sermon: Conditioned Response
Are We Conditioning Ourselves to Sin?
Martin G. Collins
Given 17-Feb-01; Sermon #488; 68 minutes
There is a greater causal connection between exposure to media violence and commiting acts of violence than between cigarette smoking and lung cancer. Are we inadvertently conditioning ourselves to sin? The defilement which begins in the heart is shaped, molded, and conditioned by the media, training people to override their natural impulses of conscience, desensitizing themselves to violence, feeling no compunction to brutally maim and kill. Once our hearts are rendered cold and brittle through the saturation of sin, it will take intense, fiery trials to make them malleable again. It is wiser to avoid the evil conditioning in the first place than to force God to put us through these trials to decondition or deprogram us from this cumulative hardness.
Violence in our society today is a mental sickness of epidemic proportions. Listen to these statistics. In a Canadian town, in which TV was first introduced in 1973, a 160% increase in aggression, hitting, shoving, and biting was documented in first- and second-grade students after exposure—but no change in behavior by children in two control communities without TV. So there was a definite relationship to the TV, and there is no doubt there.
Another statistic: Fifteen years after the introduction of TV, homicides, rapes, and assaults doubled in the United States (according to the American Medical Association). 20% of suburban high schoolers endorse shooting someone who has stolen something from you. And, in the United States, approximately two million teenagers carry knives, guns, clubs, or razors; and as many as 135,000 take them to school. American spends over $100 million on toy guns every year.
So I have a couple of questions for you today. Are we conditioning ourselves to sin? Are we actually programming our minds to do wickedly? You may be surprised at how often you and I allow ourselves to be conditioned in this way. In Mark 7:1-13, Jesus was speaking directly to the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. And then, beginning in verse 14, He called the crowd around Him, because He wanted them to hear the crux of His teaching about what defiles a man.
Mark 7:14-23 When He [Jesus] had called all the multitude to Himself, He said to them, "Hear Me, everyone of you, and understand. There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. If any man has ears to hear, let him hear!" When He had entered into a house away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him concerning the parable. So He said to them, "Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart, but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?" And He said, "What comes out of a man, defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man."
Jesus Christ clearly states what does and what does not cause a person to be "defiled," or "unclean." What is external cannot defile a person. Food, for example, cannot do this. And, spiritually speaking, not even if it is eaten with unwashed hands—or declared "unclean" by the clean and unclean health laws of Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14—can it spiritually defile a person. What really makes a person "unclean" comes from within—out of the heart and the will of the individual. What we think, what we say, what we desire, and what we do—that defiles us.
Now, after leaving the crowd, Jesus entered a house and was teaching the disciples privately. Although His disciples had already spent a considerable time with Jesus and belonged to the "inner circle" of His concern, they are slow to understanding the meaning of His teaching. Jesus was surprised by their lack of understanding, because to Him it was such a basic principle to understand. That is, that what comes out of us comes out of the heart—that which is actually a part of us and has been internalized by us. That is what can defile us.
The reason nothing entering a person from the outside defiles him is because it enters into the stomach—not the heart. The "heart" represents the mind and the essence of an individual. In the Semitic expression that is used in the Bible, "the heart" is the center of human personality that determines man's actions or inaction. So we see that it is not just some physical entity that is going in, but it is on a spiritual level of what comes out of us. Along this same vein, we read:
Isaiah 29:13 Therefore the Lord said: "Inasmuch as these people draw near Me with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men."
The partial list of "the works of the flesh" that we read in Mark 7:21-22 seems to move from overt sins to sinful attitudes or dispositions. There seems to be a definite trend there. Evil thoughts stand first in that list, which indicates that what follows arises from evil thoughts. If it is wrong to do a certain thing, it is wrong to harbor thoughts of that same thing in your mind.
Herbert Armstrong used to tell of a booklet on the newsstands in Hollywood. This booklet was written in a satirical vein, and it was titled "How to Sin in Hollywood." Some of you may remember him talking about that. The book gave a definition of sin, which was not far from the truth. It went like this: "Sin is thinking thoughts you ought not to be thinking about things you ought not to be doing while you are thinking that kind of thoughts." So even sinful Hollywood understood that.
God's definition of sin is, of course, that "sin is the transgression of the law." That law is the law of love as defined by the Ten Commandments—the guidelines about how we are to treat one another and how we are to respect God. God says that all have sinned [Romans 3:23]. But what human being—especially what "Christian"—is there who has not, time and again, experienced the struggle against sin as described by the apostle Paul?
Romans 7:15-17 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that do I. [Is that not a summary of our human life?] If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.
And that sin that dwells in us is something that we can condition ourselves to have within us. We will see more about that later.
Romans 7:18-19 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. [The struggle continues.] For the good that I will to do, I do not do, but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.
So, the evil that Paul did not want to do, at times his human reasoning and his human nature tended to do. And so he struggled the same way that we do.
