Whither Christianity in the West?

Is there hope for the West? How will things pan out?

It always happens: whenever I am out speaking somewhere, talking about the culture wars, the loss of freedoms, and the assault on faith, I am always asked about how I see the future. Can things be turned around? Are we doomed? Is there any hope? Which way forward?

My reply is always the same. I offer one longish answer, but in three parts. First, in the short term at least, things WILL get worse in the West – much worse. There is no question about that. The pace and extent of the decline, and the ever-increasing war on faith, family and freedom is simply spiralling out of control. It is something we will simply have to deal with, one way or another.

The radical secular left surely has the upper hand all throughout the Western world at the moment, and it is being emboldened by the day to push even further to see conservative and Christian voices totally silenced, and the activist agendas fully and finally implemented everywhere.

I have been involved in the culture wars here in Australia for well over three decades now, and I have seen firsthand just how all this has been unfolding. Perhaps the biggest worry is the fact that most of the warnings have been ignored by those who should have known better.

How many hundreds of talks have I given over the years in churches and to Christian groups, trying to alert folks to the challenges that we face and the war that has been declared against us? How many hundreds if not thousands of articles have I penned seeking to do the same?

Yet so often all these words seem to have fallen on deaf ears. Most Christians have not at all been interested. Most did not want to know. Most preferred keeping their heads buried in the sand. Most saw such warnings as an inconvenience and a disruption to their life of leisure, pleasure, and self-centredness.

Because the other side has been working overtime for its cause, and because our side has for the most part been asleep, it is quite easy to understand why we find this tsunami of evil everywhere around us. There simply has been no real resistance. There has been no real opposition.

Thus the other side has had a cakewalk, coming in and sweeping everything before its path. And most believers have been oblivious to it all, far too worried about having their ‘best life now’. So the other side is winning by default. We have basically allowed those opposed to all that we hold near and dear to have a free run.

No wonder we keep losing. Way back in 1981 in A Christian Manifesto, Francis Schaeffer said this about these battles: “Our culture, society, government, and law are in the condition they are in, not because of a conspiracy, but because the church has forsaken its duty to be the salt of the culture.”

He went on to say this:

We live in a democracy, or republic, in this country which was born out of the Judeo-Christian base. The freedom that this gives is increasingly rare in the world today. We certainly must use this freedom while we still have it. There was a poll done by a secular group a few years ago which looked across the world to determine where there were freedoms today out of the 150 or so nations. Less than twenty-five were rated as today having significant freedom. We still have it. And it is our calling to do something about it and use it in our democracy while we have it….

 

It is the church’s duty (as well as its privilege) to do now what it should have been doing all the time – to use the freedom we do have to be that salt of the culture. If the slide toward authoritarianism is to be reversed we need a committed Christian church that is dedicated to what John W. Whitehead calls “total revolution in the reformative sense.”

He said that 40 years ago. Sadly, too few people listened to him then. And it is much the same today. So the first thing I say in answer to those questions is that yes, things WILL get worse. Absolutely. But I do not stop there. I go on to say, secondly, that should the Lord tarry, we may well see a turnaround.

We may live to see God do mighty things here once again. Of course God’s people will need to play their part in this. Repentance would be a very good starting point. And we must pray like never before. These are spiritual battles as much as political, cultural and social battles, so they must be fought in the spiritual realms as well.

And it will take time to have any sort of significant turnaround in the West. It took hundreds of years for the early Christians to eventually overcome the paganism that was everywhere. The pagan world became a largely Christianised and civilised world – but it took a long time indeed.

It is the same on the individual level. Recall that the Christian parliamentarian William Wilberforce took 46 years of hard work to see his abolitionist campaign finally bear fruit. Indeed, three days before he died, he finally saw the passage of the Emancipation Bill in 1833.

I tell my audiences that similar struggles, such as the battle against abortion, may take equally long. I think we will eventually see victory, but it will be a long, hard battle, and not some overnight effort. I also remind my audiences that the other side is committed to the long term, and they see the big picture, and we need to be doing this as well.

