All Christians and so-called Christians are well aware of the state of current society. This problem is well known across the board, to conservatives (Catholic and Protestant) and to a variety of more right wing Protestant fundamentalists and so on.
Greg Sheridan, a thoughtful journalist at the left end of the scale of the Christian right has pointed out that, “In these [past] 120 years no victory was ever more than a temporary slowdown in secularism. While there seemed to be many tactical wins, the war was lost.”
That’s pure pessimism. His solution? He writes that Christians should, “reconfigure themselves as a bold, vigorous, self-confidant minority, determined to security their minority rights and to have their say on life and its purpose, come hell or high water.” It sounds good, until the hypocritical reality is revealed that Mr Sheridan went so far away from the traditional Christian view as to support same-sex marriage. It seemed that he was not content to even fight for a losing position with “minority rights”, but has fully pledged himself to the idea that “the war was lost”.
I was at a meeting with Christians in mid-2017 where they claimed that Mr Sheridan was a Christian journalist. Let me say that if this is the state of Christian thought, then Christianity needs a major shakeup.
For years a variety of Fundamentalists, Presbyterians and Pentecostals have been calling for a shakeup. They have prayed for revival and from time to time been involved in various meetings or events designed to promote a reinvigoration in the Church or in an evangelistic sense. It has not seemed to have got far.
These people have pined for the good old days and some future time of glory. Great conversions, they claim, are happening in Asia, Africa and South America … but not here. Now, is that really even true?
If the good old days were so good, they were not good enough to stop the decline we see now. If the far off future is good, then we should see steps toward it now. If all of these things are happening in foreign lands, then where is the evidence?
What is the real nature and calibre of Christianity in China? If there was spiritual revival in Kenya, wouldn’t we actually find missionaries coming forth? How much of what is going on in Argentina is actually for real and not being manufactured?
One missionary I saw online (who is too afraid to identify himself) claimed that he was having great impact with the Copts or whoever else in the Middle East. I don’t doubt there are believers in foreign parts, but I know nothing of any of their success. Surely this is not because of some worldwide media conspiracy.
But what does the Scripture and the Holy Ghost say to and for us today?
“ARISE, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.” (Isaiah 60:1-3).
There are three approaches that Protestant Christians seem to have in the face of the current problems in society and ideological war against Christianity that is taking place.
The first approach is manifested among Fundamentalists, some Calvinists and some Pentecostals. These have a Dispensationalist view, where they say everything is getting worse, that Christianity has to hold out until the coming Rapture. In this Pietistic view, the world and everything in it is corrupt, so there is no point in trying to reform society in any way. The best we could hope for is one on one conversions or trying to have insular style meetings where there is an altar call to try get people to respond to an emotional plea. At least some of the Fundamentalists and especially the Calvinists have a more thorough view of evangelism and are trying to teach people Christian doctrine. These Christians are trying to survive until they escape the world.
The second approach is that of mainly Calvinists in the Postmillennialist category. They have a view that Christians need to transform the society from the roots up. They are sceptical about organised religion even though they want the State to be influenced by Christianity, often with a substantial amount of Old Testament laws in effect. This view lives in fear of top down government because it fears that such models would be used against them. (This is inconsistent with their view of a bright future because it is actually doubting a bright future.) Instead, they may go so far as to resist the idea of various government departments and even of paying taxes. Needless to say, this is a fairly American Puritan ideology. They promote economic liberalism and in their evangelism, trying to take over the world piece by piece.
The third approach is held by some Pentecostals and Dominionists. It is about trying to transform society from the top down. Rather than focusing on converting people on a piecemeal level, they hope to gain control at the top of the various fields of society and use political, social and moral reform to change the world. In this way, they hope to fulfil the Great Commission by not only teaching whole nations, but given the right circumstances, may even go so far to do their teaching by threatening people directly. The most extreme view would not need Jesus to return but would argue that the Church should rise up and be Him in the world.
The first approach is right to seek to not compromise with the world, to be separate from it. However, being separate does not mean a lack of participation. It should not mean weak politicians who hide their faith, and desperate style evangelism.
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” (Ephesians 6:10).
The second approach is right to see that God has a good plan for the Church in time. However, this means active involvement in leadership as well as having groundswell approach. The Spirit of God is able to both move among people as well as raise up appointed leaders. The Bible does speak of bishops and of civil leaders bearing the sword.
The third approach is right to see that the Church must rise up and that whole nations need to be evangelised which does require a level of program and organisation. However, this should not mean dictatorship nor heretical denying of the Second Coming. Jesus’ care is for the little lambs of the flock, and is for the evangelism and service among the weak, small and broken down of the world.
“For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are” (1 Corinthians 1:26–28).
The best approach then is to not compromise with the world (e.g. drinking alcohol), to have an outpouring of the Spirit among the normal people and to put into place Christian leadership in a nation.
“Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.” (Matthew 24:45, 46).