Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Is Christianity About Die of Old Age

Many seem to assume Christianity is about to vanish from the world. Even Christians can buy into this idea. We can look at Barna surveys and other discouraging information and become afraid that we are on the way out if we do not do something quick to change things. Now I am not in favor of complacency. We do need to be willing to ask how best to serve Christ. The whole Christian life should be one of constant growth in Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 3:12-14; Ephesians 2:10). But I do not believe that desperation is the best basis for making intelligent decisions. Rather, we need to trust Him that He is at work in His church (Matthew 16:18; Psalms 127:1,2; Proverbs 3:5,6).

But many assume history is going a certain way and Christianity is bound to disappear. This is based on the idea of overall historical progress in a definite direction. While this may fit in the area of basic science and technology (though even here it is perhaps too simple), it is hard to force overall history into this pattern. Now Christianity has been around for almost 2000 years. In that time there has been a constant pattern of ebb and flow in various times and places. There have been times of severe persecution and times of internal corruption that looked even worse, but we are still here.

We see the pattern time and time again. During the original Roman persecution. At the time of the fall of the Roman Empire and its conquest by outsiders who were pagans or denied the deity of Christ. At the times of the severe corruption of the church in the middle and end of the Middle Ages. During the times of the Muslim invasions. During the Enlightenment, when it looked like Deism was going to triumph. During many internal struggles: Protestant versus Catholic, Conservative versus Liberal. In all these cases traditional, historic Christianity seemed about to vanish, but it did not. More recently it was thought that Communism, with its political power and persuasive propaganda, would eliminate Christianity. But it failed. In China it appears to have backfired, growing the Christian church there far beyond what it was originally. No one knows the future, and it cannot be dogmatically proven from history that God is at work building His church. But I have to be cynical that the next crisis will turn out any different than the previous ones. Now I do not want to discourage legitimate attempts on our part to clean up our act. But I do not feel that panic is the most conducive mood for clear thinking as to what does and does not need to be fixed. It often leads people to look for quick fixes and simplistic solutions that can be worse than the problem. What we need is calm, thoughtful consideration on how to best serve God in our situation. Trusting that God is the One who is really in charge.     

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