In 1965, Bill Bright wrote the tract Four Spiritual Laws. It’s hard for us to believe this, but in its day it was a powerful and releavant tool for explaining the Gospel to people. In an America in where religious education was part of the public school education, it was based on a presupposition that God exists, that Jesus’ story is real and true, and that every person sinned.
Four Spiritual Laws was a tool that helped millions people, largely teens and young adults, connect the dots between what they knew to be true in their own lives, that they mess up, that they know there is a God but they don’t know if they can have a relationship with Him. And what they learned/memorized in grade school and high school.
Remember, up until 1964, children in America didn’t just pray in school, they were taught the story of God in the Bible, memorized Scripture, and were taught the tenants of the Protestant faith. Bill Bright was genius to create this tool that connected those dots!
The 1964 Supreme Court decision which cemented the abstract idea that the original founders of the United States wanted a literal separation between church and state amplified the culture wars between Evangelicals and “the world” that we see today. What started in 1964 in abstraction became a gulf of culture within a decade which made tools like Four Spiritual Laws irrelevant.
Obviously, those presuppositions are long gone in America today. Today, children in the church don’t grow up memorizing Scripture. Today, schools do not teach children about a monotheistic God. Today, schools are afraid to refer to Jesus Christ as a person in history for fear that a parent would cry “seperation of church and state!”
Looking at the Four Spiritual Laws themselves, I don’t know if we would describe the four tenants of them in the same way. At the core this is the evangelical faith– hasn’t changed a bit. God loves you and wants a relationship with you. Your sin separate you from that relationship. Jesus Christ, by taking on your sin at the cross of Calvary made it possible to for you to know God anyway. By putting your faith in Jesus you can have a relationship with God and begin a new life in Him. Seriously, that’s not changed.
But methods have. Walking up to someone and asking if you can hand them or read them a tract is flat out offensive. (If you know people doing this in America, feel free to smack them.)
So have the secondary things in Four Spiritual Laws. People who come to Jesus do so for today as much as tomorrow. The Gospel we preach today isn’t just about eternal life, its about righting wrongs, bringing wholeness, restoration, and justice to today.
And so I am left to wonder. If Bill Bright were to write Four Spiritual Laws today, what would it look like? What form would it take? How would he capture the obvious from culture to connect the dots? What are common things we all believe in America which point us to a relationship with Jesus?