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A Review of The Death of Western Christianity. By Patrick Sookhdeo.

May 4, 2018

Isaac Publishing, 2017.

This new volume by Patrick Sookhdeo is well worth reading. And the author is well-placed to offer us a global perspective on such matters. As the director of Barnabas Fund for several decades, an English aid agency devoted to helping the persecuted church, he has the bigger picture in view here.

He knows how myopic Western Christians can be. His subtitle says it all: “Drinking from the Poisoned Wells of the Cultural Revolution.” In this book he speaks of how the church in the West once blazed brightly, but now the flame is all but out.

He notes how the corruption is found everywhere, but especially in church leadership. All this is resulting in declining church numbers and the irrelevance of Christianity for so many people in the West. Writes Sookhdeo:

Today, the Church is scarcely distinguishable from society. . . . This has left the Church facing a fatal crisis of identity. Desperate to survive and remain relevant, it has struck a Faustian bargain with postmodern Western ideals, tolerating and taking on unorthodox beliefs and behaviours. This has, in fact, produced the opposite effect, alienating even more people and making the Church an object of ridicule.

He notes that not only is the West promoting its decadent and debased values and beliefs around the world, but so too is the church. A Western church awash in materialism, self-centredness, bogus health and wealth gospels, and a fixation on self-esteem is promoting those bogus beliefs and values around the world.

No wonder things are in such a mess. The rest of the world used to look to Western Christianity for hope, for answers, and for gospel truth. Now increasingly the rest of the world is just getting a watered down and worldly gospel which will do them no good.

Sookhdeo offers a number of chapters detailing with how the church has been compromised, weakened and sidelined by cosying up to materialism, immorality, relativism, secular humanism and various worldly agendas. Consider for example how our post-truth culture has had so much influence in our churches.

He offers various examples of this, and mentions a 2016 article which speaks of the five big lies pastors tell. These include: how big their church is; how healthy it is; and how strong their marriage and family are. He then reminds us of Jeremiah’s “four-point lie-detector to uncover false prophets”:

-they are in ministry for the money
-they have low moral standards
-their theology is fanciful
-their prophecies prove false

Hmm, sounds like a lot of church leaders and pastors today. He also cites an oft-repeated piece of research on what American Christian teens believe. Researchers Smith and Duncan called it “moralistic therapeutic deism”. He contains these elements:

-God made us and watches over us
-God wants us to be good people and nice to each other
-the main aim of life is to be happy and feel good about yourself
-God is only needed in your life when a special problem arises
-good people go to heaven when they die

Hmm, that is not exactly biblical Christianity there. But this is what passes for the faith amongst far too many people, especially young people, in Western churches today. And this is basically what is being taught in far too many churches, including some of the biggest and most popular megachurches around.

Related to this is the health and wealth gospel in which God’s favour is largely determined by how rich and successful you are. But the “poor in the West or in developing countries are made to feel inadequate, inferior, abandoned and unloved by God because of their poverty. Shockingly, this amounts to a form of imperialism based on a consumerist culture.”

He reminds us of the things Jesus said about the churches in the book of Revelation. Some of the churches were especially excoriated by him: “The Ephesians and the Laodiceans were teetering on the brink of apostasy, not because of persecution but because of self-love which led to indifference to Christ. The Thyatirans had gone a step further and had actually apostatised, learning ‘Satan’s so-called deep secrets,’ yet they continued to consider themselves a church of Christ’s disciples.”

Is the church in the West in the same condition? Says Sookhdeo, “After the Church of England’s General Synod passed its resolutions in favour of transgenderism and homosexuality in 2017, Biblical scholar and columnist Jules Gomes pointed out that, in the 500th years of the Reformation, the church had ‘crossed the thin red line from apostolic to apostate.’

He does not just offer us a Jeremiad of everything that is wrong, but points us in a better direction. He says we need a number of things, including a return to orthodoxy and an embrace of core Christian beliefs. We need a return to close-knit community where we are responsible for, and accountable to, one another. We need to return to biblical holiness, and we need to give ourselves afresh to evangelism and missions.

