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“Look What the World is Coming to”: A Christian Perception of Life as We Know it

 

There are a lot memes that fly around social media; some are insightful, others only appear insightful.

This one, which was constructed by others using an out of context quote from Carl F. Henry, for whom I have nothing but regard, is a case in point. It appears to say something wise using the circumstances and reactions of the early church to those circumstances as if it is an eternal guide for the churches behavior no matter where it is active in the world.

Much of the NT writers’ talk, particularly in the Epistles is what some have labeled occasional theology, or theology curtailed to confront a present situation even though it is ultimately drawn from a much larger warehouse of theology drawn from the Old Testament and the revelations of Jesus, the Christ. Indeed, much of the commissioning of Israel (who existed in quite a different situation from the NT writers) goes well beyond the recommendations of Paul to the Christians struggling in a Roman world under an empire sized government that is well beyond the influence of their small numbers… at that time at least.

So, while there is a point to understanding that the human heart is dark and that the world has been in this darkness for much of its existence, it is also helpful to understand the present situation facing the church in America and to have a little sense and compassion when helping our fellow believers (and indeed our own hearts) in our confrontation of certain realities that terrify us. They terrify us because they represent a reality that we in our past have never had to deal with, we’re not sure what to do nor how to feel.

Let’s be honest therefore about one thing. Judaism and the early church laid the ground work for lifting the nations out of the depth of human filth that characterized humanity for much of its existence. The ancient world (like many unreached communities today) existed in a kind of social darkness that would make your average Westerner, even your average Western atheist, weep with horror. The church helped to saturate the world with divine Torah, and even when people, as is their wont, violated it with abandon, there came a spreading culture that developed over millennia with Torah as a foundation.

That foundation is often taken for granted by those who don’t understand where it came from and the cost involved in seeing it develop from ancient darkness… but it has been a light to the dark-hearted, a tutor in the world, a restraining force against unchecked human evil.

Christians today in the Western world who also take this foundation for granted have every reason to say, “Look what the world is coming to,” because they are a present witnesses to the relatively new secular unraveling of that which took millennia of evangelism, preaching, and teaching to build up. They are present witnesses to the secularist assault against the very foundations of Western Civilization.

So, while Henry is right, technically, those who made and shared the meme should beware of smug condescensions for overwhelmed Christians.

If those who have a better knowledge of history and theology than the average church goer showed as much love and concern, as much grace and mercy, for the church and struggling and afraid Christians as many strive to show for the most wicked outside the church, what a wonderful thing that would be.

 

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