The Implosion of Western Civilization?
© July 31, 2003, by
A friend who was having some problems paying a certain tax, wrote the following with an obvious degree of frustration:
I am not sure what the deal is with fines, penalties, etc. I applied for relief and now it appears that they did not receive either my payments or my application. It makes one wonder about the civil service in “What’s its state?”
While my response is not all that intellectual, it did kind of roll off my tongue (would you believe . . . fingers?).
Oh, duh? When you figure that over 50% of our population are on the public dole for one reason or the other, the rest of us who work for a living are beginning to get fed up, while they feed without too much worry about doing anything with any commitment to anything resembling excellence.
This is the stuff of which the implosion of a culture is made.
Or, as Jan and I have been thinking, it was the gospel which was responsible for Western Civilization. As we shift from a pure and sincere commitment to the gospel, we lose the results of it. It's not a cultural or social problem. It's not an educational problem, though all of those are affected: it's a spiritual problem. And, rather than "the liberals" being the blame, or that wonderful bastion of liberalism, the ACLU, it appears to me that the problem most clearly lays squarely on the doorsteps of . . . The Church.
It appears to me that pastors
started a "response" of "scientific correctness" shortly
Then, after that equivocation, it was not too large a leap to become "sexually correct," i.e., let's ordain women (started happening very shortly after the "scientific correctness" started -- Methodists and others have ordained women since the last quarter of the 19th century). This became the basis of where we are today, splitting churches over whether or not to ordain transvestite, cross dressing homosexuals, rather than godly men qualified according to I Timothy 3 & Titus 1, lovingly leading their churches in growth in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The eldership so weakened by that
secondary deviation from the authority and inspiration of scripture, it was not
but a small step to allow (also starting in the 19th century) the
"intellectual correctness" of German and French "higher
criticism" to affect and invade
Of course, that open challenge to the inspiration, authority, clarity and sufficiency of scripture merely followed the churches previous overlooking of the same, as demonstrated in the very early “sexual correctness” already mentioned.
"Political correctness" seems to potentially be the last straw in the venture to completely water down the gospel to precipitate its functional ineffectiveness in affecting society positively, or even being sufficiently salty to assist in its preservation. Today, few are the pastors who will even mention that nasty word "sin." And, God forbid, it's not our place to tell anyone that any behavior they're involved in might, per chance, be "wrong." After all, "tolerance" is the hallmark of a dying civilization. As Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli aver,
You and I will not be around in 100 years. That doesn't bother me. What bothers me is whether Western Civilization will be around.
Pocket Handbook of Christian Apologetics, Intervarsity Press, 2003
Quite possibly that's why I like them as authors. They reinforce my prejudice. Obviously, they're right!
Lest this become a rather minor epistle from a very minor opossum, I'll quit.
* * * * * RESPONSES * * * * *
Good set of thoughts.
I would boil it all down to this: At some point - maybe just after mid-1800's - the church (not 100% but certainly a very large %) simply ceased to believe the Gospel. The same is true today. With all the religious activity, building, ministries, etc. there is precious little real faith, very little visible dependency upon God as savior, provider and caretaker. If you look at the total effort and energy expended by an average church and subtract all which serves only to sustain the facility, organization and denomination, what is left? Wouldn't this net amount of energy and effort be the contribution to the Kingdom? The same is true of churchgoers. Most churchgoers today include church attendance and participation in church programs as a fruit of the Spirit.
There is a book I think you should take a look at, Christianity on Trial: Arguments Against Anti-Religious Bigotry, written by Vincent Carroll and David Shiflett published by Encounter Books. The book has an incredible bibliography. These guys look at the historical record and make objective observations as to Christianity's contribution to civilization. It is a very good work.
just finished reading the diary of David Brainerd in which he taught the
Indians that they could do absolutely nothing to please a holy God and they
were vile and wicked sinners deserving of death. Guess what?
Revival broke out among them. And when they were converted, they did not
have to be taught theology as much as they understood experientially that they
were undeserving sinners and that God had every right to send them to
hell. I found that I was thinking how long it has been in my experience
since I have heard such messages coming from the Christian quarters. But
I also believe this is why we don't suffer much persecution in
Oh that God would send this message back to us through godly preachers and that we wouldn't reject it as being too hard!
Response 2, a. (
It is titled The Life and Diary of David Brainerd, edited by Jonathan Edwards by Philip E. Howard, Jr., copyright 1949 by Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, reprinted by Baker Book House, March 1999, ISBN Number: 0-8010-0976-6. It is David Brainerd's journal as he ministered to the Indians. In it are Jonathan Edwards’ comments. Brainerd was cared for his last days by Edwards’ daughter who then died shortly afterwards of tuberculosis. Excellent book!
Think you're right about Western Civ. As you know, Tim, my view is that this
I will add this, though, Tim. In reading my latest History book, "A
Study of History" by Arnold Toynbee, he makes the astute point that in a
disintegrating society, along with a lot of other signs, what you always see
among the masses after they have discarded their old religious customs, is that
they adopt one of two "escapist" philosophies: They swerve towards licentiousness or
At any rate, when you look around, you see no
shortage of Epicureans in our Western culture today. However, what you do not yet see much of are
the Ascetic escapists. Therefore, this
historical argument would seem to dictate that
I recommend the book mentioned previously because I am looking for some thoughtful opossum to discuss it with.
Tim -- If I could make a few comments on
your previous statement regarding the connection of the "gospel" to
the rise of Western civilization. I think the way you put it is too
simplistic. There is some serious balance needed in order to be honest
with history. Perry Miller wrote an essay a year ago in a book called
"Toleration," in which he argued forcibly that religious freedom in
5th Response – #1 Response, by Tim:
Jon – I totally agree with your observations, however, the essence of what you’ve addressed is what I would identify as the difference between “American (or Western) Christianity,” and “following Christ.” Upon every opportunity I encounter, I deny that I’m a “Christian,” only to hasten to inform that I am, however, “A Follower of Jesus Christ.”