No, That’s Not Christianity, Part 0
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other,” wrote our second president of the United States, John Adams.
If we read this in the context of his 1798 letter to the Massachusetts Militia, we can find there a prescient description of our current age: a time when our people “assume the language of justice and moderation while practicing iniquity and extravagance … while it is rioting in rapine and insolence.”
“This Country will be the most miserable habitation in the world,” he warned, “because we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion.”
For a people without the collective religious conscience and the virtue that goes with it to govern ourselves, our vices and baser passions “would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net,” Adams foretold.
Today – collectively, as a nation – we are no longer a moral and religious people.
Because of this, our Constitution – as profound, beautiful and inspired as it is – cannot save us. It is, sadly, little more than a museum piece from a bygone age. As our founding father said, it just wasn’t made for us. It was made for a moral and religious people with the requisite virtue for self-governance, which we, as a nation, no longer possess.
Our country – our entire civilization, no less – is in mortal danger because of this.
If we continue along this path, the United States of America – our shining City Upon a Hill that gives light to the world – will be no more.
We all know it. Anyone with a television or an internet connection and a basic awareness of history and human nature can see that.
And if we don’t get it back – that religious virtue Adams understood to characterize that first generation of Americans, we stand at the threshold of another dark age, a true dark age, far more terrible than the last. There has always been, and always will be, a superpower at the center of the world of men, but never one as great and as noble as the United States of America. If we lose beyond recovery either our worldwide hegemony or our collective nobility, or both, whatever takes our place will be an imperialistic horror by comparison. And, there will be nowhere else to flee for people who yearn for freedom and opportunity.
As another great American president once said, “We’ll preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness.”
Averting the Coming Dark Age
Christianity has lost its influence on our culture and our nation, and that is the ultimate reason for all of our current political, social and cultural troubles.
“Politics is downstream from culture,” one commentator famously said. This is certainly true, but incomplete: Culture is downstream from religion. Our politics have been corrupted by a culture that has been uprooted from and turned hostile against the Christianity that once informed and nourished it.
We can recover that influence, though. All is not lost. As Christians, we have every reason to believe absolutely that we can; and not only that we can, but that it is a moral imperative – our divinely-commanded mission – to do so. If we don’t think that falls under the Great Commission, then we don’t know what the Great Commission is. To know we’re in the situation we’re in and to not expend every possible effort to rectify it is to betray our purpose and mission as the Church. It is a betrayal of Jesus Christ, to say nothing of future generations who – should we fail to set this right – will inherit only the smoldering ruins of our once great civilization. No one who is a Christian can deny this objective and truly remain a Christian. “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin.”
And at the end of the day, it wouldn’t even actually be that difficult. Not really.
But to achieve this, we need to come to a clear understanding of why we had that influence in the first place, and how we lost it. Only then will we be in any position to recover it.
The Keys to the Kingdoms of the World
There are two key elements of civilization we need to consider and understand: the role of language in defining our humanity and driving advancement, and the role of storytelling.
I struggled to decide how much attention to devote to this, because it’s a lot like explaining to fish that they’re wet: it’s such a basic observation that making it at all feels like belaboring the obvious, but it is precisely because it’s so familiar that, well … fish don’t know they’re wet. Likewise, language and storytelling are such basic aspects of our existence that we are rarely consciously observant of how they’re being used and how we’re being shaped by them.
All human advancement, since the very moment we became “human,” has been tied to our ability to communicate. As I touched upon briefly in my article on the Trinity (the section entitled “In His Image”), our ability of language is the defining attribute that makes us human. Or, to be more accurate, it aggregates and manifests all of the defining attributes of our humanity.
When behaviorally-modern humans first appeared about 50,000 years ago, we were able to develop tools and form small communities and pass these innovations to successive generations through language, but — as far as we can tell by modern anthropological investigation — that’s as far as humans could advance until about 5,000 years ago, when our ancestors figured out writing.
