[This is the final article of a three-part series on the philosophical and political directions the West is going and what this will mean to the Christian church.]
The Day Is Far Advanced
Our last article, The Antichrist Doesn't Wear Tights , detailed the battle for Western culture and religion, through which the church has generally slept. Humanism seized control of Western institutions with the declared goal of dethroning Christianity from its position as the core Western belief. It succeeded! All the battles fought by Christians in the public arena are simply skirmishes in a mop-up action. The church didn't lose the battle; it simply walked off the battlefield.
For centuries, Christian pulpits thundered with sermons expounding the moral issues of the day. They were instrumental in the founding of many of our countries, governments and legal systems. But today, the church has bought the humanistic lie that it should not be involved in the public square - that religion is a personal thing that should not push its values on others - all while humanism aggressively pushed its values on the West. As a result, doing spiritual battle is anathema to a slumbering Western church, which prefers self-help to self-negation. While preening itself as the Church of Philadelphia, it resembles more the Church of Laodicea, having lost its sense of combating organized evil and engaging in a dialectic process which does not allow for definitive "good" or "evil."
Separate! I Dare You!
There is no separation of church and state; never has been, never will be. There is an organic relationship between the two. The values and beliefs of a culture invariably pattern the forms of government and its laws. If a culture is based on the strong religious beliefs of its people, the laws and politics enacted by governments will be guided by that religious conscience. However, if the church abandons the public arena, which it has done in the West, the state will then fill the moral vacuum and dictate to the church how it will believe, act and worship. One of these two institutions will determine what is "good" and "moral." Someone's values will control the field of human action! But while the church cannot force government to do what it believes should happen, government most certainly can dictate to the church what it will make happen-and compel compliance. These two are historically inseparable companions.
Absolutes are Absolutely Dead!
In the West, absolute truth and morality are pass. God is dead or anything we want to make of him, her or it... or maybe he's me! Reasoning has moved from facts to feelings, and diminishing numbers are able to think logically about the core issues of the day. History has been rewritten so that people can't remember the lessons of the past or the greatness of Western heritage. Good things are labeled bad and bad things good. Even liberalism and conservatism have become relative, changing positions. That is why political parties look the same; all have embraced the same relative floating dialectic. Finally, religion is publicly demonized as the cause of all the West's problems and the scourge of Western civilization; unless, of course, it conforms to the new politically correct moral values.
Facing the Status Woe
As we proceed into the new paradigm - a repackaging of the failed evils inherent in both communism and Nazism - history predicts the future with certainty:
1) Since Judeo/Christianity is no longer the controlling paradigm of the West, the gurus of the new socialistic pantheism will call the moral shots, determining which things are "good" and "bad." Everyone will be expected to fall in line.
2) These moral "shots" will invariably conflict with Christian morals and beliefs.
3) As the severe flaws of the new relativistic moral system manifest themselves (and they already have in abundance), increased societal and legal chaos can be expected as a result. (Look at the result of just 40 years of secular control of morality.)
4) In responding to the nonsense, governments will be forced to act in an increasingly invasive, controlling and dominating manner to control the pandemonium and enforce the new paradigm. Since the confessing church is already at odds with the new paradigm, much of the legal "wroth" will invariably be directed at the church. As the conflict increases, Christians experience steadily increasing pressure to conform to the new system and a demonization of those who don't. Gradually, laws and regulations will be drafted to force Christians (and other religions) into conformity with the new morality. This is already happening in all areas of life, from child rearing to freedom of speech to the workplace.
Remember, it takes time for this to develop, but the process is inexorable and unidirectional.
The View from an Old Wineskin
Since the days of the Caesars, the Christian church has confronted this crisis with two modes of reaction: a) stand and suffer or b) compromise and coast, hoping it "blows over." Type A churches suffer much, produce many martyrs, yield much fruit and ultimately are the seed for the next round of growth, when the culture collapses of its own weight. The Confessing Church in Germany, the underground church in the former Soviet bloc, the Catholic Church in Poland, and underground churches in China are examples of this type of church.
Backward Christian Soldiers
Type B churches conform to the system, compromise their beliefs and oftentimes make life miserable for the suffering Type A churches, but become so watered down they are indistinguishable from the culture and are, indeed, generally part of it. In essence, they cease to be salt and light. These churches, such as the Russian Orthodox Church in the Soviet Union, the German Christian Church in Nazi Germany and the registered churches in China today are examples of this type of church; all in different stages of compromise.
Compromise is a process, not an instantaneous event. It takes time and is seductively easy when a major cultural paradigm change is underway because all the reference points become blurred. Parts of the old paradigm still endure while parts of the new paradigm seem to be compatible with Christianity and even similar. Today's "tolerance" doctrine mimics the Christian doctrine of "love thy neighbor" until one asks what it is we are expected to tolerate.