Romans 7:20-25 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no more I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of this death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.
So the struggle will be continuous during our entire human lives. We have to fight it. And, no matter how "converted" we become, we are still going to have the battle there to fight. Who is there who has not lost that struggle, and perhaps many times? Of course, no man—of himself—can live above sin. Jesus said, "With men it is impossible, but with God all things are possible." This is the onlyway that we are able to overcome those tendencies of human nature.
In Romans 8, Paul shows that the only deliverance from this "body of death" is through Jesus Christ and the indwelling of the power of God's Holy Spirit. "That [verse 4] the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.[and the last part of verse 14] These are the sons of God." Nevertheless, we have our part to do in it; and it all centers in the mind. We have to have that resistance. We also have to make sure that we are not unknowingly, or even knowingly, conditioning our minds to sin.
According to Webster's Dictionary, conditioning means "adapting, modifying, or molding so as to conform to an environing culture." It is modifying so that an act or response, previously associated with one stimulus, becomes associated with another. And we are conditioned to sin by this society, through the media.
In an article entitled "Trained to Kill," Lt. Col. David Grossman (a military expert on the psychology of killing) explains how today's media conditions kids to kill. The article was published in the August 10, 1998 issue of Christianity Today. So throughout this sermon, I will be taking excerpts from this article, because what he had to say from an expert military standpoint is just eye opening. That is, the parallels that there are between the military conditioning of individuals and the conditioning of our children and us as well.
Let us look at the magnitude of the problem. Lt. Col. Grossman writes:
The per capita murder rate doubled in this country between 1957 (when the FBI started keeping track of the data) and 1992. A fuller picture of the problem, however, is indicated by the rate people are attempting to kill one another—this is called the aggravated assault rate. That rate in America has gone from around 60 per 100,000 in 1957 to over 440 per 100,000 by the middle of the 1990s. As bad as that is, it would be much worse were it not for two major factors.
I found these factors to be very eye opening. The first one is the increase in the imprisonment rate of violent offenders. The prison population in American nearly quadrupled between 1975 and 1992, according to criminologist John J. Dilulio. He said, "Dozens of credible empirical analyses. . . leave not doubt that the increased use of prisons averted millions of serious crimes." So you see how that affects the statistics that we see. If it were not for our tremendous imprisonment rate (which is the highest of any industrialized nation), the aggravated assault rate and the murder rate would undoubtedly be even higher.
The second factor that is keeping the murder rate from being any worse is medical technology. According to the U.S. Army Medical Service Corps, a wound that would have killed 9 out of 10 soldiers in Word War II, 9 out of 10 soldiers could have survived in Vietnam. So you see "the flip" there. That is how much the medical technology has increased. Thus, by a very conservative estimate, if we had 1940-level medical technology today, the murder rate would be ten times higher than it is.
The magnitude of the problem has been held down by the development of sophisticated lifesaving skills and techniques. Some of those are CPR, 911 operators, paramedics, trauma centers, advanced medicines, and that type of thing. So we can see how those have effected the actual murder rate in this world, because they have saved so many people. That is, not as many people are dying.
In Ezekiel 7, he prophesies that this devastation from violence will get so bad that, in some areas, no one will survive. This prophecy warns that judgment on Israel and Judah is near, because of their pride and their violence. And we certainly have a national society today, which is part of a worldwide society, that is a society of violence.
Ezekiel 7:10-11 'Behold the day! Behold, it has come! Doom has gone out; the rod has blossomed, pride has budded. Violence has risen up into a rod of wickedness. . .'
That phrase "has risen up into a rod of wickedness" also includes that violence has not just continued to increase, but it has become brutal and it has become demonic in its methods. All you have to do to see violence in its worse sense, so to speak, is to watch (even for a second, or a commercial for) these World Federation Wrestling matches—things that they call "entertainment" on TV, and you will see the brutality in the mentality of those individuals.
Ezekiel 7:11-12 '. . . none of them shall remain, none of their multitude, none of them: nor shall there be wailing for them. The time has come, the day draws near. Let not the buyer rejoice, nor the seller mourn, for wrath is on all their whole multitude.'
Ezekiel 7:23-25 'Make a chain, for the land is filled with crimes of blood, and the city is full of violence. Therefore I will bring the worst of the Gentiles, and they will possess their houses; I will the pomp of the strong to cease, and their holy places shall be defiled. Destruction comes; they will seek peace, but there shall be none.'
This is a prophecy that is going to happen to Israel, partly because of the amount of violence that is in Israel.
Ezekiel 7:26-27 'Disaster will come upon disaster, and rumor will be upon rumor. Then will they seek a vision of a prophet; but the law will perish from the priest, and counsel from the elders. The king will mourn, the prince will be clothed with desolation, and the hands of the common people will tremble. I will do to them according to their way [the punishment is directly for the violence in the land], and according to what they deserve I will judge them; then they shall know that I am the Lord.'"