And, this blew the lid off of everything. The development of writing roughly corresponded with and made possible the leap from nomadic hunter-gatherer communities to settled communities tied to specific geographic regions. This is because the invention of writing meant that information could be accumulated and recorded and passed on with much greater stability, depth, breadth and complexity than mere oral transmission allowed, which enabled the development of agriculture, property ownership, technological innovation and organization of large groups of people.
Human advancement continued at a steady, gradual pace for the next few thousand years, as we graduated from clay and wax tablets to scrolls of parchment and papyri, then to the codex, the proliferation of paper, until the next “great leap forward” only a few short centuries ago in the form of the invention of the printing press, which enabled the Protestant Reformation and the Enlightenment, along with all of the political and scientific and industrial advancements that ensued as a result. This, of course, led to still greater advancements in our ability to communicate: the telegraph, then the radio and then television and other mass media, and now, the internet, and soon (we are promised/threatened), the metaverse and neuralink.
These technological “great leaps forward” that have enabled us to communicate with greater and greater speed and complexity are happening with increasing frequency, and each time it happens, human civilization is transformed suddenly and dramatically and in ways that were unfathomable to previous generations. The earlier advancements were separated by millennia and humans had centuries to adjust and adapt their ways of life. The more recent advancements have been separated by mere decades, though, many of them happening within a single lifetime. And we have not yet adapted, and it remains to be seen if we ever will, and even now, along with the undeniable spectacular benefits, the internet is proving also to have unintended negative consequences for human development, individually and societally, the true extent of which we haven’t even begun to understand.
And that’s the impact of the internet, which is brand spanking new.
The Church has still yet to adapt to the development of radio, television or movie theaters, though. We don’t generally realize it, because most of these inventions were commonplace years before most of us were born, along with the fact that the relevance of these inventions to the Church and to Christianity is not immediately apparent to us, so we’re inclined to take all of these for granted and to regard them as somewhat static features of modern life. But, their effects upon the Church have been profound, and are only now finally beginning to catch up to us.
To explain, it must be reiterated that communication is the fundamental feature of all of these advancements. These advancements relate to the speed and reach and scope of our delivery, but the content itself is still just language, which is fundamentally identical to what it was thousands of years ago before the advent of writing – it’s still all just people talking to each other. We generally don’t see it in such reductive terms, because the effect of such communication – ancient or modern – is to erase the perceived distinction between direct experience and second-hand information.
Phonetics – individual sounds and syllables – are the fundamental building blocks of language, which are expressed in letters, which form words, which are arranged into sentences, then paragraphs, etc.
These are the building blocks, but the superstructures – language in its highest and most complex construction – are narratives, stories.
And that’s the magic – real life, literal magic – of how we can, as a sort of telepathy, transport our thoughts and experiences from mind to mind and share in a collective consciousness: You hear a story set in a place you’ve never been about events you’ve never witnessed, but you feel like you were there, and you’re shaped by the experience almost as if you were.
We tend to think of them as frivolous entertainment and mere escapism, and nothing more: “It’s just a movie,” is a common rebuke if ever someone takes their pop culture too seriously.
But, there is no such thing as “just a story.”
As touched upon in the previous installment, stories are the souls of civilizations.
We tend to think civilizations are made out of physical infrastructure – like the walls of an ancient city-state or the borders around a country – or upon government systems and laws. And that isn’t entirely wrong, but these are not civilizations at their most fundamental and foundational level. Laws distill the underlying values of a civilization and governments enforce and embody them, but the values themselves come from the stories.
Ancient Greek civilization had Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey at its heart. Likewise, Augustus Caesar commissioned Virgil to write the Aeneid to serve as the Roman national epic, which was the sequel to Homer’s epics in the same way that the Romans saw themselves as the successors to Greek civilization. The Israelites/Jews, of course, had the Hebrew Bible as their national epic. Medieval Britain had the Matter of Britain, with King Arthur as its central figure, which incorporated both the Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman narratives. India has the Mahabharata and the Ramayana.