All in all, things are looking very bleak for the Western church right now. He says that perhaps God in his mercy will send us more Wesleys and Whitefields. Only a mighty revival of God will impact first the Western church, and then the rest of the West.

He concludes his volume this way:

What if God does not bring the earthquake of reversal and the fire of revival? In that case, Christians in the West who are faithful in their love for the Lord must prepare for persecution. As anti-Christian pressures rise and lure Christians into apathy and apostasy, the faithful remnant will have to be ready to suffer or else to go into hiding as an underground church – and from there to mount a guerrilla resistance against the world and Satan’s throne.

Lest the reader finds all this too hard to grasp, let me remind you that the early Christians were in exactly the same place. And by the grace of God and a lot of hard work and fervent prayer, they eventually turned the world upside down. It has happened before, and if need be, it can happen again.

Do I share Sookhdeo’s analysis and pessimism? Yes I do. No one carefully looking at the state of the church and the state of the world right now can be bubbly optimistic. Thus a realistic assessment of where the church in the West is at is vitally needed.

Just as God’s people in times past needed God’s prophets to wake them up and get them back on course, we need a strong and sustained wakeup call like this today. Thank you Patrick Sookhdeo for doing just that.

(Available in Australia at Koorong books. Also here: www.barnabasfund.org/au )

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11 Responses to A Review of The Death of Western Christianity. By Patrick Sookhdeo.

  • “God made us and watches over us”
    I’m a young Christian and thought this to be true. Can someone please correct and explain this?

  • Thanks Aaron, a very good point indeed. There is nothing wrong with that statement, as far as it goes. But for the biblical Christian, it does not go far enough. Deism as a belief system came about during the time of the Enlightenment. It was a very liberal and doctrine-light version of Christianity. It taught that yes, God made the world, and generally watches over it, but that’s about it. God does not get directly involved in it and our lives, nor answer prayer, nor do miracles, etc. So the God of deism is not the God of the Bible who very much takes a personal interest and involvement in his creatures and creation. The incarnation of Christ is of course a supreme example of this direct involvement of God. But see more on this here:

    https://billmuehlenberg.com/2008/10/30/dawkins-deism-and-jesus/

  • Does the fact that the Global Atheist Conference set for Melbourne which was cancelled because they could barely sell 200 tickets to hear his “immenseness” Pope Richard Dawkins speak, make us feel any better?

  • Those who think “love your neighbor” means to affirm them in their sin, have demonstrated they have no faith in the real Jesus and without faith there is no salvation. (Eph 2:8) Hence the words “I never knew you” to those who work iniquity/lawlessness (Mat 10:23).

    Jesus never contradicted the words of Jehovah in the Old Testament. This is very basic theology because these two are one (John 10:30). Those who claim that the Father and Jesus are in disagreement about any matter, including the abominable nature of homosexuality, are very clearly in the promotion of heresy and false Christianity. These people are worshiping and have faith in a different Jesus (pseudochristos) which makes any worship they do meaningless (Mark 7:7).

    Mat 7:20 Therefore by their fruits you shall know them.
    Mat 7:21 Not everyone who says to Me, Lord! Lord! shall enter the kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in Heaven.
    (MKJV)

    Any suggestion that the Father in Heaven has allowed His will to be misrepresented not only demonstrates a lack of faith but an unwillingness to study the scriptures. God’s will is very plain and it is very obvious that the Apostles all agree. E.g.