Violence was a result of Judah and Israel's sins of idolatry, and pride, and many other abominations—which resulted in her destruction. Prophetically, we will see that again in the near future with the Israelitish nations of this world. We see this destruction coming, as the world becomes more violent. Not only the Israelitish nations are suffering from this, but also the Gentiles especially.
In Canada, according to their Center for Justice, per capita assaults increased almost fivefold between 1964 and 1993. Attempted murder increased nearly sevenfold, and murders doubled. Similar trends can be seen in other countries, in the per capita violent crimes reported to Interpol between 1977 and 1993. So this trend is not only a trend within Israelitish nations, but also in the world in general.
There are many factors involved, and none should be discounted—for example, the prevalence of weapons in our society. But violence is rising in many nations with draconian gun laws. So banning guns is not going to solve the problem, because the sin is coming from within the hearts of the individuals. And though we should never downplay child abuse, poverty, or racism—there is only one new major variable present in each of these countries, bearing the exact same fruit. Media violence presented as "entertainment" for children is the single factor that the experts have been able to pinpoint as being the major change in society. And, as the result of that, all other sins have become more perverted and more prominent.
Killing is unnatural, even though sin (in general) is common among human beings. According to Lt. Col. Grossman, whom I quoted earlier:
Before retiring from the military, I spent almost a quarter of a century as an army infantry officer and a psychologist, learning and studying how to enable people to kill. Believe me, we are very good at it. But it does not come naturally; you have to be taught to kill. And just as the army is conditioning people to kill, we are indiscriminately doing the same thing to our children, but without the safeguards.
I might add here that this conditioning to kill through the media is not only conditioning the children; but it is also conditioning the adults who watch it as well. The children learn it from abuse and violence in the home; and most pervasively, both adults and children learn it from violence as "entertainment" in television, the movies, and interactive video games. Even the violence that is shown in the news has become "entertainment"—as well as more gruesome and more vivid.
Ezekiel 8 makes it very clear that Judah had filled the land with violence—partly as a result of idolatry and spiritual adultery. Killing and violence are not the normal state, according to God's standards; but it is a common state for the wicked.
Ezekiel 8:12-14 Then said He to me, "Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the room of his idols? For they say, 'The LORD does not see us; the LORD has forsaken the land." And He said also to me, "Turn again, and you will see greater abominations that they are doing." So He brought me to the door of the north gate of the LORD's house; and to my dismay, women were sitting weeping for Tammuz.
Today that "weeping for Tammuz" is seen in the Lent season. Lent is a time of weeping; and that weeping that is going on, in our present society, is for the same god—Tammuz.
Ezekiel 8:15-16 Then said He to me, "Have though seen this, O son of man? Turn again, you will see greater abominations than these." So He brought me into the inner court of the LORD's house; and there, at the door of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men with their backs toward the temple of the LORD and their faces toward the east, and they were worshiping the sun toward the east.
So these men had their backs so that they were shunning the temple of God; and they were turning toward the east, to worship the sun—much the same as is done in our present society on Easter Sunday morning.
Ezekiel 8:17 And He said to me, "Have you seen this, O son of man? Is it a trivial thing to the house of Judah that they commit the abominations which they commit here? For they have filled the land with violence. . .
So apparently there is a connection between the disobedience of God's laws and keeping His holy days, and keeping pagan holiday—there is an aspect of that which leads to violence.
Ezekiel 8:17-18 . . . then they have returned to provoke Me to anger. Indeed they put the branch to their nose [or, they are defiant to God]. Therefore I also will act with fury. My eye will not spare nor will I have pity; and though they cry in My ears with a loud voice, I will not hear them."
So a violent and pagan nation, such as Israel becomes, will not be listened to by God; but it will have to suffer the consequences of the violence. And the consequences will be violence in return. Verses 17-18 summarize this chapter of perverse idolatry by declaring that this wickedness of Judah's leaders had allowed violence to fill the land. And all this had repeatedly provoked God. So the indication here is that idolatry causes violence, and that it defies God with enmity.
Generally speaking, killing requires training—because there is a built-in aversion to killing one's own kind. According to Lt. Col. Grossman:
Vasoconstriction, the narrowing of the blood vessels, has literally closed down the forebrain. Physiologically, when those neurons close down, the midbrain takes over and your reflexes are almost indistinguishable from your dog's.
What that means is your immediate reaction, without thought—when the midbrain closes down. It is just a reflexive action—similar to what your dog has been programmed to do.
If you have worked with animals, you have some understanding of the realm of midbrain responses. Within the midbrain there is a powerful, God-given resistance to killing your own kind. It comes inherently with the spirit in man. Every species, with a few exceptions, has a hardwired resistance to killing its own kind in territorial and mating battles. When animals with antlers and horns fight one another, they "head butt" in a harmless fashion.