Examples are endless, but where there is a great civilization, there is always a deep, rich, sprawling national epic at its heart, and the greatness, longevity and reach of historical influence of the civilization tends to be directly proportionate to the greatness of its national epic (China is the exception that proves the rule).
Communities and cultural identities have always been rooted in stories, and so having a shared story is what makes a collection of individuals into a community, be it a tribe, a nation or a military unit or any other closely-knit group of people with a shared identity. The protagonists of our stories model virtue and heroism and teach us how to be good members of the community, while the villains are cautionary tales to warn us against emulating their shameful behavior. The values we see modeled in our stories are inevitably and unavoidably the values we will serve and seek to embody in real life, and humans learn how to live in community with each other through our stories. And, when that story encompasses existential topics like the origin and destiny of humanity and the people’s place within the universe and relationship to God or the gods, that story is the basis for a religion. And, typically, religious narratives and national epics are either one and the same, or they overlap so much that the distinction is meaningless.
This is why storytelling has typically been a religious function: the shamans, seers, prophets, priests and preachers have always been the custodians of the community’s stories, and the community is forged and maintained and perpetuated by the regular activity of gathering together to hear The Story. This function wasn’t strictly reserved for religion and religious functionaries – they had bards and playwrights and theater, all the way back in ancient Greece. But even these drew from the sacred stories, through quotation or thematic allusion, at the very least, because that was the basic operating system of their audiences.
Storytelling is our central occupation as humans and underlies all other pursuits, because language is our defining attribute as humans, and stories are the most highly-developed construction of language. Humans are most human when we’re telling or receiving stories, and stories are how we discover and define and communicate our humanity.
And – seemingly paradoxically – we also use stories to train and condition and control each other like animals.
A Shattered Monopoly
In Western civilization for the past 1,600 years, churches and clergy have been the custodians and purveyors of our sacred stories, and so Christianity was the source of our collective values and worldview. Even if a person didn’t believe, it was nonetheless Christian values that informed their moral outlook, whether they were conscious of it or not.
And, this happened by default. Towns were typically situated around churches, which often functioned as the local community center or town hall. Communities gathered weekly to hear the stories, and if a person opted out, it was noticed and commented upon. The seasons of the year were punctuated by Christian holy days, when the community would gather to hear the most important stories to frame their celebrations.
All of that changed, virtually overnight, in the 20th century. Automobiles encouraged people to spread out. People don’t even know their neighbors anymore, much less are we bound by geography to any church-centered local communities.
But the real change is due, not to our ease of travel (as earth-shattering as that is), but to our communication advances: We are constantly bombarded with media and deluged with stories.
Even among devout, active, churchgoing Christians, the Church’s historical monopoly on storytelling is not only broken, but shattered – pulverized to dust and scattered in a million different directions. We don’t even think of “church” in terms related to that function anymore.
Not only that, but the Church’s enemies have caught on to the fact that ultimate power – I wouldn’t say “power over society,” but “power under society” – lies in controlling the stories. As in, they cannot quite exercise top-down, dictatorial power over society, just yet. But by controlling the stories, they can exert a more subtle, long-term and lasting influence by controlling the values.
Politics is downstream from culture.
This is why our civilization is so balkanized and set against itself. It used to be that we were all more-or-less united as a civilization by a single general narrative; even if there were competing factions within our civilization, they at least competed within the framework of that shared narrative. Now, college graduates barely know anything about that narrative, and there are interests who are actively working to discredit it and impose their own in its place, even as a thousand different stories compete for our attention through movies and television and video games and books.
Our technological advances have functioned like a jackhammer, demolishing our civilization from the ground up, and then constructing an endless patchwork of smaller, pop-up civilizations in its place. But, it happened invisibly, right under our noses, and the Church hasn’t quite caught on and still thinks of itself as the default community center and the source of values, and cannot understand why the world has moved on.
