Why is it that so much technological advancement developed in the Christian West? Consider a few examples: The first working telephone was invented in 1876 by Alexander Graham Bell. The cumbersome device had no delivery system, wires, phones, or switching system. Who would you call? And yet today, we carry phones in our pockets and purses that are smaller than a deck of cards, need no wires or operator, and can communicate with people around the world.
The light bulb was developed in 1879 by Thomas Edison. Like Bell, Edison had a similar delivery problem. There were no power stations, and homes were still lit by gas. Edison had to build a power station, string electrical wiring, wire homes, and produce lighting fixtures and bulbs. The marvel of Edison’s invention is everywhere. On the more sophisticated end of the technological spectrum, lasers are used for everything from guiding bombs to performing delicate eye surgery.
The first airplane, built by two bicycle mechanics from Ohio, flew in 1903. Sixty-six years later, we landed men on the moon.
The first computer filled an 1800-square-foot room and weighed thirty tons. The ENIAC was built in 1947 for $500,000. It contained 17,468 vacuum tubes, 70,000 resistors, 10,000 capacitors, 1,500 relays, 6,000 manual switches and 5 million soldered joints. When turned on, its power consumption caused the city of Philadelphia to experience brownouts. Today, more computing power than the first room-size computer can be held in the palm of your hand.
What we know and how quickly we can obtain information far surpasses the accumulated knowledge of several millennia. Letters that once took months to deliver can now be sent electronically in seconds.
Restoring the Foundation of Civilization
There are many Christians who will not participate in civilization-building efforts that include economics, journalism, politics, education, and science because they believe (or have been taught to believe) these areas of thought are outside the realm of what constitutes a Christian worldview. Nothing could be further from the truth.Buy Now
What brought about these advances in scientific knowledge? Why didn’t science develop, for example, in India or China? China was using moveable type long before Gutenberg, and India (some say the Babylonians) came up with the empty place notation concept in the “number” zero. Greek and Hebrew numbering systems used letters of the alphabet (alpha=1; beta=2). Try adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing with Roman numerals. Try to multiply the following numbers with no conception of Arabic numerals and place notation: CCCXCII (392) times CMLXVIII (968).
Greece and Islam advanced somewhat scientifically, but then experienced what Stanley Jaki called a “stillbirth.” What made the difference? It has nothing to do with ethnic or racial superiority. Worldviews matter. They make all the difference.
[Ancient cultures] are all dominated by the belief that everything will repeat itself to no end, or by the idea of eternal returns. Only on occasion does one hear about this. One hardly ever hears that this belief was responsible for the fact that science suffered a stillbirth, indeed a monumental stillbirth, in all ancient cultures. I coined this phrase, the stillbirths of science, about thirty years ago [about 50 years now]. The phrase certainly did not catch on in secular academia. The reason is obvious. Nothing irks the secular world so much as a hint, let alone a scholarly demonstration, that supernatural revelation, as registered in the Bible, is germane to science. Yet biblical revelation is not only germane to science—it made the only viable birth of science possible. That birth took place in a once-Christian West.
What does any of this have to do with eschatology? A prophetic position that claims we are living at the end of the line of history inhibits long-term growth and development. Why bother if the end is near? John Nelson Darby, the founder of dispensational premillennialism and the pre-tribulation “rapture” of the church doctrine, the basis of The Scofield Reference Bible (1907, 1919), The Late Great Planet Earth (1970), the multivolume Left Behind prophecy series, and nearly every end-time “Jesus is coming very, very, very soon” book. Consider the following from Francis William Newman’s 1850 book Phases of Faith; or, Passages From the History of My Creed:
The importance of this doctrine is, that it totally forbids all working for earthly objects distant in time: and here the Irish clergyman [Darby] threw into the same scale the entire weight of his character. For instance; if a youth had a natural aptitude for mathematics, and he asked, ought he to give himself to the study, in hope that he might diffuse a serviceable knowledge of it, or possibly even enlarge the boundaries of the science? my friend would have replied, that such a purpose was very proper, if entertained by a worldly man. Let the dead bury their dead; and let the world study the things of the world: they know no better, and they are of use to the Church, who may borrow and use the jewels of the Egyptians. But such studies cannot be eagerly followed by the Christian, except when he yields to unbelief. In fact, what would it avail even to become a second La Place after thirty years' study, if in five and thirty years the Lord descended from heaven, snatched up all his saints to meet him, and burned to ashes all the works of the earth? Then all the mathematician’s work would have perished, and he would grieve over his unwisdom, in laying up store which could not stand the fire of the Lord. Clearly; if we are bound to act as though the end of all earthly concerns may come, “at cockcrowing or at midday,” then to work for distant earthly objects is the part of a fool or of an unbeliever.
No doubt that Newman’s understanding of Darby’s view is extreme, but it still resonates among many Christians today. Why polish brass on a sinking ship or rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic? What we see taking place today among Christian prophecy writers is a form of prophetic schizophrenia. While they attack what’s taking place around the world and lament wants happening, they see these events as the prelude to the soon, very soon, return of Jesus. For example, David Jeremiah “addressed cancel culture’s detrimental effects on society in his sermon series focusing on current events, which are discussed in his upcoming book, Where Do We Go from Here? How Tomorrow’s Prophesies Foreshadow Today’s Problems — slated for October.” (Source) Where do we go from here if these are signs of an imminent end? Newman channeling Darby was right 171 years ago! And yet here we are in the same soup lamenting how bad things, but you just wait—Jesus’s coming is just around the corner!
I received an email about David Giammona and Troy Anderson’s “#1 bestseller The Military Guide to Armageddon.”