Quoting again from Lt. Col. Grossman:
But when they fight any other species, they go to the side to gut and gore. Piranhas will turn their fangs on anything, but they fight one another with flicks of the tail. Rattlesnakes will bite anything, but they wrestle one another. Almost every species has this hardwired resistance to killing its own kind. When we human beings are overwhelmed with anger and fear, we slam head-on into that midbrain resistance that generally prevents us from killing.
What happens is that we resort to what we have been conditioned to do—whether that be violence in return, or whether that be good in return. Only sociopaths—who by definition do not have that resistance—lack this innate violence immune system. Most probably those sociopaths are demon-possessed. For them to brutally murder, as they do, is not the natural act of a man—even a wicked man.
So why are children killing other children? According to the April 6, 1998 issue of "Time Magazine"—"Few researchers bother any longer to dispute that bloodshed on TV and in the movies has an effect on kids who witness it." It is obvious to everyone in society now that that is a fact. There are always those who want to pervert others. We all know that. Time and time again, especially being in God's church, there is always someone trying to pervert us or cause us to sin. Proverbs 16 cautions:
Proverbs 16:29 A violent man entices his neighbor, and leads him into the way that is not good.
So we are warned, and properly so.
Military history shows that killing is unnatural for the average human being. Even carnal individuals can see the difference. In modern times, the average firing rate was incredibly low in Civil War battles. The killing potential of the average Civil War regiment was anywhere from 500-1,000 men per minute. What a horrible thing to have to realize as the potential. But the actual killing rate was "only" one or two men per minute per regiment. At the Battle of Gettysburg, of the 27,000 muskets picked up from the dead and dying after the battle, 90% were loaded.
This is an anomaly, because it took 95% of their time to load the muskets and only 5% to fire. But even more amazing, of the thousands of loaded muskets, over half had multiple loads in the barrel—one with 23 loads in the barrel. In reality, the average man would load his musket and bring it to his shoulder, but he could not bring himself to kill another individual—even "the enemy." He would be brave. He would stand shoulder to shoulder with those he was fighting with, as he was trained to do. But, at the moment of truth, he could not bring himself to pull the trigger. And so he lowered the weapon and loaded it again. And of those who did fire, only a tiny percentage fired to hit—because the vast majority admitted they were shooting over the enemy's head. They could not bring themselves to kill.
During World War II, U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Marshall had a team of researchers study what soldiers did in battle. For the first time in history, they asked individual soldiers what they did in battle. They discovered that only 15-20% of the individual riflemen could bring themselves to fire at an exposed enemy soldier. This is the reality of the battlefield. Only a small percentage of soldiers are able and willing to participate. Men are willing to die. They are willing to sacrifice themselves for their nation. But they are not willing to kill, for the most part. At least, that was the case in World War II (but, as we are going to see, that changed).
It is a phenomenal insight into human nature; but, when the military became aware of that, they systematically went about the process of trying to fix the "problem." From the military perspective, a 15% firing rate among riflemen is like a 15% literacy rate among librarians; and they could not handle that. And so the military did "fix it." By the Korean War, around 55% of the soldiers were willing to fire to kill. (So we can see the increase in just a few years—from World War II to the Korean War.) And by Vietnam, the rate rose to over 90%. So the military did the job it set out to do—to desensitize people.
The professional killers in the military came up with a solution and a method; and interestingly enough, that method is the same one we are using on our children today. The calculated general method in this madness of killing is desensitization. How the military increases the military rate of soldiers in combat is instructive, because our culture today is using exactly, in every way, the same methods to condition the populace—children first and then the adults. Of course, eventually the children become adults.
The four training methods that the militaries use are (1) brutalization, (2) classical conditioning, (3) operant conditioning, and (4) role modeling. As in the military context, these same factors are contributing to the phenomenal increase of violence in our culture—because it is so prominent in the media.
The first method of desensitization that the military uses is brutalization. Just from the term, you already know what that means. Brutalization is what happens when you enter boot camp. It happens immediately. From the moment you step off the bus, you are physically and verbally abused: perhaps countless pushups, endless hours at attention or running with heavy loads, while carefully trained professionals take turns screaming at you. Your head is shaved, and you are herded together, naked or dressed alike—losing all individuality. So what they do is that they first reduce you to the level of a beast, as much as they can. There is no good fruit that comes from this type of treatment of others, of course.
Proverbs 30:33 For as the churning of milk produces butter, and the wringing of the nose produces blood, so the forcing of wrath produces strife.
In the military, it brings forth wrath in the boot camp and in the conditioning of the soldiers. We are being conditioned by the media today, and our children, with their innocent and open minds, are ready to accept that without the understanding of what is right or wrong, in many cases.