All Warfare is Spiritual Warfare
Again, we tend to think of these stories as nothing more than frivolous entertainment, and so we trivialize their influence and importance.
It is simply impossible to overstate how profoundly foolish this is.
One story among a deluge might be trivial (unless it’s ‘Star Wars’ or ‘Harry Potter’ or the like). But, the deluge itself is far from trivial, especially when many of the stories advance a common agenda, or when they crowd out the foundational story through sheer volume.
Imagine casually popping what we think are tic tacs into our mouths all day, not realizing that they are in actuality powerful psychotropic drugs that bend our thoughts and perceptions and make us subject us to hypnosis and mind-control.
That is the effect the stories we consume have on our minds, and the less conscious we are of that fact, the more effective they are in controlling us.
I know it’s a bit trite and clichéd when Christians say this, but the fact remains that we are, right now, in this very moment, at war.
And while I do ultimately mean a “spiritual war,” do not take that to mean that we’re at war only in some abstract, figurative sense. No, we are literally at war, in the most concrete and objective possible sense, absolutely no different than if bullets were zipping overhead and mortars exploding nearby as you read this. It is a war that will determine the future state of the world and how institutions are structured, power is exercised and resources are distributed, no different than if we were uniformed soldiers fighting with rifles and bayonets.
Yes, physical violence is the most conspicuous and visceral manifestation of warfare, but it’s not the only form of warfare, and it’s not even the predominant form of warfare practiced in the world today between nations and governments.
In the Bible, we read about spiritual warfare, and how it played out in human affairs: the corrupt gods of the Divine Council moved against one another through their human counterparts, taking territory through literal battles, redrawing literal borders of human empires.
As long as human civilizations were strictly defined by borders and centralized around top-down, autocratic governments, that was the most common form of warfare.
But, in the age of liberal democracies and mass communication, where voters’ opinions determine policy, that is no longer the case. The United States, as just one example, has shown a consistent pattern over the past century of surrendering wars we’ve already won because we lack the political will to follow through. If the Roman Empire conquered a region, they would set up a permanent garrison to maintain control and establish a local system of incentives for compliance and assimilation, and this would ensure that the subjugated populace would be less motivated or capable to regroup and revolt, so they wouldn’t have to fight the same war again. The United States, on the other hand, will establish military control over a region, and then eventually abandon it as soon as the political winds at home shift in another direction, and the region will revert back to the same state as before. Afghanistan today is virtually indistinguishable from Afghanistan in 2001, despite nearly two decades of American occupation.
I don’t say any of that in the interest of arguing for or against any given military action. I only say it to point out that controlling the beliefs and attitudes of the voting public has far more strategic impact over time than controlling any given stretch of land through military force in the moment. Military action follows public attitude, and so for any given military objective to succeed in the long term – or to happen at all, the battle must be won on the field of public opinion first and foremost. So, a bit of propaganda worked into a popular Netflix show or a cleverly devised internet meme that goes viral can have far more strategic impact than battlefield tactics. All of the battlefield superiority in the world doesn’t matter if the enemy has won the psyops war: A world leader can order an invasion or airstrike, and it can succeed in its immediate objective, but if it causes his own population to riot and remove him from power, he is defeated by his own military strength.
This is why a free press with integrity and credibility is so vital to the freedom and moral health of a nation, and it’s why foreign powers have flooded the internet with bots and why the Chinese government prizes apps like Tiktok and WhatsApp, and why a million other operations and tactics that we’ll never even know about are playing out in cyberspace this very moment – all because the ultimate prize is always the hearts and minds of the people, as the key to all else.
Actual, literal wars are being fought, right this moment, not over borders and territory, but over image and ideology, to control the thoughts and attitudes of the public. The war is over the story, the narrative, because that’s how populations are controlled. As anyone who’s been paying attention knows, the Cold War never really ended; the enemy just regrouped and retooled its tactics, and instead of fighting over territory and borders, the fight is over institutions and voting blocs.