Historically, when government seeks to control religion, it uses a two-stage plan: 1) co-opt the church into conforming to the new agenda; and 2) once resistance to the new belief system has been eradicated, extinguish the church. This is once again the goal of the new paradigm.
Totalitarian governments have always sought to create a model church that conforms to its dictates. This church is publicly extolled as "good," against which the Biblical churches are demonized as "reactionary," "radical," "extremist" or against the "collective good" or "counter-revolutionary." The pejoratives are different but the essence is the same. This process is well under way in the West today so we know we're on the timeworn trail of difficulty for the Biblical church.
One thing is clear: The churches that intend to survive with their confession of faith intact under the new paradigm will not be "doing church" the way they have done it in the past. But first, they will have to get over the "Rapture Myth."
The Rapture Myth
The Rapture Myth is identical to the doctrine of cheap grace, as detailed by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Rapture as doctrine is one thing. The Rapture Myth is a distortion of that doctrine, which says the Rapture will spare us from all time of trial, suffering, conflict and the need to do spiritual battle because we aren't going to endure God's wrath in the time of the Tribulation. It never occurs to the Rapture Myth people that we may well endure the world's wrath before Christ returns.
The Rapture Myth takes comfort in the fallacious assumption that there will be no time of trial in the run-up to the Rapture and Tribulation. It comforts itself with a "we're going to be outta here" mentality; not to worry about anything. Just keep teaching the Bible as if the Bible were an end and goal unto itself. It fails to notice that the Bible is a manual for action, not just study, and most definitely not an end in itself. As Jesus said, the Kingdom of Heaven consists in power, not words.
Airplanes and Silly Virgins
Planning to take a flight? Any pilot knows that flight planning requires having enough fuel to safely make the entire trip with a generous reserve for emergencies or unexpected situations. Nothing is more sobering than a fuel warning light that pops on when you're in the middle of nowhere. The gospel parable of the foolish virgins is identical. All the virgins had oil in their lamps to start with. It's just that some didn't have enough to go the whole night until the bridegroom came. Those believing in the Rapture Myth may well find themselves out of fuel in a bad way.
History dictates that if the storm ghosts on the horizon continue their rapid approach, a time of trial will be upon us and many will have their faith flagging, wondering where the Rapture is or whether the whole thing was just a giant fairy tale in the first place. Our brothers and sisters from persecuted countries of the 20th century have warned of this. Standing firm in a time of trial requires aggressive action and preparation ahead of time just in case this isn't the immediate end time and a time of testing is coming.
Inflating New Wineskins
The hour is truly more desperate than most Christians understand, but dark times make for great spiritual leaders and a terrific platform for spiritual action. More and more Christians are awakening to the call of preparation. Here are organizing guidelines. Check with the Holy Spirit for His particular battle plan for you.
1) The church must recover its sense of urgency. The day is far advanced and the night is at hand. There is a time of trial coming for the Western church and the Rapture will most likely not get them out of it.
2) The church must recover its belief in the existence of organized evil; not just good and bad individual choices. It must also recover its notion of spiritual warfare -onward,not backward Christian soldiers.
3) The church must understand the worldviews of today and the new paradigm and how Christianity is distinct from that. The Bible can no longer be taught in a vacuum or as a personal implementation item. There is a bigger picture and a bigger battle than just our own personal lives. The Bible must be seen in that context.
4) In understanding the worldviews of the day, the church must once again recover its own understanding of why it believes what it does and what the basis for faith is. The creeds of old were a great asset in this area.
5) The church must begin to train warriors who understand the nature of the battle. This applies specially to young Christians, the majority of whom are lost to the faith upon hitting college.
6) The church must learn from those Christians who have lived through duress in the past, especially the 20th century, and who have emerged with their faith intact. They have much to teach us about the battle skills we will need.
Most of the Biblical adjectives and verbs imply a conflict: contend, run to win, race, stand, fight, resist, defend. "In defenso fidei"1 must once again become the battle cry of the church. The Christian spiritual life is a life of rewarding but often painful sacrifice and dedication; it is a war - not a picnic. Yes, we do win in the end, but many expect to win without participating in the fight. In reality, Paul calls us to suffer with Christ. To quote Dietrich Bonhoeffer, "When Christ calls a person, he bids him come and die."
What is exciting is that swelling numbers of Christians are awakening to the fact that things are radically wrong and responding to the call for the coming battle. So, soldier, when night falls, where will you be?
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John Loeffler is host of the nationally syndicated news program Steel on Steel, which can be heard at www.steelonsteel.com. Subscriptions to program tapes as well as a catalog of programs can be obtained at (800) 829-5646.