And that includes getting back into the culture that we long ago abandoned. As Christians pulled out of politics and law and the media and education, etc, the secular humanists flooded in. They saw the value of gaining control of the leading institutions of power and influence.

We too need to once again engage in those various areas. We need Christian politicians and lawyers and journalists and teachers, etc. We cannot just surrender all these spheres and expect to turn things around. And all this will take time and effort. But as I say, if the Lord should tarry, that is part of our calling to be salt and light.

The third thing I say is that the spiritual centre of gravity has shifted massively over the past half century. The Christian West basically is no more. Now we have the post-Christian West which is quickly morphing into the anti-Christian west.

But that does not mean that God has abandoned planet earth. It may seem at times that he has at least abandoned the West, but it is in other parts of the world that God is certainly at work. In Africa, Asia and Latin America we see the greatest church growth taking place, and the greatest moves of God.

Christianity is growing by leaps and bounds in the global South, while it seems to be dying off in the North. God will never leave himself without a witness. If the West is heading into full-tilt secularism, God is quite able to move big time elsewhere. And now we are seeing Christian missionaries from the so-called developing world coming to the West to re-evangelise it.

So we have now gone full circle: The early church overcame paganism, and Christianity by and large triumphed in Europe and elsewhere. From there the gospel spread to all other parts of the earth. But in the meantime, Europe and the West squandered and rejected its Christian heritage, so now new believers from other places are coming back to bring Christianity to us. God is good.

Concluding thoughts

Image of The Quest for God: A Personal Pilgrimage
The Quest for God: A Personal Pilgrimage by Array Amazon logo

As I have said quite often of late, anti-Christian persecution and bigotry is ramping up all over the West. Things really are getting worse and worse. As but one small example of this, I have mentioned that I have recently been added to the long list of those who have been cancelled – in this case by Facebook. You can read about my situation here: billmuehlenberg.com/2021/05/27/erased/

A good side to this however is that my story seems to have gone a bit viral. Various folks from around the globe have been reporting on it. As but one example, see this terrific piece by Dr Michael Brown from the US: townhall.com/columnists/michaelbrown/2021/05/30/facebook-apparently-terminates-a-leading-cultural-commentator-n2590196

Let me close with one word of encouragement. It comes from a book penned by English historian Paul Johnson back in 1996: The Quest for God. Early on he discusses the wars and carnage of last century, especially as a result of secular and atheistic regimes. He then says this:

Its horrors were instrumental in turning men and women towards God rather than against him. Most people saw the wars as themselves the products of Godlessness, materialism and sin, and their perpetrators as those who had banished God from their hearts. And it is undeniable that the two greatest institutional tyrannies of the century – indeed, of all time – the Nazi Reich and the Soviet Union, were Godless constructs: modern paganism in the first case and openly proclaimed atheist materialism in the second. The death-camps and the slave-camps were products not of God but of anti-God. Hitler was brought up a Roman Catholic and Stalin was once a Russian Orthodox apprentice monk, but it is hard to imagine any two men in history who were more bereft of basic Christian instincts or more systematically committed to the destruction of Christian values.

 

Both these regimes persecuted Christians, the Soviet Union more thoroughly but in some respects less viciously than the Nazi Reich. Both these attempts to damage or crush Christianity failed utterly. The churches were, if anything, revitalised by Nazi and Communist hostility, and emerged stronger. Oppression, torture and executions of Christians who protested against these regimes produced a rich crop of saints and martyrs, Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox, whose sufferings and example have nourished the faith all over Europe.

That may be a grim reality, but it is a helpful and hopeful one. So, once again: Whither the West? Short term: bad. Long term (unless the Lord returns soon): much better. So hang in there saints. God is not finished with planet earth yet. He is still at work. And we should be too.