Again, we read about spiritual warfare in the Bible, and Paul tells us that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
When the people of God were limited to a visible nation living among other nations, and those spiritual forces of evil were territorial gods ruling over their own nations, that struggle played out through flesh-and-blood armies warring over territory and vying for regional dominance: Joshua’s conquest of the Promised Land was both a “war” in the sense conventionally understood, as well as a “spiritual war,” and there was no distinction between the two in the minds of any of the people at the time.
By Paul’s time, with the Law of Moses fulfilled and consummated through the death and resurrection and ascension of the Son of Man to rule over all nations, that spiritual war did not abate – it continued apace, but on different terms, with different objectives. With Judaism “packaged for export,” so to speak, that war was no longer about a single nation of God’s people controlling a specific stretch of territory, but liberating all nations everywhere from the gods of this world by turning them to the one true God.
It wasn’t a war fought through physical violence to forcefully subjugate the enemy by controlling their territory – doing so would negate the very objective for which the war was being fought. If people could be redeemed and made right with God simply by having the right set of laws imposed upon them, God wouldn’t have sent His Son to die for our sins on a Roman cross. He would have just had David and Solomon and their descendants continue their conquests, expanding the borders of Israel to encompass the world.
In other words, we wouldn’t have Christianity at all, but Islam.
Instead of a war of physical violence, it was a war of arguments with the objective of reasoned persuasion. It was a war of philosophy and faith, fought through language to change their very natures by imparting the life of God into them, thereby freeing them from evil itself – the evil of their own natures. Instead of taking territory through force from the top down, now the war was about winning territory from the bottom up – one person, family, community at a time – through reasoned persuasion and voluntary commitment to self-discipline and love.
Which is why, Paul said, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
But, make no mistake, that doesn’t mean it was only “war” in some figurative, abstract sense. It was a war no less literal and with stakes no less crucial than the war fought by Joshua.
And, even today, we see a similar kind of war being literally fought between governments. Historically, we have always made a distinction between “literal, actual” war and “spiritual war,” but that’s a false distinction, and as we can see today, even the illusion of that distinction has disappeared.
When we qualify a war as “spiritual,” this speaks only to the ultimate objectives, not the methods. The conquest of Canaan was no less a “spiritual war” for the fact that Joshua and the armies of Israel shed blood on the battlefield, and today’s wars of ideology and psyops are no less literal, actual warfare for the fact that they do not. The objective is the collective spirit of the people.
The Blessing in Disguise of Our Lost Influence
It could be said that we’re losing the war right now, but that would imply that we’re actually fighting it. It isn’t as if we were advancing in victory, and then the Church was outmaneuvered by the advent of mass communication and then we lost our advantage.
No, the Church abandoned the war centuries ago and was only coasting on the fact that it was the default center of the culture. The loss of our default cultural monopoly didn’t defeat us. It just exposed the fact of our longstanding tacit surrender.
It was a tacit surrender because the Church settled for an apparent victory, which the enemy was all too happy to concede, because it was no real victory at all.
Notice again how Paul stressed that “the weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.”
He wasn’t just talking about non-violence.
Stories are also the weapons of the world. Every culture has them. Every civilization runs on them. It wasn’t just Israel and early Christianity.
Did you think that because the Christian story became the dominant one, that meant victory?
No, that was no more a victory, in any final and meaningful sense, than it would have been if the apostles had raised an army and simply conquered the Roman Empire by force. Sure, that would pass as “victory,” but only on the world’s superficial and ultimately meaningless terms. It wouldn’t have achieved the actual objectives of the spiritual war for which the Church was founded.
Sure, winning the cultural victory went deeper beneath the surface than a military one, but only by a matter of degree. It didn’t accomplish the true victory.
It’s certainly true that the biblical narrative is a story, and true victory includes getting people to accept it, but that alone achieves very little.
