing even when we know what that is. Human beings need more than information—the development and mobilization of human capital also requires motivation.
We see the evidence of the human bent toward depravity all around us. Think of Lord Acton’s famous observation: Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” In other words, give people the power to do whatever they want to do, to display what is in their hearts, and they use that power for selfish ends. Therefore, people must be both educated and motivated to develop their human capital.
The best football coaches, those developing the highest levels of football capital, are not only great teachers but great motivators.
The previous post described the vast success that a biblical culture brings by providing people with the best information for developing their human capital. However, not only does the Bible enhance human capital through providing information, but it also provides motivation to follow those instructions.
It does so by promising success and happiness to those who comply with its teachings. Correspondingly, it warns that ignoring its instructions will mess up our lives. For example, Proverbs teaches that hard work results in success and laziness in failure.
In addition, at least back in the old days (before the sixties), people not only believed that obedience and disobedience produce their own consequences (natural consequences), but that they also prompt respectively blessing and chastening from God (judicial consequences). God blesses the righteous and chastens the unrighteous.
The Bible also speaks of eternal consequences. Again, in former days, even though churches proclaimed salvation by grace through faith, they also taught, and people believed, that a connection existed between faith and works, and consequently that living an unrighteous life suggested a spurious faith that left one’s eternal destination in serious doubt. Scripture also describes hell in sufficiently vivid terms that people were motivated to avoid it. Jonathan Edwards’ sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” ushered in the First Great Awakening. Likewise, the prospect of heaven provided a great positive motivator.
This perspective, that moral living made life better and elicited God’s blessing and immorality led to ruin and judgment, infiltrated our culture so that, as noted in an earlier post, even those not formally involved in Christianity were brought under the influence of these views. This conscience-enhancing message was part of the warp and woof of the American cultural fabric until the sixties, providing motivation for Americans to work on their own character and that of children, students, parishioners, and society in general.
The resulting elevation of character enhanced the human capital of Americans, which resulted in many blessings including economic ones. We might add that this also resulted in God’s blessing on our nation.
So we see that a biblical culture is superior because it elevates human capital not only through great information but also through serious motivation. In other words, Christianity includes both of the components essential to the optimal culture.
The love culture of the sixties exhibited many problems, but one of the most serious was its lack of motivation toward a selfless love. One can be motivated to sexual love for selfish reasons, but genuinely caring about others is a different story. The absence of a reason to selflessly love others has left America devoid of the motivational dimension that Christianity had supplied.
At the core of the Christian message is the truth that the Holy Spirit provides the ultimate source of motivation and development of human capital. However, the Bible in calling the church to be salt and light indicates that it can create a culture that will motivate society as a whole, even those who are not believers, toward a higher standard.
Well, then, why has the church in American not prevented our society from descending into a post-Christian abyss? I plan to address that issue in the next post.