Life In Post-Christian America
Dr. Randy White
For years there has been debate about whether our country was ever a “Christian” nation. Without doubt, we were established on principles that included freedom of religion, but one would also have to be unbelievably selective to conclude that the USA was not born out of a desire to be free unto religion. The Pilgrim came to find a place where he and his family could worship outside the Church of England. Others, like Roger Williams or the Quakers of Penn’s Woods expanded the idea of religious liberties even further. Early Baptists, even in the United States, were often persecuted for having a religious liberty that the earliest settlers thought went too far. Baptists like Isaac Backus and John Leland worked hard to establish religious freedoms and the first amendment to the Constitution.
For the greater part of our history, a Judeo-Christian worldview has been predominant in the USA. About 100 years ago, the modernist controversy hit both church and society. In some early battles, the Biblical values of a created order and a fallen man won the day (the scopes trials, for example). In the end, however, these values slowly gave way to a completely modernist worldview which is materialistic and humanistic.
With last week’s Supreme Court decision relating to gay marriage, any long-held belief that the USA remains a nation built on Judeo-Christian values is now gone. We are, officially and pragmatically, a secular nation.
How now shall we live?
I want to present four implications of the secular society which is ours.
The America we grew up in is gone, never to return.
Norman Rockwell paintings are all that remain of the America of yesterday. In the USA, abortion will never again be criminal, marriage will never be limited to a man and a woman, and a worldview of a created order with moral duty to the Creator will never return.
I’m 50 years old, and I grew up in this secular society, but at least it had a friendly demeanor toward Christianity. My kids grew up in a secular society that valued humanism and materialism beyond any Judeo-Christian value. If I am blessed with grandchildren, they will grow up in a society that is antagonistic to the Bible.
I’ve been affected by the world around me. Some of my values were shaped more by the world than by the Word (“oh wretched man that I am”). Each of us has to struggle with the influences of Satan who, prowls about like a lion, seeking whom he may devour. I wish that a real spiritual awakening would take place in my community that would change everything. However, I don’t see any indication that such will occur. Rather, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good…” (2 Timothy 3:1–3). These perilous times have arrived.
To continually fear or fight will be fruitless.
Such perilous times bring us to one of two responses, typically. We can cower in fear or we can rise to fight. I have done both, at times. I’m more and more convinced that neither approach is going to do any good.
The Apostle Paul lived in a day of paganism, immorality, and religious persecution. He always used the laws to his advantage, but he never sought to overthrow the government. He lived in a world of slavery, but never led a march against it. He was under a government that, increasingly, demanded its citizens to serve Caesar rather than the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, yet he never called for citizen revolt.
I don’t plan to hide under the bed, but I also don’t plan to engage in endless crusades for reform. I think both are fruitless because there is not enough base upon which to build. I will grieve sin (in my own life and others), be gracious in applying the Word of God, and be prayerful that we can “by all means, reach some.”
Large churches are under great risk.
America used to be a land of small churches. These churches dotted the landscape and literally created the fabric of our society. Today, the small churches are mostly gone, relics of an age gone by. In their place the regional mega-church has become the phenomenon of our day (and a very recent phenomenon at that).
I’ve mentioned many times that I don’t think large churches were ever God’s plan. I think we did a much better job at making disciples when everyone knew their Pastor and they also knew everyone else in the church.
Almost every church is now under the pressure to grow. It is first of all a psychological pressure that has been taught to us so many times that, like the “big lie,” it has become “true.” Since the 1950s we’ve been told that all healthy churches grow and that every church can–and should–grow. Because of this, if a church doesn’t grow, people presume something is wrong with that church, those people, or that pastor. (I personally think that one of the best things that could happen to the American church would be if we quit counting.)
In addition to the psychological pressure to grow, large churches have the financial pressure to grow. They have big buildings, a large staff, and costly programs-that-make-you-woozy. With the combined psychological and financial pressure to grow, the large church will do “whatever it takes” to meet these pressures. I predict that it will be the largest churches that are the first to “cave in” to secular, humanistic, and materialistic theologies and practices.
These large churches will be faced with an unbelievably powerful pressure to conform. If you saw how many of your friends and neighbors wrapped their social media profile pictures in a rainbow flag, just imagine the pressure that the church will face in a few years. More and more churches, needing to grow, will give in to environmentalism (which grows out of materialism, which grows out of a rejection of creationism). They will give in to the homosexual agenda, first by allowing members, then by performing weddings. They will eventually give into all that is sacred, and become a secular place of music and pop-psychology.
If you have a small church that has Biblical preaching, support it and love it. It is a rare jewel.
Evangelism and Bible teaching need to be our focus in these days.
I must admit, I’ve often been caught up in the desire to “right every wrong.” I’m almost a crusader at heart, always looking to start the next revolution. Much of my writing reflects that attitude.
But I also teach that we should “always question the assumptions.” And now, I wonder if our revolutions are all that revolutionary. If we ever accomplish what we set out to accomplish, will it really make a difference? In all honesty, it seems that we take two steps forward and three steps back.
I’ve heard the old saying about insanity: doing the same thing thinking you’ll get different results. I don’t want to be insane. Why do we spend so much time, effort, and money to rid the world of the latest evil. In perspective, the latest evil is a pimple, and the body is dying of a cancer.
I only know of one thing that would make a difference: evangelism and Bible teaching. Let’s do what our forefathers in ministry called “personal work.” It was that work that dealt with individuals, sharing the Gospel of God’s saving grace through Jesus Christ. When people accept that grace by faith, let’s begin to teach them the Bible, verse-by-verse and book-by-book.
Perhaps, in God’s grace, we’ll save some.