Humans tell stories, and it’s part of what makes us human.
But the gospel is about transcending our mere human nature and becoming a newer, higher order of humanity.
The Bible is a story, and stories are indispensable for communicating values and truth. But they’re also used to tell lies. Stories are the human operating system, and they can be hacked in the same way computers can. Or, if you prefer – stories are magic. They can be used to empower and give life, or they can be used for evil to destroy and manipulate. Call it “black magic,” call it “human computer-hacking” – either is accurate. The point is, as long as we’re running on stories alone, we can be manipulated and controlled and corrupted by the very forces of evil we are meant to conquer, and this is precisely what is happening in our civilization just now.
Just as the gospel is supposed to impart the divine life into us so that we can master and transcend our animal lusts and base passions, it should also make us “unhackable,” immune to black magic – no longer subject to the manipulations and mind-control of storytelling.
That’s why Paul and the other apostles didn’t rely on mere storytelling to spread the gospel. Their methods went deeper by connecting people to the very ground of reality and building a firmly-rooted foundation from that deepest possible level.
“When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power,” Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth.
This passage is often misconstrued to mean that Paul bypassed reason and relied instead on mysticism in his preaching, but that isn’t the report Luke gives: Paul used rational argument to convince them. His remarks above are the other side of the same point he made elsewhere to the Corinthians about “destroying arguments and strongholds.”
His point about not using “wise and persuasive words” didn’t mean he didn’t persuade people through wisdom and reason. It meant that he didn’t rely on sophistry and rhetorical tricks and theatrics to manipulate their emotions. He testified to what he had seen of the Spirit’s power in his encounter with the risen Jesus. As discussed more comprehensively in Part 2 of this series, he and the other apostles relied on reason and logical argumentation and evidence about factual events to spread the gospel.
Paul’s point was that he didn’t want them to believe the gospel because of any skill in speaking or presentation that he brought to it. He wanted them to believe it solely on its own merits. In other words, his point was the opposite of what people often claim it was.
They didn’t want people to accept and believe the gospel because it was a good story – because it tugged at their heartstrings and made for a compelling drama. They wanted people to accept it because it was true, and for no other reason, and so they relied on logic, reason and evidence to convince them.
This is how Christianity spread so far, so fast, in its early centuries. Gentile converts abandoned the stories that had been in place for millennia, on which their civilizations and cultures were based, in order to embrace this new Story. They did so because Christian evangelists employed evidence and logic to persuade them of its objective truth.
And then, something happened along the way, and it happened at the worst possible moment for the life of the Church.
Right on the heels of the most brutal and far-reaching empire-wide, systematic persecution in history … they “won.” After centuries of being hated and hunted by one emperor after another, suddenly, the head of the Roman Empire became a Christian himself. Very soon afterward, his successors made Christianity not only the favored religion of the realm, but compulsory.
Professing Christians now ran the world. They held the sword and controlled the territory, the laws, the culture and the stories. Whether or not a person actually believed Christianity to be true was beside the point now – you don’t have to convince people to believe it if they don’t have a choice. The truth or falsehood of it was now entirely incidental.
So, the Church’s advance in the true war halted, because Christians enjoyed an apparent victory, and so stopped fighting.
Historians often characterize this turn of events as the final stage of the “Christianization of the Roman Empire,” but it was the opposite. It was the Romanization of Christianity. It had the outward forms and terminology and the apparent story of Christianity, but it was Roman in spirit and operation. Christianity was reduced to just another human story – a piece of cultural furniture on which to seat the civilization, and a banner under which to conquer.
It was not the victory of Christianity. In truth, it was Christianity’s defeat. It was the Church finally bending the knee and giving in to the same temptation Jesus rejected when the Devil offered “all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.” He gave them what he offered, and then a Romanized Christianity ruled over a thousand years of darkness.