The brutalization is designed to break down your existing mores and norms, and to cause you to accept a new set of values that embrace destruction, violence, and death as a way of life. In the end, the military man is desensitized to violence, and accepts it as a normal and essential survival skill in his brutal new world. He is programmed to think that it is the only way that he will survive. But this is a direct disregard for God's instruction in Proverbs 15.
Proverbs 15:1 A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
So everything having to do with the military and their methods is anti-God. It is anti-Christ. And something very similar to this desensitization towards violence is happening to our children—through violence in the media. But instead of 18-year-olds (who are children still), it begins at the age of 18 months—when a child is first able to discern what is happening on television. They can see that something is happening, but they cannot quite understand what it is (at that age).
At that age, a child can watch something happening on television and mimic that action. But it is not until children are 6-7 years old that the part of the brain kicks in that lets them understand where information comes from. Even though young children have some understanding of what it means to pretend, they are developmentally unable to distinguish clearly between fantasy and reality.
When young children see somebody shot, stabbed, raped, brutalized, degraded, or murdered on TV—to them it is as though it were actually happening. To have a child of 3, 4, or 5 watch a "splatter" movie—learning to relate to a character for the first 90 minutes, and then in the last 30 minutes watch helplessly as that new "friend" is hunted and brutally murdered—is the moral and psychological equivalent of introducing your child to a friend, letting him play with that friend, and then butchering that friend in front of your child's eyes. It is that serious! And this happens to our children hundreds upon hundreds of times. Sure, they are told: "Hey, look. It's just for fun. It isn't real. It's just TV." (Or, whatever.) And they nod their little heads and say, "Okay." But they cannot tell the difference, at those ages—even though we think they understand.
On June 10, 1992, the Journal of the American Medical Association published the definitive epidemiological study on the impact of TV violence. The research demonstrated what happened in numerous nations after television made its appearance, as compared to nations and regions without TV. The two nations, or regions, being compared are demographically and ethnically identical. Only one variable is different—the presence of television. This is very eye opening.
In every nation, region, or city with television, there is an immediate explosion of violence on the playground, and within 15 years there is a doubling of the murder rate.
That was in every case, in every area. So, why 15 years? That is how long it takes for the brutalization of a 3-5 year old to reach the "prime crime age." That is how long it takes for you to reap what you have sown when you brutalize and desensitize a 3-year-old. Today, the data linking violence in the media to violence in society are superior to those linking cancer and tobacco. There is more proof that violence on television affects children in a very bad and derogatory way than there is that cancer and tobacco are linked. But what do we hear about? We hear about the cancer and tobacco. Yet hundreds of sound, scientific studies demonstrate the social impact of brutalization by the media.
The Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that:
The introduction of television in the 1950s caused a subsequent doubling of the homicide rate, i.e., long-term childhood exposure to television is a causal factor behind approximately one half of the homicides committed in the United States, or approximately 10,000 homicides annually. . . . If, hypothetically, television technology had never been developed, there would today be 10,000 fewer homicides each year in the United States, 70,000 fewer rapes, and 700,000 fewer injurious assaults.
That is pretty definitive. I would like to add here that I am using the examples of violence to drive the point home; but it also applies to immorality and the other abominations that we see in the media. And the constant, repetitive, watching and taking in of these things will and is having its effect on adults—and especially children.
Before we go into classical and operant conditioning, I want to show you how human beings are conditioned by enmity directed against God. Sin never consists merely in a voluntary act of transgression. Every corruption proceeds from something that is more deeply seated than the corruption itself. A sinful act is the expression of a sinful heart. Remember that we saw earlier where Paul told us what defiles a man is what comes out of him spiritually—in his actions. Two verses from Proverbs advise and warn:
Proverbs 4:23 Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.
Proverbs 23:7 For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. Eat and drink, he says to you, but his heart is not with you.
So we see the center, and the crux, of where it comes out of us—in the mind, and the heart, and the will. Sin must always include, therefore, the perversity of the heart, mind, disposition, and will. This was true in the case of the first sin, and it applies to all sin down through the ages. In Romans 5:19, Paul states that "by one man's disobedience [sin] many were made sinners." As individual physical human beings, we do not exist apart from the sin of Adam. In Psalm 51:5, the psalmist wrote, "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me."
This enmity against God is common to the human mind, and it has been since Adam was created. The frequency of this corruption is explicit throughout Scripture. And it is very clear that the antagonism in the mind toward God is not gotten rid of without the help of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 8:5-7 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.
In verse 5, Paul refers to "the mind of the flesh." And "the flesh" when used ethically, as here, means human nature directed and governed by sin. Further, according to verse 7, the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God. The thinking of the natural man is conditioned and governed by enmity directed against God and His way of life. Although this hostility against God is man's natural attitude, the conditioning received in a wicked society helps to make sinful actions "second nature." It means that corruption becomes the controlling part of the heart, or the mind—hardening it like steel.