    Rom 1:17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”
    Rom 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
    Rom 1:19 because the thing which may be known of God is clearly revealed within them, for God revealed it to them.
    Rom 1:20 For the unseen things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being realized by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, for them to be without excuse.
    Rom 1:21 Because, knowing God, they did not glorify Him as God, neither were thankful. But they became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
    Rom 1:22 Professing to be wise, they became fools
    Rom 1:23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man, and birds, and four-footed animals, and creeping things.
    Rom 1:24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves.
    Rom 1:25 For they changed the truth of God into a lie, and they worshiped and served the created thing more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
    Rom 1:26 For this cause, God gave them up to dishonorable affections. For even their women changed the natural use into that which is against nature.
    Rom 1:27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust toward one another; males with males working out shamefulness, and receiving in themselves the recompense which was fitting for their error.
    Rom 1:28 And even as they did not think fit to have God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do the things not right,
    Rom 1:29 being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; being full of envy, murder, quarrels, deceit, evil habits, becoming whisperers,
    Rom 1:30 backbiters, haters of God, insolent, proud, braggarts, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
    Rom 1:31 undiscerning, perfidious, without natural affection, unforgiving, unmerciful;
    Rom 1:32 who, knowing the righteous order of God, that those practicing such things are worthy of death, not only do them, but have pleasure in those practicing them.
    (MKJV)

    I really can’t imagine a more obvious indication that those who celebrate homosexuality such as in the promotion of homosexual “marriage” are having “pleasure in those practicing them” and are therefore “worthy of death.” Paul is reiterating exactly what Jehovah said in the Old Testament. God’s Words do not change and as Jesus said, if you are teaching the commandments of men instead of what God has said, then your worship is vain.

  • Thanks for review Bill. Sookhdeo’s books are well worth checking out. Daawa, for instance on the the agenda of militant Islam.

  • Yes he is excellent. This my 6th review of his books. One of the other 5 that I reviewed is this one:

    https://billmuehlenberg.com/2008/11/12/a-review-of-global-jihad-by-patrick-sookhdeo/

  • The latest threat to churches are the “Christians” who though not identifying as being gay, describe themselves having strong romantic and sexual attractions to those of the same sex. These are sex- lite and “celibate” church leaders who have infiltrated churches to become pastors, youth leaders and creche minders on the understanding that they do not support same sex marriage and that they will play the rules – no sex please. Moreover they accuse anyone in the church who objects to their presence as being homophobes, tunnel -visioned and divisive.

    When asked would they consider reparative therapy to change their hearts, minds and desires to conform to the way God has designed the correct relationship between men and women, they claim that they can find no verses in the Bible where it says ” Guys should be attracted to girls and vice versa”. They and the rest of the church consider anyone who proposes that they change as being offensive for probing into areas that are of no concern to anyone else. “Keep out. Private!”

    Who are these wolves in sheeps’ clothing? Sam Allberry of Living Out tops the list and now doubt there is going to be a proliferation of the these “virtuous homosexual Christians.” But be assured they are coming to a church near you if not your church. Stand by for their attempting to board ship and fend them off with anything that comes to hand, including those church leaders who are inviting them on board. Chuck them all overboard.

    David Skinner UK

    http://www.livingout.org/
    http://pastormathis.com/index.php/2017/03/22/understanding-the-heinousness-of-homosexuality-from-the-confession-of-sam-allberry/
    http://baylyblog.com/blog/2017/02/gay-priest-sam-allberry-livingout
    http://baylyblog.com/blog/2017/03/response-inquiries-concerning-sam-allberry-post

  • I got this back when Sookhdeo visited Adelaide last year.
    A highly recommended book. He portrayed how bad England has become and obviously this is what Australia is fast becoming like.

  • In England there are small churches, some without pastors, some on the brink of extinction, which are faithful to scripture. How would it be if Bible-believing Christians in compromising, or frankly apostate, churches joined these and supported them?

  • Reading this review and the comments below reminds me much of the prayer of the prophet Habakkuk [Habakkuk ch 3]. We all ought to cry for God to do once again mighty things amongst His people like He has done before. Till then, we may expect little in our sad, sinful world to give us joy or strength – Inexpressible joy and strength to endure is only to be found in the Man of Sorrows [1 Peter 1:3-9].

  • An excellent book indeed by a very brave and knowledgeable Christian. This is a prophetic wake-up call that we all must heed. God help us if we allow Christianity here to die, with Islam waiting in the background, eager to pounce and fill the gap.

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