It wasn’t a final defeat, of course. It was a stalemate, and the forces of darkness were happy to let the Church enjoy what progress it had made, because as long as the advance was halted, their final defeat was indefinitely postponed. Their doom is inevitable, so their only objective is to buy time, so the Devil loves a stable status quo.
Christians have been coasting on that phony “victory” ever since. Sure, there have been various movements and struggles and reforms, and I’m not saying those weren’t improvements or that no Christian has been sincere or genuinely regenerated in the time since. We’re living under the benefits of that stalemate, even now, and they are considerable.
But, there was a price to pay for it, and that bill is coming due.
Also, it might have been possible to launch something like a “great awakening” 300 years ago with a well-preached sermon at the right time to the right audience, but that’s never going to happen again – not when most of the audience is likely to head straight home and have that sermon crowded out by whatever they binge on Netflix.
All of this might sound quite pessimistic and dour, but the fact that the advantage won by that stalemate has begun to expire is actually a very good thing.
When Christianity still enjoyed that default cultural dominance, it was easy to mistake defeat for victory. Now we know better.
Our loss of cultural influence just burns away the straw and stubble to reveal the truth of our condition, which makes our next steps all the more clear and obvious.
Don’t get me wrong – the prognosis isn’t good for us. Christianity is dying in the West. We stand in grave danger of “losing our lampstand.” We need to reckon with that.
But if we do understand the gravity of our situation, that makes our choice easy.
We have to mobilize for war. We have to embark upon a true and meaningful and lasting reformation of the Church. The only other option is to accept the annihilation of Christianity in the West and the ruination of our civilization, and the world along with it.
And that’s no choice at all.
By now, though, you might be catching on that the headline and opening paragraphs were something of a bait-and-switch. But not entirely, and certainly not in a bad way.
Will this plan bring about an American renaissance? You bet. But we’re setting our sights far too low if that’s all we want.
This will end the War.
A faithful and functional Church is automatically a victorious one. We will have the infinite power of God Himself at our disposal, and the forces of darkness cannot resist us, if we just fight.
Can we achieve an American renaissance? Sure. And then some.
But, before that … we’ve got a fight on our hands, and it’s going to get bloody.
If you’ve read this far, it probably means you agree with me to at least some extent, and so hopefully you’re on board for that fight.
That fight begins within the Church itself. The Church itself is our mission field.
The first installment to this series, “The Promised Land … of Confusion,” addresses the ugly but undeniable fact that what passes for “Christianity” in the world simply is not. It’s not what the Bible teaches and has nothing to do with the actual biblical narrative, and the fact that so many people are so wildly mistaken about it proves that people just don’t read the Bible and don’t really care what it teaches – clergy and laypeople alike.
That’s a problem.
We need to call attention to it. We need to shout it from the rooftops and confront as many people with it as we possibly can, as often as we can.
Simply getting people to read the Bible to find out what it actually teaches will go a long way toward fixing many of these problems. But also, confronting them with just how far off they are and how completely the Church has failed them will shake them out of complacency and make them at least receptive to the need for comprehensive, sweeping changes throughout the Church.
One such fundamental change would be to our collective epistemology – our understanding of knowledge and the nature of belief. The second part of this series, “We Are the Church Negated – We Are the Anti-Church,” explains how we have mutilated the concept of faith and belief as it is taught in the Bible. The Church has turned Christianity into a brain-eating cancer by construing faith as the antithesis of reason and evidence, thereby turning anti-intellectualism, ignorance and credulity into supposed virtues, and inverting the nature of salvation itself.
If the Church successfully repented of its epistemological backwardness and instituted a collective embrace of a true, biblical epistemology as described in Part 2, it would (ironically, given that it was written as an anti-Christian polemic) resemble something like the Vulcan logic revolution from “Star Trek.” It wouldn’t be the purging of emotion in order to embrace pure logic – having more of one doesn’t actually equate to having less of the other. But, emotion that precedes or is divorced from logic is disordered; logic should be the basis for true thought and beliefs, and emotion should follow, not lead.