So as we allow our minds to be conditioned by the media, or by the sins of society. . . It does not have to be through the media. It can be just from being around sinful people, and we become used to the sins. Then our hearts become hardened like steel. But this corruption is not equal in all. There are multiple restraining factors. God does not give over all men to uncleanness, to a base mind, and to improper conduct.
Romans 1:24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their own bodies among themselves.
Romans 1:28-32 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but approve of those who practice them.
Unconverted people are still endowed with a conscience, and the work of the law is written upon their hearts so that, in measure and at all points, they fulfill its requirement. It is deeply written in their hearts to have a conscience, and it takes conditioning to get rid of that conscience.
Romans 2:14-15 For when the Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them.
These works that the unconverted do by nature, though formally in accord with what God commands, are not good and well-pleasing to God—because the works are not being done from a motive of love for God and neighbor. So, although they receive inherent blessings from unknowingly doing the law of God, the law is not a directing principle and a controlling purpose in their lives; and it is not done for the glory of God. But the conscience is there.
Deep down, human beings know that it is wrong to kill, as we saw earlier. So, although they receive inherent blessings from unknowingly doing God's law, the law is not a directing principle or controlling purpose in their lives and never will be—unless they have God's Holy Spirit to help them change that.
I Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
Human beings are conditioned by enmity directed toward God. Some of those try to teach it to others. The teachers, spoken of in Titus 1, stand condemned by the test of character as well as their conduct.
Titus 1:15 To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure. . .
This is talking directly about those in the media who promote and try to get us to change our ways to being perverted.
Titus 1:15-16 . . . but even their mind and conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, and disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.
Who are "the teachers" of violence and immorality behind media entertainment? The writers, the producers, the directors, and the actors, and the executives who approve the subject matter that is presented. Take one look at the personal lives of these individuals, and you will find some of the most perverted, insane, and degenerate people on earth. By their fruits you will certainly know them. All you have to do is pick up one of the magazines just once—whether it be the Parade magazine in the major Sunday newspapers, or those tabloids that you see in the lines at the grocery store. You can easily see the decadence in their lives and the perversion in which they live. And these are the individuals who are "educating" our children, and they are educating us. They are conditioning us—if we allow it.
The second method of desensitization, which the military uses, is classical conditioning. Classical conditioning is like the famous case of Pavlov's dogs, which we learned about in Psychology 101. The dogs learned to associate the ringing of the bell with food—and once conditioned, when the bell was rung, the dogs were unable to stop salivating. They would salivate even without the food really being there, because they were conditioned.
According to Lt. Col. Grossman:
The Japanese were masters at using classical conditioning with their soldiers. Early in World War II, Chinese prisoners were placed in a ditch on their knees, with their hands bound behind them. And one by one, a selected few Japanese soldiers would go into the ditch and bayonet 'their' prisoner to death. [What a horrific way to kill another human being! I mean, close up like that.] Up on the bank, countless other young soldiers would cheer them on in their violence.
Comparatively few soldiers actually killed in these situations; but by making the others watch and cheer, the Japanese were able to use these kinds of atrocities to classically condition a very large audience to associate pleasure with human death and suffering.
Immediately afterwards, the soldiers who had been spectators were treated to sake, the best meal they had had in months, and to so-called 'comfort girls.' The result? They learned to associate committing violent acts with pleasure. The Japanese found these kinds of techniques to be extraordinarily effective at quickly enabling very large numbers of soldiers to commit atrocities in the years to come [in World War II].
So, as you know, the Japanese were known in World War II for being very cruel. There was the 'death march' that they had. In concentration camps, they were cruel to prisoners—because they had been conditioned to be that way. And Grossman continues:
Operant conditioning [which is the next one we will talk about] teaches you to kill, but classical conditioning is a subtle but powerful mechanism that teaches you to like it. This technique is so morally reprehensible that there are very few examples of it in modern U.S. military training; but there are some clear-cut examples of it being done by the media on our own children.
Children in this society are classically conditioned. Our children watch vivid pictures of human suffering and death, and they learn to associate it with their favorite soft drink, with popcorn and candy, or with their girlfriend's perfume. So, as they sit there and they watch the violence, it is all "pleasant" for them—because it is presented as entertainment.
A disturbing reaction happens all the time in movie theaters. That is, when there is blood—violence—many people laugh. You have probably seen this yourself, when you have attended the movies. All of a sudden, as you are sitting there, there is a violent action in which an evil person or an enemy in the movie gets killed—and all of a sudden the audience yells out and cheers. "Yeah!" They are happy, or they laugh. That is the conditioning. It is automatic. They have seen it so many times, and it is such a pleasant thing to them now, that they are conditioned to do that. The repeated media violence, by itself, does not kill you. However, it destroys your violence immune system, and conditions you to derive pleasure from violence.
