We Teach Truth #6 – Sociology
This month’s focus is on the Christian worldview regarding sociology. What is meant by “sociology”? Sociology is defined as the study of social behavior. More specifically, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as “the science of society, social institutions, and social relationships; the systematic study of the development, structure, interaction, and collective behavior of organized groups of human beings.”
When one thinks about “organized groups of human beings,” three basic social institutions come to mind: the family, religious groups like the Christian Church, and the state or government. The Bible teaches a traditional family, church, and state, where the “structure and interaction” are determined by God. In other words, the family, specifically the father and mother, trains children in proper behavior according to God’s will. The Christian Church has the task of speaking God’s Law and Gospel, so people can see their sin and see their Savior. Finally, the state keeps order in a world populated with sinful people, so right acts are condoned and wrong acts are punished.
Let’s examine these three spheres of social relationships through the lens of Scripture. It makes sense that God would have a design for people’s interaction with each other, since His whole creation is intricately designed and interwoven as well.
In Genesis 1-2, God creates light, the land, the sky, and the sea, and then fills these areas with plants, animals, birds, and fish. God’s creation culminates in the appearance of Adam and Eve, instructing them to rule over the earth and subdue it. God’s creation is designed and interwoven, right from the start.
So God is a God of order (1 Corinthians 14:33), not just regarding creation, but regarding societal systems as well. God orders the family, specifically the father and mother, to train their children in the ways of the Lord.
This nurturing of children is seen in Ephesians 6:4. It says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Parents are also to teach their children, as stated in Deuteronomy 6:6-7—“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Furthermore, parents are to discipline their children. Proverbs 13:24 says, “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.” Finally, parents are to provide for their children, as 1 Timothy 5:8 states: “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” This verse may seem harsh, but it points back to the Cultural Commission God has for mankind: being fruitful, increasing in number, filling the earth, and subduing it (Genesis 1:28-29). If people cannot obey the basic command of having children and providing for their material needs, then how can they claim to be a Christian? Loving God and loving one another are the two greatest commands!
God’s order for societal institutions continues with His plan for the Church and the State. God’s Church is to speak God’s Law and Gospel over people. The Law shows people their sin and the Gospel shows people their Savior. Paul addresses these proclamations in Colossians 1:28. It reads, “We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.” On the other hand, the State’s job is not to proclaim the Gospel and to fulfill the Great Commission, making disciples of Jesus Christ. Rather it is developed by God to keep order, punishing evil and condoning good. Paul makes that clear in Romans 13:3-4. It says, “Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”
The same God who designed the whole creation designed societal institutions as well. Therefore, problems arise in society when we live in opposition to God’s design. Take the institution of marriage as just one example.
The US Census Bureau data shows that there has been a decline in marriage rates from 1960-2010. In the past fifty years, the marriage rate of whites has dropped from 68%-54%, and the marriage rates for blacks has dropped from 60%-33%. With the drop in marriage comes an increase in single parenting, and being a single mother is the biggest poverty indicator in the United States.
According to the US Census Bureau, the poverty rate goes up dramatically when you compare married and single parents of all groups. For example the poverty rate among married whites is 3%, but it rises to 22% for single parent whites. The same growth is seen among blacks; the poverty rate among married blacks is 12%, but it rises to 38% for single parent blacks.
With poverty come other social problems—drugs, violence, gangs, and poor education to name just a few. Even though not every poor family will experience all of these problems, the chances increase greatly when we abandon God’s design and do not get married when we have children. The best plan is to follow God’s plan.
Viewing this issue from another perspective, decades of sociological research show that heterosexual married couples benefit their children and society more than any other family structure. Take the latest research by the University of Texas. Dr. Mark Regnerus conducted a study of lesbian, gay, single, and traditional homes that was unprecedented in scope and depth. Among the findings were that heterosexual married couples’ families experienced greater family stability, less dependence on public assistance, a higher employment rate, lower mental health issues, and a lower rate of sexually transmitted diseases among family members than any other family structure.
God’s design allows us to thrive, flourish, and prosper when it comes to sociological structures like the family, church, and state. Seeing these institutions through a biblical lens is what we do in our 3 high schools. We Teach Truth regarding sociology.