In 1967, Ronald Reagan delivered one of the most memorable lines of his storied career: “Freedom…is never more than one generation away from extinction.”1 The truth of his statement appears downright prophetic in light of the recent turmoil across our nation. It only takes one generation to forget, or reject, the principles and ideals we once held dear.
This notion is not new, of course. Christians should recognize it from the pages of the Bible written thousands of years ago (e.g., Deuteronomy 6:6-8). As a professing Christian himself, Reagan may have borrowed this biblical concept, as well as many others, and applied them to his views on government and the American way. Any principle, whether it is of freedom or biblical values and morals, must be taught and promoted to the next generations if there is to be any hope those principles will continue.
The first biblical reference to national decline and generational apostasy is found in the book of Judges, which depicts how rapidly people can deviate from their original principles and convictions. During the glory years of conquest, Israel “served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the LORD which He had done for Israel” (Judges 2:7). But once this founding generation had passed away, “another generation arose after them who did not know the LORD nor the work which He had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10).
This is likely the very next generation, composed of the children and grandchildren of the founding generation. The fact that they “did not know the LORD” or the miraculous events God had performed on their behalf is a sad commentary on their lack of biblical education. Joshua and his contemporaries had failed to teach the younger generations the great lessons of God’s providence and protection, and the covenantal promises the people had made to follow the Lord (Joshua 24:14-16).
Israel’s wholesale abandonment of God and His principles ushered in a period of great trial and persecution. If we fail to teach biblical values to our children and grandchildren, that could very well happen here. The Christian ethos that permeated the origin of our nation is quickly evaporating, and only God knows if we have already passed the tipping point. But thank God for His mercy and grace if we will just return again to Him!
This is not meant as a political commentary but rather as a clarion call to godly parents and grandparents to train up children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6). The very heart of ICR’s ministry lies in biblical education and discipleship—particularly on matters of science that affirm the accuracy and authority of Scripture. We encourage you to use our resources for all their worth and bring your family to the ICR Discovery Center for Science & Earth History. And should God impress upon you to help, we welcome your gifts of support to enable us to reach coming generations with the truths of creation and our Creator, the Lord Jesus Christ.
- California Gubernatorial Inaugural Address, January 5, 1967. Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum. Posted on reaganlibrary.gov, accessed July 8, 2020.
* Mr. Morris is Director of Donor Relations at the Institute for Creation Research.