Now, the third method of desensitization, which the military uses, is operant conditioning. This is a very powerful procedure of stimulus-response. You give the stimulus, and you get the response. You give the stimulus, and you get the response—time after time after time, until it is second nature.
A benign example is the use of flight simulators to train airline pilots. An airline pilot, in training, sits in front of a flight simulator for endless hours. When a particular warning light comes on, he has to react in a certain way. He is taught to do this over and over again. Then, when another warning light goes on, a different reaction is required. Eventually, it becomes second nature to him.
Stimulus-response, stimulus-response—over and over again, until one day the pilot is actually flying a jumbo jet. The plane is going down, and 300 people are screaming behind him. He is wetting his seat cushion, and he is scared out of his wits; but he does the right thing. Why? You know the answer—because he has been conditioned to respond reflexively to this particular crisis. So although everyone is panicking, including him—his conditioning allows him to react correctly and save lives.
Similarly, in school fire drills, children learn to file out of the school in an orderly fashion. One day, there is a real fire, and they are all frightened out of their wits. But they all do exactly the right thing, because they have been conditioned to do that if there is a fire.
Again, according to Lt. Col. Grossman:
The military and law enforcement community have made killing a conditioned response. This has substantially raised the firing rate on the modern battlefield. Whereas infantry training in World War II used bull's-eye targets, now soldiers learn to fire at realistic, man-shaped silhouettes that pop into their field of view. [They are made as realistic as possible.] That is the stimulus.
The trainees have only a split-second to engage the target. The conditioned response is to shoot the target, and then it drops. Stimulus-response, stimulus-response—over and over again. [They just continue to do the same thing, until it becomes second nature.] Soldiers, or police officers, experience hundreds of repetitions. Later, when soldiers are on the battlefield or a police officer is walking a beat, and somebody pops up with a gun—they shoot reflexively and they shoot to kill [because that is what they are trained to do.]
We know that 75-80% of the shooting on the modern battlefield is the result of this kind of stimulus-response training. Now, if you are a little troubled by that, how much more should we be troubled by the fact that every time a child plays an interactive point-and-shoot video game, he is learning the exact same conditioned reflex and motor skills?
Lt. Col. Grossman related a firsthand experience with a child who had been conditioned with the stimulus-response method of conditioning. It is a very sad case. He said:
I was an expert witness in a murder case in South Carolina, offering mitigation for a kid who was facing the death penalty. I tried to explain to the jury that interactive video games had conditioned him to shoot a gun to kill. He had spent hundreds of dollars on video games—learning to point and shoot, point and shoot. One day, he and his buddy decided it would be fun to rob the local convenience store. They walked in, and he pointed a snub-nosed .38 pistol at the clerk's head. The clerk turned to look at him, and the defendant shot reflexively [without even thinking about it] from about six feet. The bullet hit the clerk right between the eyes—which is a pretty remarkable shot with that weapon at that range—and killed this father of two.
Afterward, we asked the boy what happened and why he did it. It clearly was not part of the plan to kill the guy. It was being videotaped from six different directions. [So, there was no doubt in anyone's mind watching it that it was a reflex.] You never, never put your quarter in that video machine with the intention of not shooting. There is always some stimulus that sets you off.
And these children are walking around—having been conditioned to shoot to kill; and they do not realize it themselves. So, if they think that somebody is threatening them, or is going to shoot them, or is going to harm them, and they have a gun, they are going to do what the police officers do. They are going to do what the military does, and they are going to pull out the gun and shoot without thinking. So the situation has gotten very serious in our society. And this method of desensitization is called operant conditioning.
The fourth method of desensitization, which the military uses, is role model conditioning. I am not even going to go into that, because you are very familiar with what role model conditioning is. Someone that is looked up to (for example, in the military it might be a Staff Sergeant) and is thought of as a hero that the person wants to imitate, or emulate. The same thing goes on while watching TV. Whether it is Arnold Schwarzenegger or one of the other action heroes, children want to be like that. And they will emulate them, and they will act like them.
Then number of stories in the Bible regarding military atrocities is actually quite shocking. It is amazing, and it is why I got into this study. I was surprised that the Bible is as graphic as it is, so to speak—at least mentioning specific things that happen. We read about stabbings (Judges 3:21) and beheadings (II Samuel 4:7). These are normal military atrocities that are mentioned. More extraordinary cases involve torture and mutilation—limbs are cut off (Judges 1:6-7), bodies hacked in pieces (I Samuel 15:33), eyes gouged out (II Kings 25:7), skulls punctured (Judges 5:26) or crushed by a millstone pushed from a city wall (Judges 9:53).
