The Church's Moment in the Unraveling of the WestMonday, August 15, 2011
I do not think it too strong or sensational to say that we are witnessing the collapse of Western civilization. Across the Western world, the fruits of apostasy and secularism are manifesting themselves in overwhelmingly destructive ways.
In my lifetime I have seen the rapid demise of the family. For the first time in American history, nonmarried households now outnumber married households (52 percent vs. 48 percent respectively). Today, only one-fifth of American households represent “traditional families—married couples with children” (New York Times, “Married Couples Are No Longer a Majority, Census Finds,” May 28, 2011). Out-of-wedlock birthrates in the US have reached 40 percent following a similar trend throughout Western European countries, some of which are as high as 66 percent (New York Times).
While out-of-wedlock births continue to rise, more and more people are simply not having children at all, leading to depopulation of the West on a scale unprecedented. Add to this the radical redefinition of marriage and family to include same-sex couples and the future of the natural family—an institution essential to a healthy society—only promises to worsen.
Our academic institutions have shifted from teaching virtues and the pursuit of truth to intolerant platforms for secularized political values and godless indoctrination. Students are taught—with self-assumed authority—that God does not exist, your life is your own, sin is an archaic myth, and morality is a matter of individual preference.
The fine arts have descended into prurience, voyeurism, gratuitous violence, godlessness, and mindless amusements. Revenue from the consumption of pornography exceeds that generated by all professional sports combined and the media, which was once governed by a modicum of journalistic integrity, has become another powerful force for indoctrination into socialistic progressivism and humanistic schemes.
Our political leaders have abandoned statesmanship and true public service for personal power gains and government-driven social and economic engineering. Corruption has replaced integrity and the virtue of stewardship is almost nowhere to be found. America finds itself entrenched in prolonged wars with an enemy that it refuses to call evil, pursuing unrealistic aims of democratization in a culture that has no interest in democracy. Our governments have become oligarchies of competing political interests with little regard for the good of the people.
Recently, Europeans (and some Americans) have descended into barbarism and anarchy, as the State proves incapable of serving as savior and provider. In the wake of supplanting God with the State, personal responsibility has been replaced by selfishness, dependency, and entitlement.
In the absence of any absolute moral and ethical foundations, our economic system is collapsing around our ears. Business is increasingly driven by personal greed and shareholder returns rather than hard work, creative excellence, love of neighbor, and service to mankind. The Western world has lived far beyond its means—both personally and nationally—to the extent that families and some countries find themselves on the brink of financial collapse. Fear and uncertainty have become the overarching features of our day.
Finally, the church—which was once the moral authority in the West—has rendered itself irrelevant and marginalized in the public square. Denominationalism and division are rampant. Theological vacuity, consumerism, and compromise dominate the spiritual landscape in America. So much so, that Christianity is the only religion in America in decline while every other false religion and new-age construct is spreading like wildfire.
In the wake of all that is happening, countless pundits and politicians have emerged to offer their man-centered analysis and prescriptions as to the cause and solution, none of which come close to the truth of our dilemma.
At the heart of all that ails us is our rejection of the Most High God! The Western world has rejected the biblical revelation as the source of truth in every area of public life—the very foundation of its historic rise and prosperity. Therefore all of our social and cultural institutions, which now rest on a false interpretation of reality, are coming apart. Should we be surprised?
As for the church, we alone bear the responsibility for our own demise. The culture did not render us irrelevant—we did! We have been entrusted with the truth, the message of hope, and we have neglected this responsibility in exchange for security and comfort. We have tried, unsuccessfully, to build our lives in a way that seeks to comfortably balance the demands of following Christ with our own quest for personal peace and affluence. It doesn’t work! You either love Christ or you love your own life.
In essence, we in the West are reaping precisely what we have sown. Mankind cannot construct a world devoid of subservience to God and hope to prosper. So in a seemingly sudden turn of events, the house of cards is folding. This should serve as the wake-up call—first to the church: repent and obey, and then to the world: man is not the measure of all things. This may be our generation’s moment to be found faithful.
Let me just say that the solution is not to be found in the modernistic impulse of the institutional church; we can’t just “craft a program.” Rather, the solution is far simpler than that. It is found in Jesus’s command to “go and make disciples.” This can never be reduced to a program of the church but is instead a product of the organic church—individuals acting in obedience to Christ.
Practically speaking, this means each of us should endeavor to be in relationship with the community of God’s people. We must place ourselves under the authority of the body of Christ, being discipled by those who are mature in the faith. Then we must form relationships with others whom we disciple. This is not a short-term enterprise but a lifelong effort. And then, we go forth into the world loving our neighbors. That may be just one or two people God has brought into your sphere of contact. It is with these that we share the love of Christ, bearing witness to his power in our lives, teaching them the truth of reality as revealed by God (making disciples) so that he may build his church (see Matt. 16:18).
Our present circumstances offer a bleak picture, to be sure, but our situation is only hopeless insofar as we continue to trust in the structures and schemes of godless men, rather than the eternal promises of God through obedience to Christ.