Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, wrote the following concerning reports that he was seriously ill and near death (it was actually a cousin): “The report of my death was an exaggeration.” A similar thing can be said about Western Civilization. It may be ill, but it’s not dead. In fact, the enemies of Western Civilization are on life support.
The main reason anti-Christian civilizationists survive and seem to thrive is that Christians have not engaged with and built a competing alternative culture. Moreover, many Christians don’t believe there can be a Christian civilization, so they send their children off to the local government school that is anti-Christian believing that facts are neutral and public education is free.
It hasn’t always been this way. Winston Churchill, for example, saw the Battle of Britain as a struggle between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness. “Upon this battle,” Churchill said on the 18th of June 1940, “depends the survival of Christian civilization.”
Christianity has always entered the world deep in the stench of paganism and darkness. In the past, such conditions have brought out the best in the Christian worldview. Christianity infused the world with the light of the gospel and its call for the redemption of sinners and their sin-stained world. This vision of Christianity seems lost on many of today’s Christians.
Anti-Christians are killing off their future via abortion and choosing not to have children. Homosexuality and transgenderism (and all the other gender-isms) are self-emasculating. When men and women are cutting off their genitals to identify as the opposite sex, we must ask whose civilization is coming to an end.
For centuries well-intentioned Christian writers have claimed the end was near. Western civilization, while severely damaged, survived two world wars. Lesser civilizations would have been relegated to the dustbin of history.
The following is adapted from Michael Yousseff’s The Hidden Enemy: Aggressive Secularism, Radical Islam and the Fight for Our Future. Yousseff is pastor of the Church of the Apostles (Atlanta, GA) and founder and president of Leading the Way, a worldwide television and radio ministry. He has been writing and preaching on end-of-the world themes for decades.
I believe Western civilization was born in 1517, when Martin Luther ignited the fires of the Protestant Reformation. … Luther taught the church and European culture to respect truth and anchor it to Scripture. Western societies have operated on a foundation of reason and objective truth ever since—that is, until the past 50 years or so. The change began in 1967. That was the year an entire generation—the Baby Boom generation—was profoundly affected by a new way of looking at reality. That was the year our culture began to abandon objective truth in favor of feelings and subjective experience.
Why was 1967 so significant? That was the year Dr. Timothy Leary told the 30,000 gathered for the first Human Be-In in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park to “turn on, tune in and drop out.”
The 1960s were not the beginning of moral, intellectual, and experiential subjectivity; they were the culmination of several cultural shifts. If you want to find a date for an event that made almost everything subjective, it was the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species in 1859 and its nearly universal acceptance by academia that changed everything:
Daniel C. Dennett, an atheist, evolutionist, anti-Christian, and author of Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, likens Darwin’s notion to a ‘universal acid’ which is so corrosive that nothing can contain it. Darwinism ‘eats through virtually every traditional concept’ ((D. Dennett, ‘Darwin’s dangerous idea’, The Sciences, 34–40 (May–June 1995).)) —mankind’s most cherished beliefs about God, value, meaning, purpose, culture, morality—everything. While lashing out at creationists, Dennett says that they are ‘right about one thing; Darwin’s dangerous idea cuts much deeper into the fabric of our most fundamental beliefs than many of [Darwinism’s] sophisticated apologists have yet admitted, even to themselves. Even today, many people still have not come to terms with its mind-boggling implications. (Creation.com)
Much more could be said about the effect Darwinism has had on everything, but the missing element in Michael Yousseff’s comments about Western Civilization comes from his own worldview. He mentions 1517, the start of the Protestant Reformation, as the beginning of Western Civilization and its end in 1967. A more accurate impact date would be 1917, the year C. I. Scofield published the second edition of his Reference Bible. Originally published in 1909, The Scofield Reference Bible has been a mainstay among Fundamentalists and many Evangelicals. It was hard to tell where the text of the Bible ended and the Scofield notes began. The Bible was read through the interpretive lens of Scofield’s idiosyncratic prophetic views.