Two hundred foreskins were collected (I Samuel 18:27), seventy heads gathered (II Kings 10:7-8), thirty men killed for their clothing (Judges 14:19). Bodies were hanged (Joshua 8:29), mutilated, and displayed as trophies (I Samuel 31:9-10), trampled beyond recognition (II Kings 9:33-36), destroyed by wild beasts (II Kings 2:24), or flailed with briers (Judges 8:16). Entire groups were massacred (I Samuel 22:18-19) or led into captivity strung together with hooks through their lips (Amos 4:2).
So what is the difference between reading biblical accounts of military atrocities and watching them as entertainment? Of course, there is a big difference. The reason that I bring this up is that I have actually heard people say to me, "Since the Bible is so violent, violence must be all right to get involved in." Or they will say, "I'm not having anything to do with the Bible, because it is a violent book." So we get both extremes on that.
What are we to think of the violence in the Bible? The Bible is a realistic and truthful book that sometimes looks at life at its worst. Acts of violence in the Bible are prompted by audacity, anger, revenge, judgment, and—most of all—degeneration. Biblical examples are meant to horrify us with the consequences of sin, whereas watching the atrocities in the media is meant to please and to excite us to want more. There is a direct difference right there.
Acts of reprobate violence explode from the pages of the Bible, as evil people perform unspeakable acts in the way of military and individual atrocities. We even read about children who are cannibalized (Ezekiel 5:10), boiled (Lamentations 4:10), and dashed against a rock (Psalm 137:9). During the Babylonian invasion, Zedekiah was forced to watch his sons slaughtered, after which his own eyes were gouged out (Jeremiah 52:10-11). The pages of the Bible tell us of pregnant women ripped open (Amos 1:13). Other women were raped (Genesis 34:2), and one of them was gang raped to the point of death (Judges 19:22-30). It is a very sobering and solemn Book—not one that you would dare laugh at, even if you saw the evil having violence happening to them.
In the New Testament, violence takes the specific form of persecution of martyrs. The beheading of John the Baptist, though referred to in vague description, is no less gruesome. And in Hebrews 11, God makes a definite point by ending the honor role of the faithful with stories of survival and triumph—but with an ever-expanding vision of violence against the innocent.
Hebrews 11:36-37 Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented.
What are we to think of this violence in the Bible? An obvious answer is that the Bible is not a "nice" book that hides the sordid details of life. Rather, it is a book of thoroughgoing realism and truth. It shows things the way they are and the penalty that is received from sin. It is because of spiritual degeneration today that we are desensitized to sin. And that is one of the reasons we have the sinful examples in the Bible—so that we can understand the result of sin. But understand this: It is not entertainment at all. Not in the least! It is a very serious Book.
The Bible's stories of violence demonstrate the depths of depravity to which the human race descends. Paradoxically, though, the depth of despair of wickedness represented by biblical stories of violence is also the climax of the Bible's story of redemption. The violence of Jesus Christ's crucifixion is the pivotal point of the redeeming process. The prophetic song of the suffering Christ, in Isaiah 53, hints at this paradox.
Isaiah 53:4-9 Surely He has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who shall declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of My people He was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked—but with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth.
Having to do with violence in the Bible, I think this is the capstone of the reason why we have to have the violence, as an example, in the Bible. In His life on earth, Jesus Christ did no violence; but, ironically, He received the greatest violence done to any man.
Isaiah 52:14 . . . so His visage was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men.
We have to make God's way of life second nature. It has to be internalized, and it has to be our automatic reaction in every case—in any situation. Colossians 3:2 advises, "Set your mind on things above, not on things of the earth." This is a key for avoiding the conditioning of sin that society is constantly throwing at us. Once our hearts have been infused with a steady diet of corruption, many times it takes having our sins melted with fiery trials. They do not just go away on their own.
Sin and a hardened heart are like cold iron. Listen to this analogy. If you take cold iron and attempt to bend it into a certain shape, you are wasting your time. Lay it on an anvil and try to beat it into shape with a sledgehammer with all your might, and you will have done nothing to reshape it. But put it in the fire and let it soften and be made malleable—then lay it on the anvil and each stroke will make a big difference in shaping it how you want to shape it.
The same principle applies to your heart. It is not shapeable when it is cold and hardened from the conditioning it goes through in this society towards sin. But put it into the furnace of trial, where it can be made molten; and after that, it can be molded like wax—and shaped into the character of Jesus Christ.
To conclude: Sometimes it takes fiery trials to reshape the conditioning we have gone through. We have received this conditioning from a constant diet of violence, or immorality. So it is going to take a very harsh change to remove, or change, that conditioning. It is much wiser to avoid the conditioning of sin in the first place than for God to have to put us through a fiery trial to get rid of it or to change the conditioning.
For spirit beings in the Kingdom of God, there will be no violence, no idolatry, nor spiritual adultery in us—or we will not be there. God promises, in Revelation 21:7, "He who overcomes. . ." That is, he who overcomes many things—for example, he who overcomes conditioning toward violence.
Revelation 21:7 "He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son."