An elderly lady exits from the store and takes a few uncertain steps along the sidewalk, handbag under her arm. Around the corner comes a rowdy young man. Rapidly he overtakes her, gives her a shove in passing so that she stumbles, and by the time she has regained her balance, the young specimen of masculinity has made it around the corner with her purse, which he surveys with a big leer on his face. The elderly lady remains on the sidewalk, completely bewildered. Money and papers are gone. Chance of recovery: next to none.
Events of this kind are becoming common occurrences in our streets these days. They are indications of an increase in the number of so-called non-professional crimes. Many are the variations on that theme. There are thievery, violence, vandalism, and robbery in several shapes and forms. Shopkeepers who used to display their wares in an open, accessible manner are connecting their merchandise with steel wire, so that fast moving thieves cannot quickly pick up their bounty as they pass by.
There have always been major and minor types of crime, and it would be wrong to sing the praise of “those good old days,” as if they were incomparable with today. People were just as sinful in the past. But evil does not always manifest itself with the same intensity. Statistics clearly indicate a dramatic increase in violent crimes in our days.
Sociologists, psychologists, criminologists, and all kinds of other “ists” have spent many a year examining these phenomena in search of the causes of this violent behavior. They have found reasons, real or imaginary. Researchers of liberal stock have preached, especially in the previous century, that crime is inherent in the lowest strata of society, among the people who have no knowledge, no awareness, no culture. Where knowledge lifts the fog of ignorance, there darkness, rudeness, and violence disappear. “Build schools and you can close the penitentiaries!” Also socialism, when it began to gain more and more ground, accepted this theory. One of the famous socialist battle songs in Holland went approximately like this:
All science and all knowledge light.
Be handed to our sweating workers!
That is the goal for which we fight.
Knowledge is power! The workers who authority of the ruling classes. Yet for the real deep-down socialist, ignorance was not the ground root of criminality. The basic cause for him was the injustice in the social structures, withholding that which was rightfully coming to the worker, a system that brought bitter misery to many thousands. Socialism would remedy this problem, and, along with that cure, criminality would also be cured like a disease and so become extinct.
Were the theoreticians who argued along these lines altogether wrong? Indeed, their theories did not tally. But in false theories like rationalism, liberalism, and socialism, there are always a few elements of truth which are placed like a horse before the bandwagon of the lie, in order to provide the necessary forward thrust.
If people do grow up in utter ignorance, learn nothing, have no capabilities, then there is a great chance that they will be attracted to crime in order to fulfill their desires in an easy way. The same holds true even more for those who are doomed to live in poverty.
It is a good thing that during the last hundred and fifty years so much has been done to bring education and improved living standards to all the people. What has been achieved is enormous. In comparison with the beginning of the nineteenth century, this time is a paradise for the ordinary man in the street. But criminality did not decrease. Instead, it greatly increased, particularly in the post-World-War-II period. Statistics, in this case, do not lie.
And so the search for the causes is on.
And here again, those who make a connection with increasing unemployment, which offers many young people nothing but the bleakest prospects, are not altogether wrong. Neither are they beside the point, who speak of the criminality of prosperity, of those who are used to getting everything they want when they want it, even if that leads to violence. There are many such secondary causes. But secondary they are.
In the Quicksand
If the solid ground on which a house is built changes into an unstable quicksand with the passing of time, the consequences will not be long in showing up. The house will begin to sag. Walls will crack and doors jam. A bad wind will rip open the roof. A strong jolt may make a wall collapse or a chimney topple. But the storm and the wind are not the real cause of the decay. That cause is in the ground, the basis.
The Western world once had the strong ground of the Christian faith and, corresponding with that, Christian morals and traditions. Surely, not all that glittered was gold. But the conviction was shared widely that there is a righteous God, that He has given His law – the ten commandments – to the people as a rule of conduct, that after this life there is a world to come. For centuries that has placed its stamp on the entire Western society, even though there were many outlaws and criminals. The transgressor knew whose law he was breaking. That is where our times have changed. Many millions no longer believe that a personal God exists. “God is dead” has become the comfortless anti-gospel of our time. Thereby the entire ground of our society has changed into quicksand. All strength, all stability, is lost.
If God does not exist, then the whole universe is empty. Then we are utterly alone in the world. Then, after a miserable existence of a few decades, we will go six feet under and leave no trace. No afterworld, no heaven; only darkness, the darkness of death.
There is no divine Lawgiver and thus, there is no divine law. Those ten commandments, the twin commandment of love for God and for the neighbor – they are all inventions of man and I need not be concerned about them. This, it is said, is the post-Christian era. Such a statement, of course, does not reflect reality. Christ has received all authority from the hands of His Father. Unto Him has been given all the power in heaven and on earth. And He will never hand over such power to the devil.
But in a different way the contention that this is the post-Christian era does hold true. There is indeed widespread apostasy, the public denial of God's existence, and a general abandoning of Christian traditions.
Too little do we envisage the consequences of this growing apostasy for the future. The understructure of our entire society is gradually changing into boggy quicksand. The house in which we live will begin to list; cracks will appear, decay will set in.
What is the cause of the alarming increase of the number of suicides? What causes the massive escape in drugs-and alcohol-induced highs? One can look for hundreds of “secondary causes” and probably find and define them, but THE cause is in the fact that the horizon has been slammed shut and that beyond the stars there is nothing and nobody – nothing but a frightening emptiness. Why, then, should one still be bothered by the law of a non-existing Lawgiver? Why be concerned with solid norms and established morality? Why not grab the opportunity when it presents itself? Why not everyone for himself? Why not seize the day? “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we shall die” is more applicable today than it ever was in ancient history.
Yet there still are moderating influences. Even complete heathens often do works of the law. There is some impact left of the old traditions of a Christian civilization which dominated Western society for so many years. And the voice of the Christian witness has not died out altogether. Thus the onslaught of apostasy is somewhat hampered in its progress. But the evil forces continue and they shall more and more come into the open.
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct. They were filled with all manner of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity, they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them but approve those who practise them.Romans 1:28-32
Choose for Life
The life of sin has great attractiveness. It beckons us and takes hold of our hearts. And we are not immune. In the night when Jesus was betrayed, all the disciples fled. After three years of instruction by the Savior Himself, those men, who were destined to become apostles, took off in a hurry when things got rough. Let us not fool ourselves into believing that Satan would have no chance with us. Who does not know them, the promising young people who started out with so much zeal in Reformed youth organizations or in student work groups, but who later were absorbed by the love of the world and ended up being indifferent or even hostile towards the Word of God? “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” What Satan offers us in order to tempt us and our children are apples of Sodom: outwardly they are colorful and shiny, but inside they are black, full of decay and bitter poison. The world which has liberated itself of all bonds and rules may seem to be so attractive a place to sojourn. But if you go in that direction, you turn your back on the light, and, if there is no return, outer darkness will be your end.
Therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying His voice and cleaving to Him.Deuteronomy 30:20