It’s the Church’s job to teach us the logical, evidentiary case for the truth of Christianity, and in so doing, it not only immunizes us from the emotional manipulation and fallacious logic of our culture and its mind-warping stories, but equips us to make that case to others. The fact that Christianity is in retreat in our culture instead of advancing is testament to the Church’s failure to meet this basic responsibility.
As a consequence of the Church’s failure in that regard, collectively, we do not see the new, transformed nature that is supposed to characterize the Church. Christians, by and large, do not live any differently than our “lost” neighbors. The reasons for that are addressed in the third installment of this series, “Recapturing Our Stolen Inheritance.”
In part 1 of that installment (I know – I should have planned this better before I started numbering the installments), we discuss the true narrative of the Bible that we’ve missed by, not only not reading it for ourselves, but by believing so many falsehoods about it. Namely, we learned about our War against the spiritual forces of darkness, and how we are destined to replace them as the gods of this world, and how our legends and heroic fantasies and superhero stories offer us glimpses of what God has promised.
In the conclusion of the third installment, we discuss how it is the Church’s job to teach us about that inheritance and to train us in our participation in the Divine Nature, and why it continually fails to do so, as well as how to restore the Church to faithfulness and functionality, and what that should look like in practical, functional terms.
These are discussions we need to have in our churches.
Again, since you’re reading this right now, I have to assume you agree with me, at least to some extent.
If so, it’s in your hands.
The next steps to take in the restoration of the Church and the salvation of our civilization and our world … are yours to take.
Don’t just read this and then do nothing.
Take action. Do something about it.
Raise these issues with your fellow Christians in church. Bring them up to your pastor. Start conversations in your Bible studies, in your Sunday school classes, over lunch after church service. Confront them with the failures of the Church and call them to repentance. Or, if nothing else, call them to discuss these issues at greater length. Refer them to my blog so they can see what you’ve seen.
Be respectful and kind and gentle, but be firm and insistent.
I’m not very good at sloganizing, but maybe you are, and you can come up with some quippy, pithy distillations of some of the points raised here, in order to spark these conversations and to get others talking about these issues as well.
Or, maybe you don’t necessarily agree with me about all of this, or any of it, but you still recognize that the Church needs reform and our civilization is in decline, and a resurgent Christianity is our only hope.
Just the same, point people to my blog. Whether they agree or disagree or like what they read is less important, for the time being, than just having these conversations.
But, pay close attention to their responses.
Do they agree? If so, what are they willing to do about it?
Do they disagree? If so, why? Do they give good reasons for it? Do they offer good alternatives to the arguments I’ve made here?
I don’t expect people to accept all of this without question or challenge or struggle, and I would have to question their sincerity and comprehension if they did. I understand how difficult much of this is to accept and to implement.
Whatever response any of this elicits, we cannot afford to continue as we are and do nothing. We can see where this path leads. If the leaders of our churches can only offer more of the same and want to pretend we’re on the right path, we are lying to ourselves if we continue to follow them.
I have offered a plan. If it’s the wrong plan, I’m happy to hear about it and to entertain proposals for a better one. But the status quo is, simply put — satanic. It is a surrender to self-destruction.
The most typical objection I encounter, however, is that of incredulity over the daunting ambition of my goals: “Brian, we can’t overhaul the entire Church. We can’t change the tides of our entire civilization. That’s not just difficult. It’s impossible.”
Which, of course, is absolutely true. It is impossible.
But, so what? What difference should that make?
We worship a God who raises the dead. We claim to follow a Messiah who walks on water and bids us – not only to follow, but to do greater works than his. Can we truly claim to believe in him at all if we limit our objectives to what is merely possible? Aren’t we lying to ourselves when we claim to believe, but then let a triviality like “That’s impossible” limit our expectations?
It is impossible. Nonetheless, that is our mandate.