Make Christianity Great Again

Christians  are quick to blame secularists and neo-pagans for the cultural marginalization of our Faith, but much of it is due to our own timidity, compromise, and cowardice.  Before he ascended, our Lord charged the first Christians to disciple the nations (Mt. 28:18–20). It was a bold charge that demands a bold life and message. At the first post-resurrection Pentecost, a radically reenergized Peter, transformed from a craven Christ-denyer to a fierce Christ-proclaimer (Ac. 2), declared to thousands of Jews: “[K]now assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (v. 36). This is the basic message of the NT and the primitive church, and it is the first Christian creed: Jesus is Lord.[1]

This message has impelled Christians whenever the Faith has advanced in the world. Despite relentless persecution, the primitive church marched boldly in that message. Finally, even the Roman emperor Constantine had to bow before him. Gradually Christian culture pervaded the West. In fact, Western civilization became roughly synonymous with Christian civilization.[2] The Reformation sought to correct severe theological abuses in the medieval church, but it did not oppose Christian culture. Far from it. Its English-speaking heirs, the Puritans, believed that all society should be governed by God’s law in the Bible. England’s American colonies each had established churches or Christian establishment of some kind, as did every one of the first United States. [3] 

Faded Glory

This Greatness Christianity of former days is now in retreat everywhere. The 18th century European Enlightenment ripped away the miraculous. Romanticism eroded all objective Christian standards, like the Bible. Darwinism reduced man to an amoral higher animal. More recently, postmodernism depicts man as an inventor of himself and of his own conceptual and moral universe. Christianity is now largely confined to isolated family life and to Sunday church. Christian schools and colleges dot the landscape, but many are caving in to the spirit of the age,  particularly same-sex-“marriage.” Everywhere the Lord’s Day is dishonored. A robust, full-bodied Faith is in full-scale power-down mode.

The Appeasement

Unfortunately the erosion has been championed by Christians themselves. David VanDrunen of Westminster Seminary-California argues against any Christian culture outside the church, thereby denying the Lordship of Jesus Christ in most of life.[4] For Willie James Jennings of Fuller Seminary, the problem is the Christian culture of the West itself.[5] Samir Selmanovic, an Emergent church leader, writes that for too long Christianity has been influential in the West.  He writes:

Christianity gave us the dignity of the human person, the university, political liberty, modern science and medicine, a purified sexuality, the exaltation of women, transcendent music, and the abolition of slavery.

Looking back nostalgically to the times when Christianity was an empire, we tirelessly monitor our power, our growth, our numbers, our financial success, our political strength.  Maybe the time has come for Christianity to lose.[6]

This is the pious goop of spineless religion. This appeasement reinforces the cultural irrelevance of Christianity and has become the unintentional ally of secularists and pagans. 

Restoration of Greatness

Christians are required to be humble about themselves, but never about their God. If we boast, we must boast in the Lord (2 Cor. 10:17). Our Lord is a great God. He is the cosmic sovereign (Eph. 1:20–23). He rules the universe. His gospel brings sinners to repentance and saves them by his matchless grace. If there is to be a restoration of Christianity’s greatness, there must be a retrieval of these convictions that made Christianity great in the first place. The first apostles spoke the word of God with boldness. They were witnesses of our Lord’s resurrection. They heard with their own ears the Great Commission. They knew the Lord promised that hell’s very gates would not prevail when the church came attacking (Mt. 16:18).

The claims of King Jesus are not options. He commands all men everywhere to repent (Ac. 17:30) and this means to trust him for salvation, and bow to his authority. The entire world is subject to God’s law (Rom. 3:20. The Great Commission is to disciple the nations with the glorious, love-drenched, obligatory gospel.[7] This gospel transforms lives and cultures. To say the gospel transforms lives but not cultures flies in the face not only of abundant historical testimony[8] but also, and more importantly, the Bible itself. In whatever Christians do, they are to do for God’s glory (1 Cor. 10:31). Jesus came to subordinate all enemies, not just non-cultural enemies (1 Cor. 15:20–27). This command extends far beyond church and private devotions.

Conclusion

Whenever the church has marched with this message, she has gained ground. She has routed the forces of Satan, death, and hell, and gradually produced a Christian culture. Christianity gave us the dignity of the human person, the university, political liberty, modern science and medicine, a purified sexuality, the exaltation of women, transcendent music, and the abolition of slavery.[9]  These were not bequeathed to Western civilization by the Greco-Roman world, ancient paganism, Islam, or secularism.  They’re the fruits of Christianity. The West has come to take these fruits for granted, and assumed it can uproot the tree and still get the fruit. This is a dangerous illusion. As our civilization turns from God, it will gradually lose the great blessings that have made it what it is.

Meanwhile, Christians must recover their triumphant boldness, proclaiming the slain Lamb who is the Lion, ruling from the heavens.  We must not gently suggest that Jesus is the best way. We must trumpet that he is the only way, and all other ways lead to individual, cultural, and eternal destruction. True greatness is found only in our great king of Kings and Lord of lords. To lose him is eventually to lose everything, everywhere. To have him is eventually to have everything, everywhere.


[1] Oscar Cullmann, The Earliest Christian Confessions (London: Lutterworth Press, 1949), 23.

[2] Christopher Dawson, The Formation of Christendom (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1967), 287.

[3] M. Stanton Evans, The Theme is Freedom (Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 1994), 275–279.

[4] David VanDrunen, “Calvin, Kuyper, and ‘Christian Culture,” in Always Reformed, R. Scott Clark and Joel E. Kim, eds. (Escondido, California: Westminster Seminary California, 2010), 135–153.

[5] Willie James Jennings , “The Fuller Difference: To Be a Christian Intellectual,” Fuller, issue 4, 50–53.

[6] Samir Selmanovic, “The Sweet Problem of Inclusiveness: Finding Our God in the Other,” in An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, Tony Jones and Doug Pagitt, eds. (Baker Books, 2007), 198.

[7] Stephen C. Perks, The Great Decommission (Taunton, England: Kuyper Foundation, 2011), 20.

[8] Christopher Dawson, The Historic Reality of Christian Culture (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1960).

[9] Alvin J. Schmidt, Under the Influence, How Christianity Transformed Civilization (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001).

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