Published July 11, 2017

Paul's Epistle
"Vestal's Observation"

Perhaps thirty years ago, I was interviewing the late Vestal Goodman about some of the Happy Goodman Family's then-current songs. Vestal was talking about the timely nature of one of the songs in particular, illustrating the greater-than-ever need to spread the truth of the Gospel to today's generation. To that end, right in the middle of recording the interview, she looked at me and said, "This country's going to hell in a handbasket!"

I admit I was a bit surprised at the time at her unexpected use of that quaint old expression, especially during a radio interview. And Vestal's son, Rick, who was in the room, looked over and said, "You said that on the radio!?"  (I don't think I ever actually used that comment from the recorded interview on the air because it could be misconstrued — or at least distracting.)

It did, though, clearly and in a very characteristically blunt way express Vestal's frustration with the anti-Christian things she was seeing in society even back then. And anyone with any spiritual sensitivity can testify that it's much worse today.

Evidence of that comes in a recent study from LifeWay research which found that 81 percent of those Americans who were recently polled agreed with this statement: "I am concerned about declining moral behavior in our nation." 85 percent of self-identified Christians expressed their concern about declining moral behavior in today's society.

If there's so much agreement, why can't something be done? Well, laws legislating morality are often cited as the solution. But nearly two-thirds of the poll's respondents said such laws are not actually effective in encouraging people to act morally. On the other hand, 51 percent (including 72 percent with evangelical beliefs) believe too many laws about moral standards have already been removed from the books. So, apparently, neither more laws nor fewer laws would be the solution, according to those polled.

Why this moral decline?

The LifeWay study found that a big part of the problem is a generational shift away from absolutes. More than six in 10 of those older than 45 say "right" and "wrong" do not change. But for those 35 and younger, fewer than four in 10 made that claim. Ideas of morality, researchers say, are no longer stable.

LifeWay's executive director, Scott McConnell, put it this way: "We are shifting very fast from a world where right and wrong didn't change to a world where right and wrong are relative." That explains a lot of what we see going on in society today, doesn't it?

Now, the good news.

The good news is that for the true Christian, "truth" is not — and cannot be — relative. Jesus clearly called Himself "the truth" in John 14:6. And we know that Jesus "is the same yesterday, today and forever" (Heb. 13:8). So if Christ is – and embodies – the truth and He never changes, then it logically follows that the truth never changes.

In a society that's constantly wanting us to change our thoughts and opinions away from traditional Biblical values, it's vitally important that each of us is firmly rooted in God's word and His truth. It's the only way we can resist and stand up to the sin-driven foolishness and nonsense we see happening all around us in today's society. And that's exactly what we must do.

- Paul

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