Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Reports of Our Death

It is not uncommon to encounter the idea that Christianity is an old, worn-out belief that is about to pass away. But we need to beware of too easily believing our opponents' propaganda.  Traditional historic Christianity has been around for almost 2000 years. In that time there were many occasions where it looked like it would vanish from the earth. It did not.

The Roman emperors tried to wipe out this strange new sect. It did not work, and Christianity was so indestructible the emperors ended up endorsing it. The next attack was from within, by those who took the, humanly more reasonable, position of denying Jesus was God. At one point, with the assistance of the emperor, it looked like this belief would gain permanent dominance, but it fell apart and traditional Christianity reasserted itself. Then the Roman empire fell and was conquered by people who were either pagans or also shared the belief that Jesus was not God. But there arose those who held to God's truth and revitalized the faith. Then came the threat of Islam, which conquered much nominally Christian territory and looked like it might conquer it all. In the middle of the Middle Ages, the corruption of the church and the influx of humanistic philosophy looked like they would overthrow the Christian faith. The same problem existed before the Protestant Reformation. We see the same thing repeated at the time of the Enlightenment and with the rise of a secular world view in modern times. But the Christian faith weathered all these storms. Also, Communism thought to wipe out all Christian belief, and though it is still around, it has continually failed in the attempt.

We see these repeated crises and the fact that God has brought us through. We also see that the state of the Christian church at these times was often far from perfect. In fact, it was frequently part of the problem. But God still brought us through. I do not want to excuse our refusing to deal with our problems. But we do not need to achieve a perfect church for God to preserve us. Also, what turned things around were key individuals rising up to stand for the truth. These were often, though not always, obscure individuals who God used to make a difference. Now I am not claiming there will be some quick, immediate turn-around to our present situation. Much less do I want to speculate on whether this is the time of the end. But I do need to note that God has shown the ability to preserve His church, His people, through difficult times. Even from a secular viewpoint, Christianity seems to have an uncanny tendency to persist in spite of genuinely threatening situations. When stamped out in one place, it pops up again somewhere else. So I think neither we nor our opponents should be too quick to assume Christianity is dying and the prognosis is certain. For we believe in a God who raises the dead.     

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