For clarity, I am speaking in this post of biblically-based, gospel-founded Christianity, not cultural Christianity or Christendom. A friend mentioned the other day that there were 4 billion “Christians” on earth. Not sure where that statistic comes from, but does any of us really believe that there are 4 billion “born-again” Christians – those who have repented of their sins and trusted Jesus Christ alone (and consciously) for their salvation.
I grew up in a Christianized, Christian-centric, Christian-sympathetic world. I have heard arguments on both sides, but I do not believe that the US was ever a “Christian Nation” It was one that saw itself as responsible to God and was Christian enough that people could make the argument that we were a Christian nation, though.
Such is no longer true.
We who believe the Bible to be the perfect word of God are entering a new era in this nation. Gone (or rapidly going) are the days in which our nation shared, in the main, our values. In my college years, a controversial organization formed called the Moral Majority. It was based on the premise that there was in America a majority of people who shared our values.
Such is no longer true.
We are a minority. America is fairly evenly divided between red and blue, conservatives and liberals. But we who believe in inerrancy, that the Bible said what it meant and meant what it said are now a minority in America, a shrinking one at that. We who believe that Jesus is “the Way, the Truth and the Life” and that “No one comes to the Father except through him,” are viewed as intolerant. How many calls did you see on Facebook or other social media for a “sweeping revival” in America? Instinctively, we know that things have changed and we no longer hold a place of cultural power.
- We live in a nation that increasingly views our stance on sexuality as ridiculous.
- We live in a nation in which the practice of homosexuality is no longer considered sinful or aberrant, but calling it sin is scandalous.
- We live in a religious nation, but one in which the greatest sin is to believe that our view is the only right view. You can believe anything you want as long as you lay no exclusive claim to the truth.
I could go on, but I think it is evident that we – Christians who believe the Bible in its entirety and the gospel in its exclusivity – are no longer a cultural majority.
The question is simple, what do we do from here?
- We can complain and moan about the death of America. We’ve done a lot of that. It won’t work.
- We can seek to reassert our political power and regain the hold on culture that is slipping from our grasp. We ought to continue to vote and to be involved in politics, but unless that sweeping revival we have heard so much about comes, we are unlikely to regain what we have lost.
- We can learn to live as a minority in America. We do not have much choice. Christianity through the years has survived and thrived as a rejected and persecuted minority. The church was born in a hostile Israel and spread throughout a depraved Roman Empire. Luther brought the Reformation to a corrupt and hostile Roman church. In fact, some argue that the worst thing that can happen to the church is to have a supportive culture. I don’t know about that, but it is true that the greatest moments of church history have taken place primarily in culturally hostile environments.
I was an MK in Taiwan in the 70s. Many of those in our mission had served in China before the Communist Revolution and were deeply concerned about the state of gospel work in China during the Cultural Revolution – a time of intense repression and persecution. These missionaries prayed with a deep passion for the Christians and the church they had left behind. When the doors opened and missionaries went back to the mainland, they were shocked to find that Christianity had exploded during the years of repression. There were problems – because of the lack of Bibles and training, false doctrine were prevalent, but millions and millions of Chinese had come to Christ under one of the most repressive regimes of church history.
We do not live in such a culture, but ours is increasingly hostile to ideas like our claims to gospel exclusivity and our moral concept of marriage between “one man and one woman, pure before marriage and faithful afterwards, until death do us part.”
Get used to it. Unless that revival comes, we are going to have to learn to work without the net of cultural support. But Christians in China do not expect that. Christians in Muslim countries do not expect support from their neighbors. They expect hostility and carry on regardless of it.
1) We are at a decisive point. Americans give inordinate respect to popular opinion. Now that our moral views have become minority opinions in America, there will be a temptation to mold our views to become more culturally acceptable – to soft-pedal our stands on sin, on sexual morality, on gender issues, on the exclusivity of the gospel. Many denominations and churches are already doing this.
But our responsibility is to God’s truth. Truth is truth regardless of whether a majority believes it or receives it. We need the spirit of “Athanasius Contra Mundum” as we hold fast to God’s Word.
2) Perhaps our political focus needs to change somewhat, from seeking to have our views and values prevail in the political arena, to protecting our right to proclaim our views even though they are not in accord with the new liberal orthodoxy. If the current state of our public universities is any indication, freedom of speech and religion face an uncertain, even pessimistic, future.
3) We need to adjust our expectations. We do not need a supportive government to accomplish our gospel work. It would be nice, but it is not necessary. The gospel is true regardless of its popular acceptance. Church, be the church. Do the work.
4) Perhaps some of our internecine battles will come into perspective. When I was in Taiwan this summer, I noticed something. The missionaries did not have time for all of the discussions that divide us. We have had the privilege to debate theological issues that many do not care about. Do you think that in Muslim countries people care about your view of limited atonement? In our ease and comfort, we have time for these battles. Maybe, in the future, we will adopt a more unified approach with others who hold to the Bible and the gospel, even if there are disagreements about certain issues.
5) Conservative Christians, we may never again have a national candidate we can enthusiastically support. Parties are not about truth but about politics. As America’s religious and moral mindset continues to shift, it will become increasingly counter-productive for any party to put forward a candidate that shares our views on many things.
6) The greatest thing we can do is just keep doing what do! Preach the Word. Proclaim the Gospel. Baptize the lost. Teach the saved. Walk in the fullness of the Spirit. Speak the truth in love. Demonstrate Christ’s love in a tangible way. Regardless of what the world thinks of us, there is power in the Blood and power in the church of Jesus Christ.
Nothing is hopeless. Our challenges are increasing, but our work does not change. We are not politicians, who adjust our message based on polls and the changing tides of public opinion. Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. We have a sure and certain word of prophecy that we can proclaim week after week, which will not return empty. The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to do the work of God in the people of God. If most Americans agree, Jesus is Lord. If few admit it, Jesus is still Lord.