What role does family play in changing the culture?  

Investing in the future by pouring into the next generation

June 7, 2022

American culture is in crisis. Anyone looking around can see it. Even within the church, divisions, vitriol, and malfeasance are common on any number of issues, including race, sexual abuse, and politics. The culture’s response to the Supreme Court’s recent draft opinion leak (and, one could argue, the leak itself) is just the latest example in a long line of examples. Pregnancy resource centers across the country have been vandalized. Abortion proponents have targeted Supreme Court justices with “general threats of violence,” even sharing their home addresses online. And the Supreme Court building itself, shielded behind “eight-foot fencing” encircling the building, is under lockdown, “a scene reminiscent of what Washington, D.C. looked like after the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.” The American moral conscience is in dire straits.

Recognizing that we’re at a crisis point, Christians might think it necessary to assume a frenetic pace in our efforts to change the culture around us—to legislate and advocate and strong-arm our way back to the ever-elusive “good ole’ days.” And certainly, we must be involved in legislation and advocacy efforts. But what if true culture change occurs in another way entirely? What if it begins not in the public square, but in our homes and churches?

The bulk of the effort to change the culture has often been focused “out there,” in the halls of power, to the exclusion of our most proximate jurisdiction—our homes and local congregations. Now, as the culture tips further in a direction that is opposite of a biblical worldview, the time is ripe for us to rethink our approach. 

The book of Judges and culture change

In the second chapter of Judges, readers encounter an ominous passage that can help inform our thinking here. The book’s author writes, “After them (Joshua’s generation) another generation rose up who did not know the Lord or the works he had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10, CSB). This new generation that arose descended swiftly into what the Bible describes as evil, as they abandoned the Lord, worshiped idols, and followed the gods of their neighbors. Their rejection of the Lord set the tone for a dark period in Israel’s history.

The only explanation we get for Israel’s descent into evil living is that the new generation “did not know the Lord;” they didn’t know “the works he had done for Israel;” and “they did not do as their fathers did” (v. 17). The previous generation “had walked in obedience to the Lord’s commands.” They set out on a campaign to claim the land God had promised them, and succeeded. How could this new generation not know the works the Lord had done for them?

Implied in this passage, it seems, is a failure of one generation to pass the faith down to the next, a task Moses said was integral to “the command” God had ordered him to teach the Israelites (Deut. 6:1). “Listen Israel,” Moses said, “These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children” (v. 6-7). I can’t help but wonder if Joshua’s generation was so focused on winning the “culture war” of their day (not to be reductive) that they neglected to repeat the words and commands of the Lord to their children. I wonder if they were so concerned with gaining ground “out there” that they were unwittingly ceding ground in their homes and in their hearts.

The family as the engine of culture change

As the culture “out there” slides down the slope of immorality, we might wonder how we’ll ever accomplish the change we’d like to see. Conventional wisdom says that change comes through elections and Supreme Court justice appointments. While these things are important, they suggest that culture change can be effected in the span of an election cycle. But what if culture change is actually a long game? And what if it occurs in the most upside-down way imaginable—by the simple, unremarkable, yet faithful act of passing the faith down to the next generation?

The most profound way of engaging and changing the culture is right under our noses. It consists of repeating the words of God diligently to the next generation, speaking them as we go about our day-to-day lives in the company of our loved ones (Deut. 6:7) and pleading with the Lord to apply them to our hearts. Here are two ways to prioritize the family in the long work of transforming culture.

  1. Raising and rearing physical children

I once heard an older friend—a woman who had raised a pair of now-grown children—say that, were she in the position to have children now, she’d refuse because “the world is just too dark.” While her intentions may have been driven by compassion, her thinking was nevertheless misguided. Even when the world is dark, as it is now (and as it has been for millennia), the act of raising and rearing children is an opportunity to pass the faith down to the next generation and send them out into the world as “arrows” of light (Ps. 127:4).

By passing the faith down to our children, we are actively and faithfully engaging the culture of tomorrow by engaging with our children today. 

  1. Raising and rearing spiritual children

For Christians, we recognize that the family is not only a physical reality, but even more fundamentally it is a spiritual reality. The people of God are the family of God—the adopted sons and daughters of our Father in heaven. 

As the family of God, the entire body has the responsibility of raising and rearing its physical and spiritual children. We, collectively, bring up our children “in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4); our older women train our younger women (Titus 2:4); our spiritual fathers instruct their spiritual sons (2 Tim. 1:2), along with a million other acts of faithful discipleship. We engage the culture “out there,” first, by passing the faith down to a new generation of Christ followers who are spiritual sons and daughters, raising and rearing them, teaching them to “follow the whole instruction the Lord has commanded” (Deut. 5:33).

A slow work, a long and hidden obedience

Culture change is not a task quickly accomplished. And it’s not achieved by wielding power, but by God’s grace as he transforms hearts with the gospel. It is a long and slow work that advances much like the kingdom of God: sprouting in unlikely places, growing a mustard seed at a time (Matt. 13:31.) And ground zero for the work of culture change, and its firstfruits, is the physical and spiritual family, the home and the church. 

But do we have the faith to prioritize the unseen territory of our homes and churches, even while the culture “out there” visibly runs amok? Do we have the patience and endurance to give ourselves to the task of raising physical and spiritual children “to know the Lord,” in the tedium of day-to-day life, while the moral conscience of the “out there” culture implodes? Do we have the humility to engage in unseen ways as an act of faith, praying that the next generation will arise and follow “the whole instruction of the Lord” (Deut. 4:33). If we never live to see the culture experience the fruit of our labor, will we still give ourselves to the task?

Cultural engagement belongs to the people of God. Only we have “the words of eternal life,” only we know the way to the person and shalom of God, which is through Christ. May we commit ourselves to the long work of culture change, and may we begin this work in our homes and local congregations.

Jordan Wootten

Jordan Wootten serves as a News and Culture Channel Editor at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and a writer/editor at RightNow Media. He's a board member at The LoveX2 Project, an organization seeking to make the world a better place for moms and babies. Jordan is a graduate of … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24