It is at this point that we see the emergence of situational ethics, which became an important foundation for future change. I remember, from when I was nine or ten years old, my own mother’s frustration with this new school of thought. She worked as a guidance counselor and teacher and was required to attend training sessions in situational ethics. The methodology was to provide students with extreme hypothetical situations to resolve. For instance, “If someone put a gun to your head and demanded that you do something immoral, would you do it if it saved the lives of five people?” Situational ethics undermined and clouded the issue of whether there is “a right” and “a wrong,” because it is a system based on relative moral rules that may be modified in the light of specific situations.
Although no one would deny the reality of difficult moral dilemmas in life when conflicting values are present in a situation, this approach effectively communicated that there was no moral absolute. Our public schools became a laboratory for teaching a form of reasoning and problem solving that would impact our culture more radically and pervasively than anyone could have ever imagined.
By the 1960s the philosophical trend that began early in the twentieth century with the intellectual elite had permeated our culture at every level. Ideas introduced into our seminaries in the ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s bore patient fruit, and by the time we entered the Vietnam War, existentialism had hit street level and the call to “do your own thing,” the blatant rejection of absolute truth, launched a revolution. Our society began to cast off moral restraint. Free love and free thinking were the order of the day. “If it feels good, do it!” became the rallying cry. This trend exploded in the ’70s, and by the time the ’80s arrived, it had spawned a generation of greed. The ’90s brought the “Me Generation.” “I’m going to do what works for me,” said the ’90s man or woman. “If it feels good to me and makes me happy, I’ll do it, because that’s what matters most.”
Fast-forward to today. Those kids from the ’60s and ’70s are now parents and grandparents who raised children with few to no moral absolutes in their lives and with little or no exposure to Biblical truth. The result? Children without a moral rudder who, in some extreme cases, commit violent criminal acts with no apparent sign of regret. What began with intellectuals arguing about the nature of truth, God, and right and wrong has now transformed the worldview of an entire generation. Our violent, narcissistic, noncommittal, “me first” culture is simply the logical and predictable expression of “truth” as a relative, subjective, unverifiable concept.
Chip Ingram, Culture Shock: A Biblical Response to Today’s Most Divisive Issues (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2014).
We have just released a new Bible Study based on the book: Culture Shock, by Chip Ingram
These lessons are available on Amazon, as well as a part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.
Culture Shock, Lesson #1
Whatever Happened to Right and Wrong
How Did We Get into This Mess?
Culture Shock, Lesson #2
Culture Shock, Lesson #3
Culture Shock, Lesson #4
Culture Shock, Lesson #5
Culture Shock, Lesson #6
Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking. Answers are provided in the form of quotes from respected authors such as John Piper, Max Lucado and Beth Moore.
These lessons will save you time as well as provide deep insights from some of the great writers and thinkers from today and generations past. I also include quotes from the same commentaries that your pastor uses in sermon preparation.
Ultimately, the goal is to create conversations that change lives.
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