How does Christianity influence behavior? One way (though not the greatest way) is with the threat of judgment and the hope of reward. In James 5 we have a number of appeals for certain behaviors and In every case the reader is told that if he does not comply there will be “judgment and slaughter”, if he does however, the Lord will return and blessings will abound.
For years the Catholic Church held people in absolute captivity with threats such as these. Then the Protestant Reformation happened and we were told that it is “faith alone” that saves us and not to worry so much about these threats. Now the secular revolution has happened and any sort of view with eternal judgment and reward has been tossed aside. If there is no judgement and no reward then what is to keep the human in line? For what reason should I or should I not behave in a certain way? Simple guidelines come forward: Do whatever you wish just try not to hurt too many people. Why not hurt people? If it’s not “God’s going to kick your ass if you do” then what is it? My humanist friends rush to answer the question, for humanity to flourish we all understand that rarely is it advantageous to hurt people. So we just decide not to and that’s good enough – God need not have anything to do with it.
I find it very curious that as humans we have not discarded the idea of reward and judgment altogether. We instill it into our children, it’s built into our laws, we see it in our music and movies. The inescapable morality that is hard wired into every human creates a very judicious nature that compels us to think in terms of judgment and reward — Is it such a big step to think that there might be an eternal version of what we know to be true in the every day? I don’t think so.
It also seems to me that in good times where we have riches, power, influence and all the comforts of life that it becomes much easier to talk about good behavior without God. However in the midst of economic and social crisis if there’s not a Divine interjection that both warns us and cheers us on it becomes immensely difficult, perhaps even impossible to prevent humankind from devolving into the brutality that characterizes the fight for survival.