The Triumph of Unbelief in the West
The Christian faith declares that all power and authority belongs to the risen Lord Jesus Christ. His authority embraces all reality: both material and immaterial realms; all nations, all cultures, and all societies. He is the Alpha and Omega. The past, the present and the future are His and He is their Lord. Consequently, all Unbelief—wherever it be found—is doomed to fail. Resistance is not only futile, it is evil.
Of course, to Unbelief it does not seem this way. Non-Christians would insist that they are on the winning side, that the Christian faith is a relic of a by-gone ignorant and superstitious age. They would point to the triumph of Enlightenment rationalism in the West, the decline of belief in Christ, and the ebbing of His (mythical) Kingdom. They would refer to the decline of influence of Christian beliefs and of the Christian Gospel everywhere in the West. And they would have recent history on their side. They will find no argument here—at least as far as the West is concerned (the Southern Hemisphere being another story).
Christians, however, see the long run very differently (as you would expect). To Christian eyes, the post Christian, pagan West appears like an outpost of Unbelief across the centuries and generations. It is like a primitive tribe which is celebrating because, with its spears and clubs, it has fought off an enemy scouting party, unaware that just over the ridge sit a division of M1 Abrams tanks about to unleash. Or, to change the figure (with apologies to Byron), the Believer knows that the might of the Western Gentile, unsmote by the sword, shall melt like snow in the glance of the Lord.
But Christians also know that the decline of the faith in the West did not come about by accident. It is Jerusalem, and the Church within her walls, that is largely responsible. And for this we weep and mourn, and like Daniel of old, confess the sins of our fathers in praying for the restoration of Jerusalem. It is we in Jerusalem who have been unfaithful and so the Lord has made us face the consequences. The strength of the post-Christian pagan West is a story of the infidelity of Jerusalem, not a story of the merits or powers of Unbelief.
By the end of the nineteenth century our fathers had decided that Christianity, if it were to prosper, needed modernising to make it more relevant to the world around it. This meant taking up the concerns and aspirations of the surrounding culture and joining with them.
The nineteenth century ended in Europe amidst a blaze of glorious optimism. Universal peace and prosperity was about to break out upon mankind. Progress was inevitable. Unending prosperity was just around the corner. The response of the Church, in general, was to agree. The so-called triumph of Man and of human reason meant that Man could now exercise control over God and His Christ, and His Bible. Modern Man could see flaws, faults, mere imaginations, and prejudices in the Bible that rude and crude scholars could not see before. “Scientific” criticism had exposed all kinds of errors and weaknesses in the Bible. Just as all now needed to be subject to Reason and rationalistic criticism, Christianity was no exception.
Unbelief triumphed in the West in the nineteenth century because of the defalcation of the Church. The critical point of the apostasy was to agree with Unbelievers that human reason was the ground of all truth, and that God needed to be subject to it. “Fair enough”, said the Church—and in so saying, parroted the reasoning and speech of Eve when she had turned away from God. Did God really say that? and, Do I agree with it? was at the heart of sin in the Garden. It was also at the heart of the sins of the Church in the West at the end of the nineteenth century.
The Church had agreed with Unbelief that if God and the Bible and the Christian faith was to have any credibility and integrity at all, it had to be made reasonable to fallen men. For human Reason had become the measure of all truth and reality in the community at large. The leaders and teachers of the Church concurred–and so exchanged the Living God for an idol.
The apple had not fallen far from Adam’s tree.