Spiritual Lawlessness and Consequences to Society

The influence of Christianity on western culture appears to be waning significantly in recent decades (Inglehart 2020; McLeod, 2008). For example, values are increasingly influenced by popular culture, characterized by an evolving ethos of greed, fear, selfishness, and spiritual rebellion. It is perhaps notable that even technology itself appears to exacerbate the spread of this rebellion (Flanagan, Howe, and Nissenbaum, 2008).
The thesis of this paper is that when spiritual lawlessness achieves overwhelming dominance in human culture, this disintegration is not confined to religious beliefs and practice. In fact, we concurrently expect chaos and injustice to disrupt and permeate every aspect of human endeavor: law, economics, business, government, education, science, family, and every institution. The effects of escalating immorality prompted by spiritual lawlessness are felt throughout society.
The downward spiral Paul attributes to spiritual lawlessness is catalogued vividly in Romans 1:18-32 (Cranfield, 1975; Jewett, 2007) and elsewhere in Scripture (e.g., Judg 17:6; 21:25; 2 Tim 3:1-5; 2 Pet 3:3-4). Referencing Rom 1:18-32 and other passages, I examine the definition of spiritual lawlessness as well as its source and progression. Next, I discuss in some detail various manifestations of spiritual lawlessness and the evidence of cultural deterioration (Barna, 2022; Brown, 2001; McLeod, 2008). I conclude by summarizing the character of a culture dominated by spiritual lawlessness as well as biblical instruction for identifying and rooting out lawlessness.
Spiritual lawlessness makes its first appearance in the Garden of Eden in human hearts that chose rebellion rather than obedience. Eve’s rebellion was incited by capitulating to disbelief in the word of God. Adam’s rebellion took the form of deliberate disobedience to God’s expressed commandment (Cooper, 2018).
For those with discernment, lawlessness should be easy to identify as it follows a typical pattern:
o Suppression of truth and natural law/revelation (Rom 1:18).

o Refusal to acknowledge God’s right to rule (Rom 1:21).

o Inability to recognize intellectual flaws in one’s reasoning (Rom 1:21-22).

o Elevation of the created to the rightful place of the Creator (Rom 1:23, 25)

o Preference for and selection of lawless acts as a way of life (Rom 1:25).

o Suffering throughout society brought about systematic and pervasive lawless choices (Rom 1:26-32).
A pervasive hallmark of lawlessness is the absence of the fear of God. As Albert N. Martin (2015) explains, there are 150 to 175 explicit references to the fear of God in the Old Testament. These are often coupled with promises for human flourishing contingent upon acknowledgement of God’s authority and right-to-govern either explicitly mentioned or implied in the context (e.g., Deut 6:2; 1 Sam 12:14; Psa 67:7; Jer 5:20-25). Often attributed to St. Basil the Great is the observation, “The world that forgets God, brothers and sisters, is ruled by injustice toward neighbors and inhumanity toward the weak.” As lawlessness exerts more and more influence in a culture, the blessings of God are withdrawn and the need for repentance grows.

1 thought on “Spiritual Lawlessness and Consequences to Society”

  1. Lawlessness and its Consequences
    A worthy cultural analysis via Romans 1. The proposal is too long and needs a bit more precision, but there are possibilities here for a good paper.


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