No, we don’t live in a “post-Christian world.” A “post-Christian world” cannot possibly exist. There has never been such a world; there will never be one. Stop using the phrase. It is bad theology. It is bad philosophy of history. It is bad evangelism. It is bad psychology. And it is false view of reality.
It is bad theology because it presupposes a change in sovereignty. A Christian world is a world where Christ is present and has all authority. Therefore a “post-Christian world” presupposes that Christ isn’t present and He doesn’t have all authority. This goes directly against the starting and the concluding lines of the Great Commission. As long as Christ has all power, and He is with us, this will be a Christian world, period.
It is bad philosophy of history because it presupposes that history somehow operates on a logic of its own, and thus controls the destiny and actions of cultures irrespective of the actions or beliefs of men. A “post-Christian world” would mean that history has turned in another direction, opposite to the one it was going before. History doesn’t turn back and forth. It goes only in one direction.
It is bad evangelism because it gives ammo to the enemies of Christianity who want to portray it as a temporary historical factor that has lived its purpose and will inevitably go to the dustbin of history. They have a word for the “Christian world” of the centuries past: Middle Ages. Middle, that is, between the early and the later ages of paganism. The phrase “post-Christian world” plays so good into their hands; of course, of course, it is a “post-Christian world,” they say, because Christianity has played its role and it’s about time for it to retire from the world.
It is bad psychology because it teaches Christian men that there is a fundamental difference in the possibilities for victory and triumph between them today and their spiritual forefathers in the past. Our forefathers must have achieved their spiritual victories because they lived in a “Christian world”; ours is “post-Christian world” and therefore we shouldn’t expect too much.
And it is false view of reality because it presupposes that Christianity has lost it dominance in the world. Nothing could be further from the truth. More than any time before in history, the world today stands or falls with Christianity. All the enemies of Christianity need Christianity in order to survive – both as individuals and as cultures. The Soviet Union would not have been able to survive 70 years if its ideological enemy, America, had not supplied it with food, machines, and technologies. In the same way, secular humanism, Buddhism, Islam wouldn’t be able to survive if Christianity and Christians didn’t exist to give the principle of unity in the world today. Sodomites, abortionists, and paganists can’t build their own societies and cultures. They are ideological parasites that must feed off Christianity to stay alive. All the political leaders of the world earnestly desire the fruits of Christianity, even when they denounce its roots. (When pressed by necessity created by the German invasion, Stalin suddenly discovered that opening the churches for worship added to his troops’ morale, contrary to the Marxist dogma.) The world’s banking system, international trade system, diplomacy and international law – they all operate on the assumption that all participants will act as Christians, whatever their personal religion is; in fact, the very official rules for all these international fields are based on their original Christian codes from the 16th and 17th centuries. If Christianity didn’t exist, non-Christians would have invented it; otherwise the world would self-destroy within a few years.
“Ah,” some would say, “but isn’t it true that the world was more Christian before than today? Isn’t it true that today we have less Christianity, and in fact, the world is predominantly non-Christian today?”
No, it isn’t true. What is true is that it was more comfortable to be a Christian before, especially in the public sphere, but also in the family, school, church, marketplace, etc. And it was more comfortable not because there was more Christianity around but because the enemies of Christ were more subdued. They are less subdued today, but that doesn’t make the world less Christian, and certainly doesn’t make it “post-Christian.”
So the issue is not that the world was Christian before and is now “post-Christian.” The issue is: Why did God subdue the enemies of His Church before, and why doesn’t He do it now?
The answer is: Because the Church was younger then.
A three-year old lives quite a comfortable life. His food is provided for him, his clothes are provided for him. Mom and Dad take him out for a walk, and they watch over him when he plays at the playground. He plays with his toys and he can leave them everywhere. Mom makes sure at the end of the day they are back in the closet, she makes sure his room is clean and there are no dirty clothes on the floor, she makes sure his bed is made and the room is in order.
Then the time comes when he is grown up enough to clean his own room. He is on his own. Mom isn’t coming in his room anymore to fix the problems with it. Any dirty clothes he leaves on the floor will be left on the floor until he makes the effort to put them in the basket and take it to the laundry room. Any toys scattered around the room after play are going to stay there until he makes the effort to put them back in the closet. The blankets on his bed will be in total disarray until he makes the effort to make his bed. He needs to learn healthy habits, but since this doesn’t happen overnight, his room soon begins to fill with dirty clothes and scattered toys. Mom is not there to “subdue” the challenges. He is the one who must do it, and he hasn’t learned yet.
His first temptation is to say that he lives in a “post-Mom home.” Mom used to be around, and she isn’t here anymore to clean his room. For all practical purposes this is not his previous Mom; she is a different Mom altogether. Is it possible that she makes him fix his own breakfast one day? Take out the trash? Wash the dishes? The future looks bleak, and his home seems to be going to hell in a hand basket. What other conclusion can he make out of all this?
The right attitude is that now he is older, and he must clean it himself. And then learn to fix breakfast. And take out the trash. Wash the dishes. The future will be glorious future, here in his home, with his parents, if only he looks at the challenges as a learning experience rather than indicators for a bleak, dark future down the road.
This is the situation with the church today. Yes, God subdued our enemies in the past, and the world was a cleaner and more comfortable place for Christians. But it was because the Church was in its infancy, and God was preserving her from challenges that would have been too hard for her to deal with. But with the Church accumulating years of experience, God will release more challenges – and harder challenges – in the world. There will be dirty clothes on the floor for a while – until we learn to take them to the laundry room. Secular humanists, pagan rulers, socialists, sodomites, anti-Christian laws and regulations: These are the dirty clothes the church is supposed to deal with in her more mature state. She is supposed to restore the cleanness of her room, not declare the coming of the “post-Christian,” “post-Mom” world. The world is the same as it was before; the challenges are more, because the responsibilities are more.
Of course, we will have brothers from within the church that will say that there is nothing that can be done about the dirty room. The cleanness of the room itself, they will say, is a fleshly exercise; and it was largely a matter of historical circumstances in the past that the room was clean. Mom really doesn’t want us to clean the room. She wants us to live a clean life in a progressively dirty room. (“Living a Christian life in a post-Christian world,” that is.) As long as our hearts are clean, the room can stay dirty. In fact, the dirtier the room is, the cleaner our hearts will be; the sign of a really clean heart is a dirty room. (“The sign of a vibrant Christianity is that it can exist in a pagan world.”) Don’t try to clean anything. Learn to live in a dirty room with a clean heart.
There will be others who would love to have a clean room, but they will claim that this is not our room in the first place. Mom actually didn’t mean for us to live in this room, that’s why this room is getting progressively dirty. There is another room for us, and one glorious day Mom will come to rescue us from our dirty room, burn all the dirty clothes and scattered toys, and take us (rapture us) to a room where there will never be any dirty clothes and the toys will automatically go to the closet after we are done playing with them. All we need to do now is to set aside a small clean place in the corner of this room where we will wait for that day. Nothing else can be done nor should be done. (“You don’t polish the brass on a sinking ship.”)
These are the ideologies of eternal immaturity. Stay away from them. Stop using the phrase “post-Christian world.” Our world is more Christian than ever before. It is just filled with dirty clothes and scattered toys – more challenges, and more opportunities for growth in maturity. We must take the responsibility to restore it to the cleanness it had before, and even better. “Post-Christian world” is phrase that teaches us to reject that responsibility. That’s why we need to delete it from our vocabulary.
And get to work.