Sociology involves the study of human social behavior. It is particularly focused on studying the origins, organization, institutions, and development of human society. It concentrates on humanity’s primary social institutions.
As with all of the other topics related to the structure of belief, each worldview has its own approach to dealing with the topic of sociology based on the assumptions that it holds. Sociology is not a subject that can be objectively studied independent of presuppositions. Every study of human social behavior begins with a framework which shapes what will be explored and how it will be evaluated. As such, the results of each study will be influenced by the presuppositions. If those assumptions are flawed, the understanding resulting from the study will be flawed. Thus, it is critical for us to grasp the truth about reality so that our presuppositions will be correct and our understanding of society will make sense.
Naturalistic sociology is founded on the worldview assumption that there is no such thing as a supernatural reality. Thus, mankind does not exist for a transcendent purpose. According to the Naturalistic worldview, mankind evolved from mindless matter. Based on this foundation, they believe that when human beings came into existence, the forces of evolution caused the human animal to develop socially as a means of ensuring its survival. Since there is no other purpose for man or society, there is no prescription about how society ought to be formed. It can become whatever the group decides is good for its situation. This relativistic mindset tends toward accepting non-traditional families as legitimate societal groupings and treats other social institutions as merely functional elements which have as their only purpose to promote the survival of the human species.
And just what is that understanding? The Bible teaches that mankind exists in a fallen condition. And since individual human beings are fallen and tend toward sin and rebellion against God, society (the various collections of individuals in local areas) is also understood to be naturally flawed.
At the same time, the Bible puts forth the idea that there is an ideal that society should be striving for. That ideal corresponds with God’s purpose for his created order. In other words, God created man to operate within a social order for the purpose of accomplishing his work through humanity.
But human beings don’t live strictly as individuals in the world. We were created to be social creatures and live in relationship. The fact that we are individually accountable to God for our lives does not in any respect take away from the responsibilities we have as we interact in society. Thus, the Christian understanding of sociology starts with an acknowledgment of the effects of the fall in the individual, then develops its understanding of society based on how this spills out into the structure and operation of social groupings. It acknowledges that human beings have an inclination toward evil which, by extension, causes society to tend toward degradation rather than toward good.
But the fact of the existence of sin and man’s tendency to sin is not decisive. Since man has a free will, he also has a corresponding responsibility before God to choose to live rightly. Again, by extension, human beings also have a responsibility collectively to build and guide society in a way which corresponds to God’s will. There is also responsibility for societal degradation when it happens.
Mankind is guilty before God for bad choices. As a result, Christian sociology tries to understand society in light of our free will and the consequences of our choices of rebellion against God. These wrong choices result in alienation from God and bad results in the social order. In other words, in the Christian worldview, society is not seen to be an entity in and of itself to be managed because of its inherent value. Rather, it is a collection of individuals who have value and it takes various forms based on the free will decisions and acts of the individuals which make it up.
That grace is not based on the inherent value of society, but on that of the individuals whom God created for the very purpose of fellowship with himself. The Bible pictures individual human beings to be inherently valuable because we were created in the image of God. The value comes because of who we are based on God’s intent in creating us. He created us as beings who are able to contribute positively to society by making right choices. As such, we have within us the ability to move ourselves and our society against the tide of sin and evil and accomplish a higher purpose that he created us for. The fact that we rebel against God is a terrible thing and must be dealt with based on justice in God’s economy. That being said, it does not take away from the inherent worth of the individual based on God’s purpose in creating mankind.
Humans were intentionally created by God to be relational beings. It is a part of having been created in his image. However, because of our fallen nature, we continually mess this up individually which affects the development of society. It is important for each person to recognize this social aspect of our personhood and work to operate within society in ways which accomplish the purposes of God. In order to do this, it is required that we understand our nature as individuals who have been created in the image of God but who are fallen. Then, based on that knowledge, to make decisions about how we live life so as to accomplish within society the purposes of God.
The family has been ordained by God and is the most foundational institution in society. It exists based on the union of a man and woman who become married and are committed to one another for life. It is this unit of society which determines the health of a society at its most fundamental level. Lifestyles which are accepted by a society but operate outside of this boundary end up degrading and destroying it.
God has also ordained the church as a foundational institution in society. The church is called on to proclaim the truth about God and share with mankind how he can be known. This is the institution which is primarily focused on understanding the fallen nature of mankind and on giving man guidance regarding how to move toward God rather than away from him.
The third institution specifically ordained by God is the state. The state is specifically tasked with the duty of maintaining order in society. In God’s economy, anarchy is not an option. In order for human beings to be able to function effectively in the world, there must be order in society. It is this order which provides an environment in which God can work through human beings to accomplish the work of his kingdom in the world.
© 2010 Freddy Davis