[1733 words]

23 Replies to “Whither Christianity in the West?”

  1. Hi Bill, I feel for you in that they have thrown you off Facebook. Oh how rude they are. Have been missing your articles. Just letting you know that our friend Ps Paul Furlong has been arrested again on Saturday (Just before church). We went to his church on Sunday because so we thought, it would be the only one open and found it was blocked entry by a police fence. So we went with the congregation to worship in a nearby park only to be surrounded by about 50 police and threatened with arrest. I can send you the photos I’d you like. Oh how sad the world has become! When they want to arrest little old ladies going to church the world has become a strange place. God bless you and your wife. Elizabeth and Darren Ryan

  2. Thanks, Bill, for this and many other articles, especially the one about Kellogg’s Kulture War.
    I’m not sure whether you are conducting another play on words, replacing ‘culture’ with ‘kulture’, when this article starts with ‘wither’ when I suspect you mean ‘whither’.
    But it may well be a nuance that is beyond me (even though my wife and I attempt cryptic crosswords)…
    Keep up the good work – and don’t wither on the vine!
    Shalom,
    Neil Harvey

  3. Thanks Neil. Yes Christianity is certainly withering in the West, and that could have made for a good wordplay, but you are right about the preferred option here! So it is now changed.

  4. Australia is heading for a full upcoming communist apocalypse. It is psychological warfare and subversion through fake news, destroying everything good and wholesome, destruction of the family, brainwashing through media, social media and movies. People’s perception of reality has been destroyed and society is being destroyed without a shot being fired. The intended planned destruction of christianity, the destruction of self-worth, destruction of value and education. Millennials are brainwashed by gender fluidity, climate change, identity politics , the sexualization of children and feelings are now enforced as fact. The defence forces are being destroyed by social engineering and wokeness. More and more are now under complete control by the government and are dependent on the government. The fake pandemic has weaponized the radicals as many have destroyed all of their freedoms for ‘safety’.

    There is a coming Communist apocalypse coming. These lockdowns WILL last all winter and small to medium businesses will be utterly destroyed. Masses like never before will be dependent on the state.

    The West (apart from a few Central European and Balkan nations plus Russia) is now finished.

  5. Yes Philippe, we are heading into winter, a time when every single year we see a spike in colds and flus and so on. How convenient for power-drunk tyrants to find COVID once again everywhere! The Rona panic porn is now once again in full swing, and yes, these lockdowns will NOT go away. These power-drunk leaders love their powers too much, and they want to be dictators for life. And keeping churches closed is all a part of this. Only a few brave pastors have resisted the Kool-Aid and have stood strong for religious freedom.

  6. Well done as always.
    I encourage all readers to remember that the failure to link values with critique will undermine much of the media writers influence as put so well by Paul Kelly in last weeks AUSTRALIAN.
    We switch the news off and do better things than listen to people increasingly fanatical to get our attention.

    lets ALL encourage all aussies to switch off the media speculators.
    As you say, we don’t know when they will give up trying to manufacture consent -/force consent and content – their way.

    But the connections will eventually break as the logic is reaching the absurdly self referencing .http://misplacedconcreteness, blogspot.com
    This comment on “The Conversation” Website
    “Comments are open for 72 hours but may be closed early if there is a high risk of comments breaching our standards.”

    yes i too have had facebook remove stuff with lame excuses. Best to copy all your precious posts.

  7. Keep on keeping on being salt and light for JESUS CHRIST, and sharing the good news of the Kingdom of God, despite what’s going. Be shrewd as snakes and gentle as doves in this dark time ahead….. Hold Hold Hold the line my Christian family, Jesus has already won the Victory. Revelation 1:17:18, 3:19-22

  8. Be encouraged Philippe. We are living through fierce spiritual warfare!

    Forward together courageously in God’s strength and with His help.

    He will prevail!

  9. One promise of Jesus to encourage us. Matt 16:18 He is building his church. Nothing can assail it. Satan’s kingdom is being pulled by every new born again member added to the church.
    An excellent piece. Will post on FB.
    And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.