According to Scofield, “we are living in the sixth of seven historical periods, or ‘dispensations’, before the End of Days. During this time, wickedness, war and natural disaster befall the earth, and the faithful must detach themselves from it to be ‘Rapture-ready’.” ((Eric Kaufmann, S_hall the Religious Inherit the Earth: Demography and Politics in the Twenty-First Century_ (London: Profile Books, 2010)_,_ 78.)) These preludes to the “rapture” are a prophetic inevitability. We are in a continual “rapture ready” holding pattern.
As a result of this new way of interpreting Bible prophecy, Scofield and his ardent followers adopted a self-imposed “turn off, tune out ,and drop out” philosophy of life they said was found in the Bible. For Scofield, the next important event is the “rapture of the church.” Anything that happens before this supernatural event, when Christians are said to be taken to heaven before the rise of antichrist and the battle of Armageddon, is irrelevant, a parenthesis in God’s prophetic plan.
- John Nelson Darby, a prophetic predecessor to Scofield, taught that “the imminent return of Christ ‘totally forbids all working for earthly objects distant in time.’” ((Francis William Newman, Phases of Faith; or, Passages From the History of My Creed (London: George Woodfall and Son, 1850), 35.)) This would have included the study of mathematics, medicine, art, music, and the sciences unless there were “immediate spiritual results.” ((Newman, Phases of Faith, 37.))
- “What a way to live! With optimism, with anticipation, with excitement. We should be living like persons who don’t expect to be around much longer.” ((Hal Lindsey, The Late Great Planet Earth (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1970), 145.))
- “I don’t like clichés but I’ve heard it said, ‘God didn’t send me to clean the fishbowl, he sent me to fish.’ In a way there’s a truth to that.” ((An Interview with Hal Lindsey, “The Great Cosmic Countdown: Hal Lindsey on the Future,” Eternity (January 1977), 21.))
- “The church is not in the business of taking anything away from Satan but the souls of men. The world is a sinking Titanic ripe for judgment, not Garden of Eden perfection.”
- “This world is not going to get any easier to live in. Almost unbelievably hard times lie ahead. Indeed, Jesus said that these coming days will be uniquely terrible. Nothing in all the previous history of the world can compare with what lies in store for mankind.” ((Charles C. Ryrie, The Living End (Old Tappan, NJ: Revell, 1976), 21.))
- “‘Reclaiming’ the culture is a pointless, futile exercise. I am convinced we are living in a post-Christian society—a civilization that exists under God’s judgment.” ((John F. MacArthur, The Vanishing Conscience: Drawing the Line in a No-Fault, Guilt-Free World (Dallas: Word, 1994), 12.))
- “The [dispensational] premillennial position sees no obligation to make distinctly Christian laws.” ((Norman L. Geisler, “A Premillennial View of Law and Government,” Moody Monthly (October 1985), 129.))
- “The pessimism of pre-millennialism is inherent in, belongs to, and is logically connected to, the whole system. The world, the church, and the people must become worse. Disturbances in the world, wars, and all kinds of disasters must follow one another. A gradual worsening, a decline in every sphere must be observed. If not, then premillennialism as a system fails. Pre-millennialists despair of the moral and spiritual powers and of efforts to bring about any change for the better.” ((W.H. Rutgers, Premillennialism in America (Goes, Oosterbaan en Le Cointre, 1930), 158.))
A hundred years or more of this type of teaching have had a greater impact on our world than the words of the drug-addled Timothy Leary. Millions of Christians sat back and watched the world disintegrate around them as they waited for an escape that was always said to be near but never came. We are now paying the price for our neglect.
The cry continues to be for some apocalyptic “miracle” to save us from the ever-expanding shadow of darkness. The miracle has already come. Jesus lived and died, rising from the dead to sit at His Father’s right hand (Acts 2:32–36) where “He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet” (1 Cor. 15:25).
The rescue came nearly 2000 years ago in a manger in Bethlehem. The church’s duty is to go into all the world and “make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all” that Jesus commanded (Matt. 28:19–20).
While under house arrest under the authority of the Roman government, the Apostle Paul was “proclaiming the kingdom of God” (Acts 28:31), not the rapture of the church.