The Military Guide to Armageddon is another prophetic inevitability book. While it doesn’t take a position on the rapture, it does believe we are near the end prophetically. For example:
Our new book (The Military Guide to Armageddon: Battle-Tested Strategies to Prepare Your Life and Soul for the End Times) is a forewarning to prepare for the most cataclysmic and profound event in human experience—the end of history when everything described in the book of Revelation occurs and Christ returns. Matthew 24:36 tells us that no one knows “that day or hour,” except the Father; but Jesus told us to be ready and watch for signs of His return.
The thing of it is, nearly all the accolades for their book come from people who do believe in a pre-trib rapture, and all believe the end is near. If it’s not one of the five rapture positions that’s not being promoted, the book is still conceding that Jesus in some way is about to return to wrap up things.
What are the “signs of His return”? They are the same signs that prophetic speculators have been using for nearly two millennia to claim that “everything described in the book of Revelation” was about to be fulfilled. The Olivet Discourse and similar prophetic sections of Scripture are constantly used as proof that we are on the precipice of the return of Jesus.
The authors ask, “Where Are the Bonhoeffers?” Dietrich Bonhoeffer opposed Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime and paid for his opposition with his life. Bonhoeffer was executed in 1945. Many believed Hitler was the antichrist and the end was near more than 75 years ago. It was Mussolini before Hitler and any number of other candidates before them.
Giammona and Anderson use Bonhoeffer as an example of how we should prepare for the end times, but Bonhoeffer was not preparing for the end times, and now we know (and should have known) it wasn’t the end times.
In the twentieth century, the Church in Germany under the rule of Adolf Hitler was not ready for what was about to happen. Believers witnessed the rise of Hitler, who like many other dictators throughout history embodied the “spirit of the Antichrist” (1 John 4:3). Just as the world was not prepared for World War II less than a century ago, neither are we prepared for what the Bible warns is on the horizon.
If we are living in the last days and Jesus’ physical coming (or some form of the rapture) is near, then what are we preparing for? If the church had been alert during the rise of Adolf Hitler, he never would have come to power. The fault lies with God’s people and the crutch of prophetic error.
Abraham Kuyper (1837–1920), who served as the Prime Minister in the Netherlands (1901–1905) and founded the Free University of Amsterdam in 1880, stated in his 1880 lecture on “Sphere Sovereignty,” that if the civil sphere of government grows beyond its delegated authority, the usual culprit is us:
Right here is the sore spot…. In any successful attack on freedom the state can only be an accomplice. The chief culprit is the citizen who forgets his duty, wastes away his strength in the sleep of sin and sensual pleasure, and so loses the power of his own initiative.
The temptation is to permit and even encourage the State—the civil sphere of government—to assume a larger and illegitimate governing role at the insistence of the people. In 1873, Kuyper asserted the following:
Can it be denied that the centralizing State grows more and more into a gigantic monster against which every citizen is finally powerless? Have not all independent institutions, whose sovereignty in their own sphere made them a basis for resistance, yielded to the magic formula of a single, unitary state? Once there was autonomy in the regions and towns, autonomy for families and different social ranks, autonomy for the courts as well as for the universities, corporations, and guilds. And now? The State has annexed all these rights from the provinces, one after the other. Then it tells the towns what to do, comes in your front door, expropriates your property, commandeers the law, makes trustees and professors its servants, and tolerates no corporation but as its own dependent. By inventing administrative jurisdiction, it acts as both party and judge in the conflict whenever citizens launch a complaint against it.
In his 1880 Inaugural Lecture on “Sphere Sovereignty” at the Free University of Amsterdam, Kuyper said, “Oh, no single piece of our mental world is to be hermetically sealed off from the rest, and there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’”
The thing about it is, most Christians don’t believe this is true in the here and now. Many believe Satan is the sovereign on earth.
All of this is swept under the prophetic carpet because we are to “watch for the signs of His return.” Those signs were indicators of events leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem that took place before their generation passed away (Matt. 24:34). Not knowing the day and hour is not some catch-all phrase to cover for prophetic speculation. Jesus had told His disciples that it was their generation that would see various signs, but of the exact day and hour of that judgment coming, they would not know and would not be told.
The advance of western civilization did so because of a comprehensive worldview and a belief in the forward progress of the gospel. Along the way, prophetic speculators threw sand in the gears with their speculative charts and schemes. We are now paying a heavy price for their false gospel.
Myths, Lies, and Half-Truths
Christianity's failure to show itself practical in the past 150 years has guaranteed the success of secularism and militant Islam, both of which are doing incalculable harm at home and abroad. The rejection of any type of ‘this-worldly’ application of the Bible has resulted in the proliferation of man-centered worldviews that have steadily drained the life out of our world and left behind a spiritual vacuum.Buy Now
Stanley Jaki, “The Biblical Basis of Western Science,” Crisis 15:9 (October 1997): 17–20. www.catholiceducation.org/articles/science/sc0005.html See Stanley L. Jaki, Science and Creation: From Eternal Cycles to an Oscillating Universe (Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, Ltd, 1986), 68–79 and Stanley L. Jaki, The Savior of Science (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), 2000, 22–25.
Francis William Newman, Phases of Faith; or, Passages From the History of My Creed (London: George Woodfall and Son, 1850), 35.
There were “many antichrists” in John’s day, and this was evidence that “it is the last hour” (1 John 2:18). Note the use of the present tense: the last hour for them.
Abraham Kuyper, “Sphere Sovereignty,” in James D. Bratt, ed., Abraham Kuyper: A Centennial Reader (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 473.
Kuyper, “Calvinism: Source and Stronghold of Our Constitutional Liberties,” in Bratt, ed., 281.
Kuyper, “Sphere Sovereignty,” in Bratt, ed., Abraham Kuyper, A Centennial Reader, 488.