  10. Together as a Christian family, strengthening home groups men and women married couples young and old groups be the like the first century Christians in the book of Acts. JESUS is Victorious the future is already in the bag just hold the line until he returns amen.

  11. I think some feel “if I refuse to fight there is no war and thus nothing can happen. That spiritual war requires both sides to engage and if we refuse to fight that satan will be like the schoolyard bully and take his toys and go home. Satan is just a big bully and the best way to handle bullies is ignore them. Refuse to fight and satan loses.”

    Even before Schaeffer we were warned:

    Brethren, our preaching will bear its legitimate fruits.
    If immorality prevails in the land, the fault is ours in a great degree.
    If there is a decay of conscience, the pulpit is responsible for it.
    If the public press lacks moral discrimination, the pulpit is responsible for it.
    If the church is degenerate and worldly, the pulpit is responsible for it.
    If the world loses its interest in religion, the pulpit is responsible for it.
    If Satan rules in our halls of legislation, the pulpit is responsible for it.
    If our politics become so corrupt that the very foundations of our government are ready to fall away, the pulpit is responsible for it.

    Let us not ignore this fact, my dear brethren; but let us lay it to heart, and be thoroughly awake to our responsibility in respect to the morals of this nation.

    The Rev. Charles Finney (in Dec 1873) (d. 1875)

    We often do forget satan is patient and willing to go slow he has been working on the US and the West for over 100 years. It seems for the past at least 50 years WE have been the impatient ones. Especially the past 20 with instant gratification society we want things NOW. (A quote of Homer Simpson’s comes to mind “60 seconds but I want it now”) IF we are to take back the west it will almost certainly be a multi-generational effort we will not see the fruits of it but our grandchildren or great grandchildren might. It could take 100 years before anything substantial shows up fruitwise it could take 1000 years before the West begins to look like the Christian culture of old. The question that remains is do we have the fortitude for such a fight??? Do have what it takes to start fighting back in a fight that our great grandchildren will BE in and may only see the beginnings of the shift in after we are dead????

    In WWII D-day did happen till June of 1944 years into the war. A long wait for the turning point. But THAT generation had the patience and knew things would take time. Right now I don’t think enough of us could enter such a LONG conflict we don’t even have the patience for dial-up. (not trying to say we should switch to dial-up but the amount of time a dial-up takes to connect is too long for us to wait. How could we hope to survive in a war we not only won’t see the end of but won’t even see the turning point of???)

  12. Very helpful summary of the situation. I’ve been in California, USA, for 25 years, seeing it become a one-party state unwelcoming to Christianity. In addition to the political changes has come am slow deterioration of society with a drug epidemic and an enormous “homeless” population, and a collapse of the family. The few mega-churches are becoming increasingly liberal and apostate. 1/3 of my small church has left for safer states. Many of us who cannot move are bracing for the worse from coming economic and social upheavals. But God sits on his throne. Beloved, we were born for this time and place in God’s secret counsel. We are not here by accident but by God’s exact purpose. We are to be salt and light in a time of encroaching darkness. God’s church will prevail and our success may not be measured by numbers but by faithfulness. He will never abandon us.

  13. Yes so true Bill. Evil is running rampant in the world today, especially in the western world today because very few people have stood up to it, and very few people have fought against it. Unless people stand up to evil and fight against evil, evil will win and evil will take over. Edmund Burke was once quoted as saying, the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

  14. Not to sound flippant or uncaring but it sounds like the age of the youngster, youth power, is over. Elders have been ignored and even abused far too long and society has catered to the desires of the kids and young adults. Wisdom was rejected in the pursuit of profit or as many know it the almighty dollar. Such a movement is BOUND to be narcissistic (producing both the ME generation and it successor the ME ME ME generation).

    Personally I am surprised such a movement lasted so long. Perhaps a population bust is just what society needs. Of course the DANGER is climate people, and others, will use this crisis to cut the population down to the 500 million they want ….. with the elderly first on the chopping block.

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